- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 17, 2014

The potential 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls are spending August fundraising and meeting with key activists in early-voting states, but Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is also carving out time to go to Guatemala, where he is part of a medical mission.

Mr. Paul — who is also known as Dr. Paul, a Duke-trained ophthalmologist — joined a team of eye surgeons from the University of Utah Moran Eye Center who are hoping to perform 200 sight-restoring surgeries during their weeklong trip to Baja Verapaz, north of Guatemala City.

“It’s just something I kind of miss in my life, and I want to be able to give back,” Mr. Paul told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

For politicians with an eye on higher office, the traditional summertime break can be a politically fraught exercise, one that can enhance electoral chances or produce a damaging image or unfortunate juxtaposition that can be readily exploited by one’s opponents.

Mr. Paul is not the only Republican hopeful with international travel on his itinerary.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has an official state trip planned for Mexico early next month — a visit his office describes as a trade mission, but which political observers say could hold a greater significance should the governor decide to run for president.

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Michael Barone, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said in an interview that Republican candidates considering a presidential bid would be smart to do more international traveling, because few of those considered the leading front-runners have deep foreign policy experience.

Mr. Christie also has a California family vacation slated.

Working vacations seem to be the norm this month for those on both sides of the aisle.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the clear Democratic front-runner for 2016, has been staying at the beach in the Hamptons over the past week, with two book signings and other fundraisers scheduled in the area. The Clintons spent $100,000 for their three-week beach house rental, according to the New York Daily News.

She and President Obama crossed paths last week at a birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard for Ann Jordan, wife of longtime Clinton friend Vernon Jordan. While details about the meeting were sparse, Mrs. Clinton admitted she had some repair work to do after she attacked Mr. Obama’s foreign policy in an interview several days earlier.

Mrs. Clinton is also doing signings of her book “Hard Choices.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden has kept a relatively low profile, having spent a weekend vacation with his wife in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, and carving out four days with no public events in Long Island, New York.

He has been keeping abreast of international events, including making a round of phone calls to key Iraqi figures last week. He is set to meet with President Obama Monday, when Mr. Obama briefly interrupts his own Martha’s Vineyard vacation to return to Washington for unspecified talks.

Some rumored 2016 contenders have little time for extended vacations away from home and are busy focusing on their own elections this November. Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker will be campaigning across the state against Democratic opponent Mary Burke before the November election.

Mrs. Clinton isn’t the only one pushing a book this month. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, made stops in Philadelphia, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas during the first two weeks of the month and spent Wednesday at a book signing in Chicago accompanied by 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Although Mr. Romney has repeatedly stated that he will not seek the nomination in 2016, he has been popular on the campaign trail. This week he’ll be in West Virginia to rally voters behind Senate hopeful Shelley Moore Capito, a congresswoman seeking an open Senate seat, as well as two House candidates.

Also blazing the book tour trail is neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who became a conservative favorite after he challenged Mr. Obama at a National Prayer Breakfast in 2013.

Mr. Carson will make stops in multiple cities in Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming on a three-day trip starting Aug. 23.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, will accompany current Gov. Rick Scott on his midterm campaign stops throughout the state.

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