Being Moody: Rand Paul's two-front war

Milford, New Hampshire (CNN)The machine is raging back.

Only a few days removed from his splashy debut as a presidential candidate -- complete with a "Defeat the Washington Machine" campaign slogan -- Rand Paul is taking fire from all sides.
The Democratic National Committee is holding daily conference calls with reporters calling the Kentucky Republican senator "extreme" and an "American nightmare." Outside the entrance of Paul's rally here Wednesday, liberal activists from NextGen, a group backed by billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, held a demonstration targeting Paul over his views on climate change.
And, perhaps most importantly, Republicans aren't sparing Paul.
    A GOP group called the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America released an ad targeting Paul, claiming he opposed sanctions against Iran, a nation in the process of developing a nuclear program. The effort was organized by GOP operative Rick Reed, who previously led the "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" effort against John Kerry when he was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. And just to make sure the charge -- decried by some as misleading -- sticks against Paul, the group spent $1 million to air the ad in key states this week. Even the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful lobbyist groups in Washington, has a sour relationship with Paul because of his association with gun advocacy groups they find too extreme.
    The moves reflect Paul's unique status heading into 2016. As a politician who has tried to appeal to broad swaths of the electorate -- not just the Republican base -- he's opened himself up to an assault from all sides.
    "He's trying to be an all-inclusive Republican candidate. He's trying to make everyone happy, but in doing so, he's making everyone unhappy," Republican strategist Ron Bonjean told CNN. "And the left doesn't want to see him put together a coalition outside the Republican base. He represents a threat."
    Paul's aides and supporters concede that the forces against him are a challenge. But they argue it's a sign of fear of his possible success.
    "I think every campaign is going to have that same type of challenge," said Mike Biundo, Paul's top strategist in New Hampshire. "One thing it does prove is that you don't spend a million dollars on a candidate people don't think is a top tier candidate. I think that puts us in a very strong position."
    However, the extent of the attacks on Paul underscore a harsh reality that he and his team will face over the course of the campaign: They will be fighting two-front war against Democrats and fellow Republicans.
    Of course, all primary candidates face this to a degree. The process of choosing a nominee for president comes with a long tradition of Republicans fighting Republicans and Democrats fighting Democrats. But the headwinds Paul must confront are stronger than anything his fellow GOP contenders will face.
    So-called "establishment candidates" — those favored by traditional GOP interests, and the money that backs them -- such as former Florida Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will take their share of friendly fire, but the sheer amount of money that has emerged against Paul so early suggests he's in for an unrelenting fight.

    READ: Has Rand Paul missed his moment?
    For Paul, sparring with his own is nothing new.
    As far back as June 2013, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Paul "dangerous." A year later, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry penned an out-of-the-blue op-ed in the Washington Post suggesting that Paul's foreign policy would "endanger our national security." Last Sunday, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said probable Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would do a better job dealing with Iran than Paul.
    The roots of Paul's tenuous relationship with the Republican Party date back to his time as a surrogate for his father, Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican and three-time presidential candidate.
    During that time—and continuing into his first few years in the Senate — Rand Paul espoused views that are haunting him today. In 2007, for example, Paul said it was "ridiculous" to think Iran could be a threat. Three years later, as a newly minted senator, he submitted a budget proposal that called for withholding federal aid to all nations, including key allies such as Israel.
    In the years since, however, Paul has disavowed many such past statements, and has articulated his own foreign policy platform that hardly resembles that of his father's. Paul has supported sanctions against Iran. Last month, he joined 47 fellow Republicans in signing an open letter to Iranian leaders warning that any nuclear deal could be overruled by Congress or rescinded by a future president.
    This week, Paul defended his record on U.S.-Iran policy.
    "I have been one of the leading proponents saying that any agreement that we come to with Iran has to come back and be voted on by Congress," Paul told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview Wednesday. "I think that people are desperate somehow to latch on to the status quo and so they put out falsehoods."