The Rand Paul death watch has kicked off in earnest.
When the senator from Kentucky entered the race in April, most analysts considered him a top-tier contender, a candidate who could draw on a large network of libertarian-minded voters who had supported his father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. He rose to the top right away. His selling point was that he was edgy, a different kind of Republican who would expand the GOP tent by reaching new voters.
But his campaign has struggled spectacularly, and he’s quickly moving into “also ran” territory. His RealClearPolitics polling average has dropped from 10 percent in early May to 2.3 percent. Irish betting house Paddy Power puts his odds of winning the GOP nomination at 50-1. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has already dropped out, is at 40-1.
Paul has struggled with fundraising and message. Worse, a super PAC that was supporting him has stopped raising money amid concerns that he has strayed from libertarian principles, Politico reports.
And in a poll of Iowa and New Hampshire insiders last week, Paul’s name was near the top of the list of candidates predicted to drop out next. Iowa insiders ranked him just behind Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as the most likely candidate to exit. Among panelists from New Hampshire, only former New York Gov. George Pataki scored higher on the question.
“Rand Paul sure seems to be headed toward the shoals with his ship about to sink,” said D. Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.
Voss said he initially thought Paul had the wherewithal to last deep into the inevitable “winnowing” of the crowded field.
“He fills an ideological niche that none of the other candidates do,” he said. “He’d be like the RC Cola of the cola wars while all the other candidates try to be Coke or Pepsi.”
Now, however, there are real questions about whether he will go the way of “New Coke,” the highly touted brand that flopped soon after its launch, and be the next candidate to follow Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker into dropout city. Front-runner Donald Trump, who has relished tweaking Paul, forecast that scenario Tuesday: “Prediction: Rand Paul has been driven out of the race by my statements about him — he will announce soon. 1%!”
The billionaire real estate mogul followed that tweet with another: “I hope when Rand Paul gets out of the race — he is at 1% — his supporters come over to me. I will do a much better job for them.”
Paul responded during an appearance on CNN that “it’s sort of silly season anytime Donald Trump opens his mouth.”
Paul finds himself in a reverse “Goldilocks” zone — he lacks the polling strength of ascendant candidates like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.
Still, with the fundraising quarter coming to an end, Paul finds himself in a reverse “Goldilocks” zone — he lacks the polling strength of ascendant candidates like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina and does not boast the fundraising totals of candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
There are other troubling signs for Paul. The Hill newspaper reported Tuesday that Cruz had snared endorsements from several prominent Iowa conservatives who had backed Ron Paul in 2012. Bob Barr, a former Georgia congressman who was the Libertarian Party’s standard-bearer in 2008, also is backing Cruz and will chair Liberty Leaders for Cruz.
Barr said he thinks highly of Paul, but cited electability concerns.
“I’m interested in electing a candidate who really understands and abides by the Constitution, and who can win,” he told LifeZette. “Ted Cruz satisfies both criteria. My concern is that it’s really important that we find … one who can win.”