Rand Paul's Sad, Impotent Trolling of Ted Cruz

Many people had high hopes for [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]’s Presidential campaign this year. After all, his father’s campaign always seemed to manage to pull in a dedicated 5-10% of the GOP primary electorate in spite of the fact that his father is an America-hating nut who is completely lacking in gravitas and who has alienated almost everyone throughout his years in Congress.

The thought was, with access to his father’s loyal supporters and fundraisers, but without his father’s baggage, [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] could really make some noise in a crowded primary field, especially given the resurgence in isolationism in the GOP.

Hopes were so high for the Paul campaign that as of November 24, 2014, Paul was tied with Jeb Bush for the national lead in the RCP polling average – at the time, he was polling at 11.8%, which was actually thought to be his floor.

However, the Paul campaign has been an unmitigated disaster from day one, and he now finds himself registering total support that could best be described as “statistical noise.” He finds himself in real danger of being disinvited from future debates due to poor polling performance. When people even mention Paul, it is to shake their head sadly for what might have been.

Paul has become so desperate for attention, he has resorted to trolling [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] – who himself is in fifth place – over (barely) winning a straw poll that should have been his walking away. The straw poll in question was this weekend’s Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll, which obviously consisted of people who should have been [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]’s natural constituency. Moreover, the Paul family political base has made a science out of gaming straw polls and telephone polls, to such an extent that the annual CPAC straw poll became a discussion about who did the best, apart from the Paul family members.

Despite all that, at the end of the day, Paul barely won this straw poll over Ted Cruz:

In all, almost 800 activists came to the RLC national convention, which was held in the key GOP primary state of New Hampshire. A straw poll, which measured the candidates that the voters approved of and would vote for if the general election were held that day, revealed that 57.1 percent of the attendees preferred Paul, while Cruz came in second place with a 51.2 percent approval result. Every other candidate polled under 17.9 percent. (The poll allowed voters to approve of one or more of the current Republican presidential candidates.)

Paul took the stage to give his remarks following the poll. “Liberty unites people, and I am honored to win the Republican Liberty Caucus straw poll,” he said. “I will continue to represent the Liberty wing of the Republican party by campaigning on bold, conservative principles like balancing the budget, restraining the powers of the federal government, and passing term limits to get rid of the career politicians in both parties.”

Just after the results of the straw poll were publicized, Paul’s campaign issued a press release to announce his victory. It also contained a shot aimed toward Cruz, who was characterized as having spent a “substantial amount of time, money, and resources to actively sway voters at the RLC Convention, yet the liberty movement continues to unite behind Rand Paul.”

It’s tremendously sad that Rand Paul’s campaign has come to this. To be sure, I was probably never going to support Rand Paul for President, but I do think that he would have brought important things to the conversation. I like the emphasis and unique perspective he brings to issues like criminal justice reform and I think that he could have brought a unique focus to issues that would have been appealing to young voters.

But as my colleague Dan McLaughlin is fond of repeating, people don’t vote for issues, they vote for candidates. And if a candidate can’t unite people behind him, then the issues he’s trying to highlight won’t get highlighted. And it seems that for Rand Paul, his candidacy has passed the point of diminishing returns and is heading rapidly towards the point of negative returns.

At this point, Paul would probably do best to return to Kentucky and focus on his re-election to the Senate, and saving the Kentucky GOP a lot of money by not forcing them to hold a separate caucus for the Senate election for after his inevitable loss in the Presidential election. Then, if he can hold that seat, he can join Cruz and Lee in the Senate as a troublemaker for McConnell, et al, when trouble is needed. Straddling this fence isn’t working for him and is actually hurting his ability to push his ideas at this point, as his campaign and personal standing go further down the tubes.