The candidate everyone thought could change the Republican Party is completely collapsing

Polls trickling out after the debate have underscored the challenge ahead for Paul and have led to speculation that he could be one of a handful of GOP candidates who drops out before the Iowa caucuses next year.

Paul now sits just ninth in the first-caucus state of Iowa, according to an average of three polls of the state that have been released this week. One of those polls, from Suffolk University, showed his support plunging to just 2% of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa. That put him behind such candidates as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who has been diverting most of his early-state resources to New Hampshire.

Iowa will be especially important for Paul, whose father, Ron, scored with its especially libertarian-leaning bloc of Republican voters during his previous presidential runs. Matt Kibbe, the director of one super PAC supporting Rand Paul, told Politico in July that the group only had paid staff in Iowa because “it matters so much.”

But Paul hasn’t shown many signs that he will successfully hold onto his father’s voters, let alone significantly expand upon that base. And the indictment of the two allies, which stems from their work on Ron Paul’s campaign in 2012, revolves around an alleged money-for-endorsement scheme involving former Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson (R), who already pleaded guilty to concealing campaign expenditures.