Why aren’t the GOP’s presidential stragglers dropping out of the race?

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

GOP’s Rand Paul to open Vegas campaign office, visit Pahrump.

LAS VEGAS — Rand Paul’s presidential campaign was doing a lousy job of playing dead this week, when the senator from Kentucky trekked to an office park to cut the ribbon on a new headquarters.

In Kentucky, all top officeholders of both political parties are expected to speak at “Fancy Farm” — the shorthand name for a Catholic Church picnic and forum for raucous political speaking the first Saturday in August at the far western end of the state.The Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday will be crucial for several candidates mired in single digits and with little to show after months of campaigning, but for Rand Paul, it may be his last chance to make the case that he should remain in the race.The Kentucky senator is scheduled to visit on Monday and Tuesday, before heading to Boulder, Colorado to participate in the third Republican presidential debate on Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has formally endorsed Paul’s candidacy, has been pressuring him to direct his attention to his Senate seat, which he’s in jeopardy of losing, rather than keep chasing dreams of the White House which now seem out of his grasp, according to Politico, and so has the NRSC.

He’s planning to open up a Las Vegas office just south of McCarran International Airport at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, then hold a meet-and-greet at 8:30 a.m. The first-term senator was considered a major presidential contender earlier in the year but the latest fundraising numbers put him squarely in the bottom tier of the GOP’s 2016 class over the last three months. If Paul doesn’t have a breakout performance in the debate, it will be hard for him to justify wasting time and money and jeopardizing McConnell’s Senate majority, all for what at a certain point may begin to look like a vanity project disguised as a bid to save the Republic. His absence left him defenseless to the blunt barbs that Fancy Farm is known for. “Rand, look at me …” implored program emcee Matt Jones, a popular local sports radio talk-show host. “You’re not gonna win. So on Thursday morning the candidate was holed up in the Kennedy Room, a drab conference room on the second floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Old Town, Alexandria, Va., where he would spend two hours preparing for Wednesday night in Colorado.

The budget portion would increase the current “caps” on total agency spending by $50 billion in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) quit the race, encouraging “other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates.” The response? The crazy people are voting for Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders … Just come on back and join us here in the state.” Nearly three months later, polls show Paul’s presidential campaign still failing to gain traction.

The number of candidates hanging on by fingernails is not unprecedented, but it’s another complication for a Republican Party that wanted to avoid a “circus” primary. Among them: Chip Englander, the campaign manager; William Henderson, Paul’s chief of staff; Elise Jordan, a member of the communications team; and advisers Chris LaCivita, Doug Stafford, Steve Munisteri, and Tony Fabrizio. In March 2013, the libertarian firebrand held up the nomination of CIA Director John Brenan for nearly 13 hours over questions on his position regarding the use of drones. Debate prep for Paul, often, is just done by the candidate himself—he’s a voracious reader, anyone in his orbit will tell you, he’ll read the phone book, he’ll read mean Tweets, he’ll read anything. One adviser, Doug Stafford, expressed mild frustration that the majority of Paul’s questions to date had been centered on foreign policy when his political career has been just as much about the issue of the debt and the Federal Reserve.

In their view, that’s plenty. “The candidates who are really low in the polls don’t have big campaign operations to maintain,” said Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota whose early exit from the 2012 presidential race, which he later regretted as premature, has become a cautionary tale. “Your friends, your family, your cousins — they can kind of keep you going with gas money as college kids hit the trail for you. They’re hoping, Stafford said, that the CNBC debate will be the chance for Paul to talk about those things he hasn’t had the chance to yet. “I think a lot of people that are going to be watching having heard his views on these issues,” Stafford said. Other candidates talk openly about grabbing Paul’s “liberty voters” and Huckabee’s social conservatives when their campaigns inevitably crack.

So far, Barnett said, the questions they’ve come up with “have been pretty good at predicting what happened in the last debates.” In particular, they anticipated that Trump would attack Paul for his low poll numbers. “We didn’t expect it to happen immediately,” he said, but Paul was ready for it. I don’t care what the polls are right now — winning early states is all about getting organized, getting people to those caucuses and primaries.” Every candidate who barely qualified for Wednesday’s debate has a version of this argument. McConnell needs all of the soldiers he can find up there.” The Kentucky Republican Party did Paul a favor in August, rewriting its rules — at Paul’s request — to let Paul run for re-election in the traditional May primary while seeking Kentucky’s presidential delegates in a new GOP presidential caucus on March 5. This time last year, Paul was in the top tier of would-be presidents, considered “the most interesting man in politics.” It wasn’t, it seemed, that people didn’t like him.

In Las Vegas, Paul insisted that polls showing him lagging in the Nevada caucuses were “not real polls of who’s going to vote” but “polls of the undecided.” The Kasich and Christie campaigns are buoyed by polls that show New Hampshire primary voters viewing them more favorably as they grind their way through pancake breakfasts and chamber of commerce dinners. In May, he held a blockbuster filibuster of the renewal of the PATRIOT Act; in July, he printed out the 70,000-page United States tax code and filmed himself putting it in a woodchipper, slicing it with a chainsaw and setting it on fire; in October, he live-streamed an entire day on the campaign trail in the middle of Iowa, which he admitted was a “dumbass” idea (and later sold shirts memorializing the bad decision on his website). Many Democrats are encouraging State Auditor Adam Edelen, whom many view as a rising star in the party, to challenge Paul next year, though Edelen is now locked in a tighter-than-expected re-election campaign to be decided next Tuesday.

His very public triage and staff salary cuts cheered even Rick Santorum, exiled to the “undercard” debates but bragging in a donor e-mail this week that “while some campaigns have received headlines for laying off staff, we just hired five new members of our team.” Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the celebrity candidates who have dominated the race since summer, are viewed by the underdogs as flashy and flawed. Kasich adviser John Weaver tweeted that Trump was like “the melding of Richie Rich and Walter Mitty.” Weaver sees the potential to convert Trump supporters. “They’re frustrated at government not working, and they have every reason to be frustrated,” he said. “We’re ahead of schedule. He notes that Wednesday’s debate will focus on economic policy, giving Paul a chance to promote his “flat tax plan” that will lower taxes and simplify the tax code, as well as his plan to balance the budget. “I think we’ve got to make progress …” Englander said. “Campaigns are one day at a time, working hard, putting together the organization. It started with the first question, after Donald Trump raised his hand to say he wouldn’t pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee and he wouldn’t pledge not to run as an independent. “This is what’s wrong,” Paul cut in. “I mean, this is what’s wrong! He buys and sells politicians of all stripes!” Later, Paul shouted down professional shouter Chris Christie, during an exchange about the PATRIOT Act. “Get a warrant!” he yelled. “I don’t trust President Obama with our records.

We’re adding legislators. “Why would I be so concerned about what the pundits are saying right now if they have been so 100 percent, totally, absolutely wrong about everything up to now?” Huckabee asked in Gaffney. I know you gave him a big hug and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead!” Trump used his opening remarks as an opportunity to take a swipe at Paul’s poll numbers, but rather than shouting, he calmly responded with laughter. “Do we want someone with that kind of character, that kind of careless language to be negotiating with Putin?

Pawlenty understood that optimism and where it came from. “That’s like hanging around the basketball rim waiting for a rebound,” he said. “Sometimes, it does happen. If you’re a candidate who’s already put two years of your life into this, you could do worse than try.” The wait for a rebound would not be lonely.

The debates are a form of reality television, and as such they reward Trump-style put-downs and meme-worthy jargon—not nuanced discussions about government spying warrants or the Fed. Having now learned this lesson twice, Paul’s campaign seems to acknowledge the need to change course and adapt his message to the dumbed-down medium. “Imagine putting yourself in a position of a person who’s going on stage in front of 25 million people for intellectual combat,” Jordan told me of the pressure Paul, and every other candidate, is under to perform. Bobby Jindal — have regularly publicized their quixotic swings through the early-voting states despite polling at less than 1 percent in national surveys. He’s the son of Ron Paul, the congressman and presidential candidate who used the 2007 and 2011 GOP debates to inspire a grassroots movement, the Ron Paul Revolution. In 2009, during his Senate campaign, Paul turned the Kentucky debate into one of national import by arguing that the race was really about President Obama’s policies.

He mopped the floor with his opponent, Jack Conway, whose hand he refused to shake, saying he didn’t want to associate with someone who had attacked his religion. But Paul hasn’t been able to create a similar moment for himself as a candidate, even as his beliefs position him in contrast to the other candidates on the debate stage.

She attacked Planned Parenthood in grotesque—though not especially accurate—detail, and she opened herself up and revealed a personal tragedy, that she had lost her step-daughter to drug addiction. It’s a moment like Fiorina’s, or a series of them, that can revive a campaign that is withering in the wilderness of obscurity or sprawled out on death’s door.

For Paul, a moment seems likeliest to occur when he manages to convey that his worldview—small “l” libertarian, non-interventionist—is not the stuff of fringe newsletters, but of common sense. Later, one of his advisers offered a word of caution: “It’s one thing running for the Senate or being in the Senate, but it’s different running for president.

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