Paul’s struggles in the pres­id­en­tial cam­paign are no secret, but the big­ger long-term chal­lenge for the fresh­man sen­at­or is his de­pressed polit­ic­al stand­ing back home. With a busy pres­id­en­tial cam­paign sched­ule in Iowa and New Hamp­shire, he doesn’t spend much time these days in his home state, and his ap­prov­al num­bers in Ken­tucky are now at wor­ri­some levels. Loc­al GOP act­iv­ists are abuzz that Paul missed the Fancy Farm pic­nic, the state’s sig­na­ture polit­ic­al event, the year that the state’s pivotal gov­ernor’s race is be­ing held. One Paul ally said he saw re­cent polling show­ing the sen­at­or with un­fa­vor­able rat­ings as high as his fa­vor­ables. “He’s got the same num­bers now as Mitch Mc­Con­nell, which is say­ing something,” the Ken­tucky-based GOP con­sult­ant said…

But Paul’s reelec­tion is now squarely on the minds of the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee, which is hop­ing that the fresh­man sen­at­or re­fo­cuses his at­ten­tion on the Sen­ate race soon­er than later. One ma­jor con­cern is that if Edelen wins reelec­tion as state aud­it­or, he could quickly pivot to a Sen­ate race and spend nearly three months cri­ti­ciz­ing Paul for be­ing ab­sent from the state—a nonideo­lo­gic­al line of at­tack that Paul would be ill-suited re­spond­ing to as a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate. With the Iowa caucuses and New Hamp­shire primar­ies not un­til Feb­ru­ary, Edelen could ad­vance a nar­rat­ive on Paul’s ab­sent­ee­ism that could be chal­len­ging to re­verse. One Mc­Con­nell ad­viser feared a worst-case scen­ario in which Paul would be badly dinged “by a thou­sand cuts” be­fore he even re­com­mit­ted his at­ten­tion to the Sen­ate cam­paign.  Paul only has $1.4 mil­lion in his Sen­ate cam­paign ac­count; he’s not leg­ally al­lowed to trans­fer money raised for a pres­id­en­tial race back to a Sen­ate race.

“Rand is a real­ist. And he is a pat­ri­ot. And if the res­ults through Iowa and New Hamp­shire are not fa­vor­able, I think he would look at the pres­id­en­tial race dif­fer­ently,” said former Jef­fer­son County Re­pub­lic­an Chair­man Bill Stone, a Paul sup­port­er.