For how long, though? The Paul campaign was supposed to energize younger voters with more libertarian leanings, and provide Rand Paul with his father’s constituency married to a higher level of respectability. So far, though, the results in terms of fundraising have been disappointing. Over the last three months, Team Paul only collected $2.5 million — less than one million dollars a month, far behind Paul’s competitors, and a decline of almost two-thirds from the previous quarter.
Even so, the Kentucky Senator insists he’s staying in the race, and that his prospects have improved of late:
Rand Paul raised just $2.5 million for his presidential bid over the last three months—a sum that not only pales in comparison to the high double-digit hauls of his rivals, but amounts to roughly a third of what he brought in the previous quarter.
The Kentucky libertarian has slipped so far in the polls—the RCP average shows him at 2.3 percent—that he may not qualify for the prime-time debate stage later this month.
That would be the kiss of death for a campaign already going nowhere. On top of that problem, there’s also the mixed signals from Paul about his own campaign priorities. If he’s all in for the presidential race, why did he toss a quarter-million dollars to Kentucky to protect his path to re-election to the Senate?
Paul has also recently been raising money for his U.S. Senate re-election, raising questions about his commitment to the presidential contest. Paul pushed the Kentucky GOP to host a caucus instead of a primary, which would allow him to run for both offices—and he footed the $250,000 bill.
Altogether, this paints a picture of a campaign on life support.
But the campaign doesn’t see it that way and instead points to signs of life: in the two weeks after the second Republican debate, it raised $750,000. The campaign insists there will be no shakeups or changes in strategy, that Paul will continue his campaign schedule in the early states and regions off the beaten track, and that it has enough resources to carry the candidate through at least the first four primaries. This week, the campaign rolled out a list of caucus state endorsements.
On Monday, Allahpundit wondered whether Paul would be the next Republican to drop out of the race. Fundraising was one of the key concerns raised by the Lexington Herald-Leader article he linked … helpfully titled, “Death watch for Rand Paul campaign“:
It has been death by a thousand cuts for Paul’s campaign: reports of staff infighting, the federal indictments of two longtime aides, lackluster fundraising, the improbable and unpredictable rise of Donald Trump, and a Republican Party that appears to be returning to its roots on foreign policy.
Next week, we might just learn how much longer Paul can keep going.
The third-quarter fundraising period ends Wednesday, and one of the biggest questions will be whether Paul has raised enough money to continue his quest.
Let’s take a look at the competition to get an answer to that question. Ben Carson raised $20 million in the last quarter, doubling his haul from the previous quarter, and has $12 million in the bank. Carson can present himself as more of an outsider than Paul in Iowa and has the resources to make it stick, too. Jeb Bush’s campaign hasn’t released its Q3 figures, but they’re setting expectations for a lower number than Carson or Cruz:
As another fundraising period ends, what now constitutes success for Bush isn’t as clear cut. No longer the front-runner in preference polls, Bush won’t repeat as the champion at raising money in the GOP’s 2016 field, lapped in the past three months by retired surgeon Ben Carson and perhaps by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, too.
“They created such a high bar,” said Spencer Zwick, a top Republican donor who was 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s finance chief. “Now anything less than $100 million in a quarter seems small.”
But Bush’s financial team and strategists argue that he should now be judged by a different benchmark. Their mantra: He’s built to last. Using phrases like “go the distance,” ”marathon” and “long haul,” they argue that the former Florida governor is uniquely positioned to outlast other candidates, regardless of the fundraising number he posts for the third quarter.
Bush has more cash in the bank, too. If Cruz ends up above Bush, and perhaps above Carson too, then Cruz has a claim on the Young Turks leadership position. Marco Rubio may as well. It’s almost certain that all of them will far outstrip Paul’s fundraising; they also outstrip his polling, and all of them will get to the main stage with no problem in the next debate.
If the fundraising was indeed the biggest test for Paul’s campaign, it’s pretty clear it didn’t make the cut. It might be time for Paul to refocus on holding his Senate seat and applying his organizing skills closer to home.