Rand Paul has announced that his presidential campaign is “in it for the long haul.” That’s an odd thing to say. A presidential candidate with momentum on his side would say that he’s “in it to win it”. It’s been painfully obvious for months that Sen. Paul isn’t a presidential candidate with momentum on his side.
While some people attribute his failing poll numbers to him picking a fight with Donald Trump at the first debate, the reality is that people thought that Sen. Paul was likely to attack Mr. Trump to jump start his faltering campaign.
Planning for the long haul is foolish if you don’t have any momentum because, in the words of a longtime Republican operative, “[n]o momentum in early states means no momentum later, which means no money and no viable path.” That’s spot on. Once every 4 years, talk out of Iowa turns to how many tickets there will be coming out of Iowa.
In August of 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann won the now defunct Iowa Straw Poll. The day after the 2012 Iowa caucuses, where Rep. Bachmann finished a distant 6th, she dropped out of the race.
At this point, Sen. Paul will be fortunate to finish 6th. He’ll undoubtedly stay in through New Hampshire but it’ll be clear that he’ll be limping along and badly needing a miracle to win. New Hampshire voters aren’t likely to reward a desperate candidate.
This analysis is spot on:
Stephen J. Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown who has advised both parties on the presidential nomination process, said making it through the “long haul,” as Paul puts it, would be a steep hill to climb if he was unsuccessful in early contests.
“Paul would have to stay in the news and be invited to the mainline debates, sell the viability of his strategy to the news media, overcome the headlines elevating the winners of the early states and all that entails, and maintain his own supporter and contributor base — a big task to be sure,” he said. “But the question is also: can he win any of the large winner-take-all states that vote after March 14?
Proverbially speaking, Sen. Paul is skating on thin ice. His appeal is to a limited niche in the GOP. While there are lots of Republicans with a libertarian streak, there aren’t many GOP activists who are staunch libertarians. Sen. Paul’s appeal to national security conservatives is virtually non-existent. Sen. Paul’s appeal to Christian conservatives is minimal at best. That means that Sen. Paul has virtually no chance of winning or doing well in Iowa or South Carolina.
Candidates with lackluster showings in Iowa and South Carolina often don’t make it to Florida, much less to the Mountain West states.