“Toxic,” Andy Cable, an Iowa Republican activist for more than thirty years, said of Spiker. “Rand Paul will get little or no exposure in the rural counties around Iowa and most of that will be directly related to having A.J. Spiker as his frontman.”

Spiker was supposed to have been one of Rand Paul’s secret Iowa weapons in 2016: a Ron Paul acolyte and activist turned party insider, a man who became the surprise chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa after Paul forces took control in 2012. When Doug Stafford, Paul’s chief strategist nationally, hired Spiker away from the party almost a year ago, he declared, “His ability to work with the grassroots is unmatched.”

But Spiker’s tumultuous and controversial chairmanship – which ran from just after the 2012 Iowa caucuses until early 2014 – so thoroughly alienated the Republican grassroots and establishment here that many view him as more of a liability for Paul than an asset.