Rand Paul Needs A Jumpstart as Campaign Stalls ahead of First Debate

Created: 28 July, 2015
Updated: 16 October, 2022
3 min read

One of the more anticipated campaigns for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has seemingly dropped from the national conversation and is struggling to raise money.

Called "The Most Interesting Man in the Senate" by Reason magazine, Rand Paul has built his Senate career on filibustering extrajudicial assassinations and opposing the security state.

In the last year, Paul consistently

polled close to presumptive leader Jeb Bush. However, as the field has widened, the Rand Paul campaign has practically disappeared from national headlines.

The disconcerting news continued over the weekend when National Journal reported that the Kentucky senator's super PAC, America's Liberty PAC, received only $3 million for the first quarter, the lowest among the field's PAC networks.

Paul had a generous first day of fundraising when he announced his candidacy in April. He received over one million dollars in that first 24 hours, but finished with only $7 million for the entire first quarter. The average donation was $65. The result has been a campaign that has apparently stalled. As of this writing, Paul is tied with Ted Cruz in the Real Clear Politics poll average with 5.7%.

Despite the downward trend, Paul is not discouraged. On Fox News Sunday, he told host Chris Wallace:

"I'm a Republican who can win independent vote . . . We have to convince enough Republicans that this is a winning message, that I could actually win the purple states, and that's what early polling shows.

In April, Paul was beating Hillary Clinton in Colorado and running close to her in Iowa and Virginia. However, recent head-to-head polling data for Paul has been hard to find.

For instance, a Quinnipiac poll from the past week found favorability ratings for Rand Paul on par with Scott Walker, Bush, and Clinton in Colorado. However, the Kentuckian did not appear in the head-to-head match-ups with Republicans or Democrats.

Paul's diminished standing in the field could be attributed to the entrance of businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump. As a likely candidate for voters registering discontent with the current state of electoral politics, Paul has failed to stand out from the crowd.

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The problem was recently explicated by The American Conservative editor Daniel McCarthy in the New York Times, when he said the candidates' "similarities are more striking than their differences. All want to be the generic conservative candidate."

With a campaign video last week featuring Paul cutting the tax code with a chainsaw, the senator may have been trying to alleviate the problem in an extravagant way.

The drop in prestige has also coincided with a few moves that have puzzled and angered some of Paul's would-be supporters. The first was when Paul signed Sen. Tom Cotton's open letter to Iran. The other was when Paul decried the subsequent nuclear deal and seemingly endorsed military action over the Islamic country's nuclear program.

Other Paul supporters defended the senator from what is sometimes a reliance on libertarian "purism." However, one of Paul's more enduring qualities is that he is willing to buck his party on certain issues.

The senator has clearly distinguished himself from many of his GOP peers on executive power and government secrecy. However, his reaction to the Iran deal, which is supported by more than half the country and nearly half of all GOP poll respondents, permits Paul to blend in to the field.

The first presidential debate will be held on August 6 and the Rand Paul campaign could revitalize itself in the polls and in the campaign coffers. It was a debate exchange between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani that first propelled the elder Paul's presidential campaign and profile. Although, with at least ten candidates and two hours to explain their positions, there may be few opportunities to reverse the trend.