This clip would feel so different if Rand was sitting at 15-20 percent in the polls right now, smack dab in the middle of the top tier, with a huge Super PAC haul under his belt. Imagine it. With the media in early panic mode about Republicans nominating a crazed libertarian who’d take a wrecking ball to government as president, here Rand would be, goofing on the hysteria behind that image while also winking at his supporters that he might in fact be the wrecking ball the left fears. The vid would, essentially, be a form of “kidding on the square” by a man confident enough in his chances in Iowa and New Hampshire to tease fans with thoughts of the regulatory woodchipping to come.
As it is, with Rand stuck at six points or so in national polls and having not reached double digits in nearly three months, it feels more like a stunt borne of early desperation to remind people that he’s still in the race. This is, after all, the opposite of Paul’s core appeal. He’s not a rhetorical bombthrower (except when he’s talking about Republican interventionists). He’s a soft-spoken cerebral politician, the rare bird in Washington who actually seems to be thinking when he’s talking. He looks vaguely pained to be there even though this is supposed to be a fun, silly nothing designed for Facebook sharing by fans. I feel bad for him.
Erick Erickson wonders: What the hell happened to this guy?
Paul only raised $6.9 million. Ben Carson raised $10.6. And that is money raised by the candidate, not the Super PAC. The fact that a guy like Rand Paul, Mister Individualist, is having to depend on two outside Super PACs to raise money for him — and neither have released totals yet — is really surprising. I suspect it was a strategic miscalculation for Paul to enter the race when he did because it meant he could no longer coordinate with his Super PAC. Perhaps Ted Cruz’s strategy of jumping in early stroked Paul’s ego in a way that forced a strategic mistake. As long as Paul did not formally declare, he could fundraise with the Super PACs. But the moment Cruz got in, Paul felt compelled to jump in too…
Rand Paul should be doing much better. He actually has a good story. He actually has positions that set him apart from the GOP field. He has a built in base of support from his father. But remarkably it appears Rand Paul will be less a factor on 2016 than his dad was in 2012. I really never expected that. And not only that, if you pay attention to the campaign schedule, Paul is marching to the beat of his own drummer in ways that suggest the drummer isn’t really headed toward the White House. Michigan? Really?
I don’t get it either. Not long ago, you could make a plausible case that Rand Paul was the most likely of any GOP candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. (That designation would fall to Scott Walker now.) In a sense he was can’t-miss: Ron Paul, after all, cracked 20 percent in both states three years ago against Mitt Romney. If, say, half of those voters were strong libertarians, Rand would inherit a loyal base at or near 10 percent, and by reaching out to moderates and conservatives on various other issues, he could presumably double it without much problem. That would put him right in contention for victory in both states given the highly divided field. As it is, he’s struggling early to break into double digits. How come? Did he alienate too many of those strong libertarians by, for instance, opposing Obama’s Iran deal? (Ron endorsed it.) Did he alienate too many mainstream conservatives by being too libertarian on other subjects like criminal justice reform? Or, as Erickson suggests, did Cruz simply gobble up a chunk of right-wing voters whom Rand was counting on? What’s it all about, Alfie?
Update: My mistake: I said Paul hadn’t reached double digits in nearly three months when I meant to say two months. He was at 11 percent in an ABC/WaPo poll taken at the end of May. Also, Team Rand e-mails to say that YouGov’s polling has had him in double digits as recently as earlier this month. Fair enough, although that poll isn’t included in RCP’s poll average. That’s the scorecard I use to follow the race.