To be quite honest I didn’t see the withdrawal of Rand Paul to be quite this soon, but the other day I noted in passing that Paul was among the bottom-feeders in both New Hampshire and South Carolina so once he performed poorly in Iowa there was really no need to move forward. His idea of trying to get 10,000 Iowa college students to caucus for him failed to the extent that he had a total of just 8,481 votes, drawing just 4.5% of the vote for a fifth-place finish (and one delegate.) And considering New Hampshire is the ground zero for the Free State Project – a group of libertarians who have vowed to move there to further their political activity in the state they determined was most conducive to their interests – you would have thought Paul, the most libertarian-leaning of the GOP candidates, would poll better than the measly 2 to 5 percent he was receiving in New Hampshire. But he wasn’t, and his high-water mark there last summer was only in the 6% range.
(By the way, speaking of the Free State Project, they announced this morning that they have met their goal of 20,000 who pledge to move to the state, triggering a five-year clock for those who pledged to relocate. We’ll see how that does in the next half-decade.)
Meanwhile, Paul has a Democratic challenger for his Senate seat so he was surely getting pressure to abandon what was seeming to be a more and more futile quest for the Oval Office to protect a Republican Senate seat. (In the hopes his Presidential campaign would catch fire, Paul also managed to get Kentucky to have a Republican caucus in order to avoid having an issue with being on the ballot for two different offices, which is against state law.) His situation was different than the other Senators who are running (or have run): Ted Cruz isn’t up until 2018, Lindsey Graham was safe until 2020, and Marco Rubio declined re-election to the Senate to pursue his Presidential bid. (Among the names mentioned to replace Rubio was former Marylander Dan Bongino, who now lives in Florida.)
Yet there is a small but sufficient portion of the GOP that had as its motto, “Paul or none at all.” There was no other candidate they liked, so it remains to be seen how many will hold their nose and vote for the eventual GOP nominee, how many will migrate to the Libertarian candidate (odds are it will be former Republican aspirant Gary Johnson, who dropped out of the 2012 GOP field and became the Libertarian nominee later that year), and how many will just stay home. If the latter two numbers are too great, it obviously affects the Republicans’ hopes of getting back in the White House, but if the last number is high that could make Republican prospects of holding the Senate more unlikely as well.
Truth be told, I really liked Rand Paul as a candidate although I had a few reservations about his foreign policy. (On the domestic front he was nearly unbeatable.) Perhaps this is a good time for a reminder of my own level of support for these guys and how the field has shaken out since the process started last summer. Back at the end of September when I made my initial endorsement, the 17-person field had already lost Rick Perry and Scott Walker. Based on my level of support, this is how the race has elapsed:
- Bottom tier:
George Pataki, Donald Trump
- Fourth tier: Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina
- Third tier:
Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore, Ben Carson
- Second tier: Marco Rubio,
Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham
- Top tier (and these guys were miles ahead of the rest): Ted Cruz,
Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal
Walker was being a disappointment and was trending toward the third or fourth tier, on the other hand Perry may have landed in my top five.
As you can see, I’m perilously close to holding my nose because the only one of my top five remaining is Ted Cruz. Yet those who support Paul don’t tend to like Cruz because they’re occasionally been rivals in the Senate and Cruz also has ties (both through his wife and financially) to Goldman Sachs – a bank libertarians love to hate. There are also those who question the whole “natural born citizen” aspect of Cruz’s (and Marco Rubio’s) candidacy, although that charge has been led mostly by supporters of Donald Trump.
Sadly, I suspect there really is a great number of Rand Paul supporters who will be the “none at all” contingent when it comes to November. When you have to pin your hopes on the equal disillusionment of Bernie Sanders supporters (who are bound to be hosed by the Clinton machine) it is worth wondering about the direction of this republic.
Update: As I was writing this, word came out that Rick Santorum is also suspending his campaign. Scratch another off the list.