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Would you invest in Rand Paul?

Would you invest in Rand Paul?

…for now, donors keep their distance

Rand Paul is in trouble.

At least, it looks like Rand Paul is in trouble. When answering questions about fundraising posed by Politico last week, spokesmen from both the official campaign and America’s Liberty PAC couched on their actual numbers. PAC spokesman Jesse Benton may have revealed much more than he intended when he said, “Results to date have been solid and give us lots of room for optimism as we continue. We also know this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Oof. Marathon-not-sprint is never where you want to be when other candidates are charming the multimillionaires who make national presidential campaigns tick.

Part of me believes it shouldn’t be this way. Paul has been making headlines as an anti-establishment pot-stirrer with his opposition to the impending PATRIOT Act extension. Back in 2013, an overwhelming majority of Americans stood in solidarity with Paul after he held a 13-hour filibuster protesting the use of drone strikes against American citizens. Senator Paul has been much more adept than fellow presidential contender Senator Cruz at influencing his colleagues on issues of policy without crossing the line into willful alienation—so what’s the problem?

The other side of my brain knows, though—and so do donors and strategists. More from Politico:

Among those involved the 2016 money sweepstakes, theories of Paul’s struggles abound. Some point to his anti-establishment posture, which has alienated some in the business community — much of whose support has gone for Bush. Others say his more dovish foreign policy stances has turned off Jewish Republicans, many of whom view him as insufficiently pro-Israel. Still others say he’s found competition from Cruz, who like Paul has branded himself as a free-market thinker.

Others contend that Paul’s unpolished style might be working against him as he seeks out the support of wealthy Republican benefactors, While attending a California donor conference sponsored by Charles and David Koch, two of the nation’s most powerful Republican donors, Paul was criticized for dressing casually in jeans, slouching in his chair and giving rambling answers to questions. One person briefed on the Kochs’ thinking said Paul’s star has faded in their eyes, and that it’s now hard to see them providing substantial financial support to the Kentucky senator.

All of these? None of these? Some of these? It’s really hard to say, but what’s clear is that Candidate Rand Paul is having a much harder time building bridges than Senator Rand Paul.

Image is important, and as much as activists and in-the-bubble politicos (I’m looking at you, LI readers) like to see candidates try things that are new and different, there is and always will be such a thing as too much new and different. Donors don’t like the unexpected; jeans and chucks and a less-than-country club demeanor are all unexpected. (Anyone who has ever been in a room with Rand Paul knows that he doesn’t act like your typical politician.)

This type of thing, also unexpected:

In fact, it’s so unexpected, I can’t even begin to explain it. Michael Bay presents Amateur Wrestling? To be fair, this isn’t a product of Paul’s campaign. This ad was released by Paul’s America’s Liberty PAC in anticipation of today’s PATRIOT Act showdown.

I won’t hold this photoshop nightmare against Paul, but it does say a lot about the culture surrounding his campaign, and who they’re trying to appeal to—and this ad doesn’t give a damn about million dollar donors. (It reminds me of this weird piece of fan fiction from early last year, which also didn’t give a damn about million dollar donors. Cruz, however, has a few more than Paul, and wasn’t affiliated with he artist who put the image of my shirtless senator in my head for all eternity.)

When you’re running a major campaign, you want donors from all tax brackets. Getting those donations means pushing ad campaigns aimed at $5 donors, $250 donors, $1,500 donors, all the way up to supporters who write those multi-million dollar funny money checks that make you laugh because nobody has this much money. NOBODY.

Something isn’t working. Paul hired one of the buzziest creative firms in the business, which is helping him gain major ground in the digital space. We know his super PAC has a sense of humor (and a Google search history that includes “shirtless wrestler.”) He won a Senate race, so we know he has a sizable network of donors—statewides aren’t cheap, especially when you’re challenging Mitch McConnell’s anointed candidate.

Maybe it has nothing to do with strategy, or cheesy videos. Maybe it’s him.

If that’s the case, it’s going to take a lot more than a well-placed ad or soundbite to translate Paul into something donors and eventually voters can understand. Voters (and pundits and activists and bloggers) may be looking for a hero; high dollar donors are looking for a worthy investment.

It may be time for Paul’s team to sit down and ask themselves, would I invest in us? They still have time to turn things around, but for now, at least when it comes to donors, they have their answer.


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I’m a Kentuckian who has supported Rand since 2010, moneywise and vote-wise. I even ponied up a few bucks earlier this year for his Presidential run.

So, I have supported Rand. However, I stopped sending Rand any $$ until he answers my letter re why he was one of five Republican senators who blocked Senator Vitter’s attempts to find out just who it was that certified the U.S. Congress as a “small business” for purposes of Obamacare. I haven’t heard back, yet. So my donations are now being split between Carly, Scott & Rick.

Henry Hawkins | May 31, 2015 at 8:21 pm

He just blamed his own party for creating ISIS. You reckon that had anything to do with donations?

    His fundraising troubles started well before he made that statement.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Amy Miller. | June 1, 2015 at 10:54 am

      My point is that Paul’s policy statements are all over the road, whereas major donors are typically on the road and in a specific lane. He is or appears to be unpredictable to donors. Donors don’t like that.

I like Rand. Hell, I even liked Ron sometimes. He was a nut, sure, but sometimes nuts have good things to offer. They can make your cookies more interesting.

But Rand lost me a few months back with his Pander Bare act around Ferguson, and stroking Al Sharpton’s inner thigh over lunch.

Maybe next time around, but not now.

captainfish | May 31, 2015 at 8:43 pm

I liked him until he did the 13-hour protest against using drone strikes against Americans…. and then signed the bill anyway. Doesn’t sound like he is all that principled. Though, to be fair, Cruz did the same after his filibuster

I’ve never supported Ron Paul or Rand Paul for President.

I also do not support the NSA spying on every phone call made.

    platypus in reply to VotingFemale. | June 1, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Yes but you can take some comfort in the fact that they still do not have the electronic capacity to actually crunch the data they are collecting. It’s like a warehouse full of boxes with barely enough room to walk from one end to the other.

CloseTheFed | May 31, 2015 at 8:54 pm

Rand Paul inherited his father’s base: young people. The ad is great for the young. We all know Obama did well among the young; Paul is trying to do likewise.

I dislike his pandering with Sharpton, EXCEPT I understand what he’s trying to do: make inroads with blacks, who vote 90%+ for Democrats. Sharpton, for whatever bizarro reason, is considered acceptable and commendable in the black community. We must have more blacks to make progress in presidential elections. Sharpton had Ben Carson, M.D., at his NAN conference this year (or last?). So, that’s interesting….

As far as him answering every bit of constituent mail, well, good luck with that.

At this point, I’m undecided about whom to support, but Rand Paul has earned my gratitude by working diligently to restore our constitutional rights. They NEED restored. Obama’s arrogance in abrogating to himself the right to kill Americans on American soil, was beyond the pale.

    platypus in reply to CloseTheFed. | June 1, 2015 at 12:59 am

    I don’t think it was just young people generally. I think it was the anarchist young people and the potheads. That’s his do-or-die base.

    Is that ad great for the “young,” though? I still consider myself “young” (turning 30 on Friday, feel free to lavish me with attention) and that ad reminds me of the cheapo commercials the Fox affiliate from my hometown used to run in 1995, advertising wrestling and monster truck rallies.

    To be honest, my first thought was, “This is f-ing WEIRD, guys.” Then I made a face and decided to write about it because my brain immediately went to the “this PAC is doomed” place.

Early on in his career, whiny people said that the biggest problem with Rand Paul’s reputation was his FATHER’S reputation. He had to distinguish himself from his father, and HIS schtick.

In my opinion, they were close. The problem with Rand Paul, is his Paulbot Army; the most fervent that he ‘inherited’ from Ron Paul. They are a TOTAL negative. Example: I have a LOT of political sites ‘favorited’ on Facebook… I get a lot of posts about political things. But I get totally SPAMMED by the people who fanatically follow Rand Paul… I’ve learned that he is the ONLY Patriot left in America, and it will be an act of Olympian HEROISM when he blocks a bill tomorrow. Or today. Whenever. I’ve been overwhelmed by their endless posts, and I’ve tuned them out.

I can’t be the only one who has reflexively blocked out his followers… I’ve no idea what HIS policies are, but his followers’ politics leave no room for approval.

And that’s a bad place for him to be.

…and POTUS, like it or not, is the most Formal position we have in our Nation… wear Jeans to a picnic, wear Jeans on a Ranch, but wear a blessed suit and tie when you are running for President. Who doesn’t get that?!?

For some reason, he irritates me. I don’t like his tactics and his foreign policy ideas scare me. I think he’d make a terrible leader. Plus he’s got that awful hair weave.
He reminds me of the kid in a business school group project that wouldn’t shut up and slowed everyone else down.

You write, “maybe it’s him.” Commenters say they can’t put their finger on it but he irritates them or just doesn’t seem right.

Let me make this simple–he’s a jerk, just like his old man.

Now, there are worse things than being a jerk–look at Obama. Jerks can be intelligent, an have useful things to say and do. I agree with Paul on some things. But, in the end, he is a jerk.

While I can handle a jerk in a legislature of 535 people, I cannot see one as Commander-in-Chief and Chief Executive.

Put me down as one of those potential $1500 donors, for the right candidate against really bad opposition. It’s a stretch but I did it twice, 2008 and 2012, even knowing that the GOP guy I was backing showed no real interest in winning the race.

    I really appreciate this comment because so many people are either afraid to or just not invested enough to call out a jerk when they see one. It seems like it’s taboo, especially in the right wing blogosphere, to put that out there when it comes to candidates that aren’t firmly inside the establishment wagon-circle.

    So…thanks for validating the unexpressed point I left nestled in the back of my mind in favor of being at least halfway objective!

like father, like son..


not just no, but HELL NO.

legalizehazing | June 1, 2015 at 3:53 am

It’s like O’Malley said Goldman Sachs is good with Hillary or Jeb. The big guns have varying degrees of tolerance for candidates. There are shake things up a bit Conservatives …. and then there are semi-revolutionary candidates like Rand.

The consequences of his victory could be politically and economically revolutionary in a massive way. I’m a fan of Rand because I’m young. I see a bloody mess I’m going to have to clean up at some point. I want to rip the band aid off as soon as possible, before I become too heavily invested and chicken shitted like all these money men. I’m going to donate. He deserves it.

Also, I think too much is being made of his out of line comments. He’s right about ISIS’s weapons. He’s right about Lybia.

Also the young do not have a lot of money to give.

Insufficiently Sensitive | June 1, 2015 at 11:15 am

I have admired some of Rand Paul’s positions, and particularly his clear articulation, which too many Republicans can’t match. But his cudgel for the Patriot Act data collection is objectively a form of support for the Islamist/Leftist hostility against Americans in general. His concept of foreign policy is a bit too close to ignoring the obvious hazards.

Not that the House bill forcing that same data collection onto the telecoms companies is much of an improvement – the major expenses of storing it will all be tacked onto our phone bills, and may not be as effective in particular searches as the NSA version was.

I have contributed and will contribute more.