Diary

The Incredible Fall of Rand Paul

In an earlier article, I alluded to the fact that [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] would be the first most likely big name candidate to drop out of the presidential sweepstakes first.  I stand by that assertion and base it on several factors.  First, there is the money game.  His PAC raised a reported $7 million in the second quarter of 2015.  Compared to other candidates like Cruz, Bush and Walker, this is miniscule.  One also has to consider that the money is split between his presidential campaign and his senatorial campaign.  To put it in further perspective, groups supporting John Kasich, who was not a candidate at the time, raised over $11 million for a presidential campaign.  Bush’s PAC has raised over $100 million so far and Cruz is no slouch at $52 million.

Despite these numbers, there is still plenty of cash waiting on the sidelines.  According to an analysis by CNN, more than half of the top 90 Republican donors from 2012 and 2014 have not committed to any particular candidate yet.  Of those who did already donate, about half spread their wealth between two or three candidates.  Given Paul’s paltry take, it wasn’t coming from these big donors.  I am not one for basing analysis or electoral results on the money game; dollar bills don’t vote.  However, those dollar bills do allow a candidate to travel, campaign, and advertise; in short, get out their message.

The best way to improve those figures is to either (1) prove yourself on the open market or (2) grovel at the feet of donors.  Paul is doing neither.  By most accounts, he had a not so good debate performance.  Like him or hate him, agree or disagree with him, Chris Christie held his own against Paul over the PATRIOT Act and bulk data collection.  This writer liked Paul’s sometimes combative behavior against Christie and Trump, but whether that translates into donations or endorsements is dubious at best.

Paul officially announced his candidacy on April 7th.  The highest he has been in the polls before his announcement occurred on March 2nd at 9.3%.  Since then, he has fallen off.  On the day he announced, he stood at 8.7% and received a bump in the polls, as most candidates do, that lasted approximately a month when he reached a high of 10% on May 22nd.  Since then, it has been downhill and he currently sits under 5%.  Part of that is attributable to other candidates entering the race and stealing some of his support.  However, the willingness of supporters to jump ship to other candidates does not bode well.  This is reflected in the fact that his campaign has failed to woo top level strategists.

Its a combination of the three- reluctance of political operatives to get on board, failure of donors to commit, and a drop in the polls- that is sinking his campaign.  To hear some talk, his campaign is in disarray and suffering from low morale.  Much of it is frustration on two levels.  Paul entered the race being the face of transforming the GOP by reaching out to African-Americans and Hispanics and other groups averse to voting Republican.  To the Right, it looks like pandering.  To the Left, they view it as talk and nothing else.  Its a losing proposition.  Second, he entered the race relying upon his father’s network of donors and supporters.  Many had either moved on, or those that remained were disorganized and dysfunctional.  It was a miscalculation of the Ron Paul phenomena.

By time this was realized, others had entered the fray competing for the hearts, minds and dollars of supporters.  Further complicating the scene was Paul’s somewhat isolationist foreign policy views.  At a time when the Obama administration was reaching out to Iran while Iran was calling for the destruction of Israel, suggesting that the US scale back on aid to Israel made no sense.  Paul introduced legislation to block military aid to Egypt after al-Sisi deposed Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi.  This drew the ire of the Jewish community and prompted a letter from AIPAC to Republican Senators warning against such a move.  Paul seemed to be embracing a Jimmy Carter foreign policy.  And people like Graham were quick to point that out.

Leaving aside foreign policy, Paul’s hope was to capture younger voters.  That simply failed to happen as many polls indicated.  Further, his book made many believe that he was a Democrat disguised as a Republican at times, especially his references to Ferguson, the environment, and the Party itself.  Despite blithely stating “the Party sucks,” he found that many within the Party did not share his view.  And while his 2013 filibuster gave him high marks, the 2015 reprise barely registered a tick on social media.  One poll showed that he would lose to Clinton in his home state of Kentucky.

Like Rubio, Paul’s star rose quick and probably too early.  Unlike Rubio, Paul appeals to a slim percentage of the GOP electorate.  For better or worse, Paul’s name will be linked to his father and to libertarians everywhere.  In terms of influence within the GOP, they are a shrinking force.  Instead of reaching out to the other GOP factions- in fact, shunning some of them- he reached out to the wrong constituencies upfront.  Having secured a nomination or even being in the top 3 would have been the appropriate time to embark on that difficult, but achievable, task of reaching out.  In essence, he got the campaign strategy equation backwards and is today paying the price.