Rand Paul

Worried About Rand Paul Falling in the Polls? Don't Be.

Numbers this far out mean little under the best of circumstances. And these are not the best of circumstances.

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Rand Paul
Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia

Is Rand Paul's campaign in the midst of a collapse? Everyone from Nate Silver to Politico to the thinkers at Salon has suggested as much. It's fast becoming conventional wisdom that the Kentucky senator is dead in the water.

That's absurd on many levels, as my colleague Brian Doherty outlined beautifully last week. After all, John McCain's campaign struggled mightily in the money game and underwent a pretty serious reorganization during the '08 primary cycle. It didn't stop him from snagging the Republican nomination.

But what to make of the polling? There's no denying that Paul's standing has slipped. His RealClearPolitics average has gone from 17 percent in 2013 to less than 6 percent today. If you're a fan of Rand, should you be concerned?

Hardly.

As I've written here at Reason, national primary horserace polling is astonishingly bad at predicting the ultimate victor in a months-long nominating contest. Around this point in 2007, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were leading in the polls by double-digit margins. In 2011–12, no fewer than five different GOPers traded off for the first-place spot in national polls before Mitt Romney finally pulled out the win.

And the polling conditions this year are even worse. Having a reality TV celebrity jump into the race throws things off like crazy—because when polled early on, before they've had a chance to really learn about the different candidates, people tend to give the name of whomever they've heard of most often and/or recently. There's no question in 2015 that name is Donald Trump.

Some 98 percent of respondents in a recent CNN/ORC poll had heard of the New York billionaire. This gives him an enormous leg up. For Rand Paul, that number was more than 20 points lower. Scott Walker, meanwhile, was known by just 58 percent of respondents. So you can see how much room candidates like Walker and Paul have to improve.

Even now, Paul is in a reasonably strong position. That CNN/ORC survey put him tied with Ted Cruz for fifth position—fifth out of 17 declared Republican candidates.

I wouldn't be surprised, either, if a good number of the folks going to Trump in the polls right now ended up voting for Paul on Election Day—not because Trump's and Paul's positions on the issues are alike, but because Trump is attracting the type of people who are "fed up with establishment politics" and "tired of career politicians." But offering a different brand of Republicanism has been Paul's selling proposition all along. I doubt very much that, once they've stopped to think about it for a moment, GOP primary voters will decide they trust a former Clinton financier over the most interesting man in politics.

To be clear, I'm not saying I think Paul will win the nomination. For my money, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is still the man to beat. Nor am I saying early polling is good for absolutely nothing. Survey research gives campaigns important strategic insights into what the public knows and thinks. And in this particular year, when a candidate's performance in the polls might be enough to keep him or her off the main debate stage, it's likely that some bottom-tier presidential hopefuls will be pushed out of the race entirely because of how they fared in the polls.

But surely it's premature to disqualify someone who's polling in the front half of the pack more than six months out from the first primary ballots even being cast. Rand Paul's campaign isn't over. From the perspective of the rest of the country, the race has barely gotten started.

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  1. “Around this point in 2007, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were leading in the polls by double-digit margins.”

    The takeaway being that it could always be worse.

  2. I’m happy with Senator Rand Paul.

    I’m still pissed that former Governor Gary Johnson walked away from a guaranteed seat in the Senate to wage a pointless presidential bid.

    1. Yeah, this. I will vote for him for potus is he gets the nomination, but I’m perfectly content to keep Rand in the Senate.

    2. I like Johnson a lot more than Ron Paul, but man Johnson has turned into such a self-promoting d-bag.

      1. I get more pissed every time I see anything he does in public.

        1. I still remember Johnson seriously telling libertarians ‘don’t worry, you won’t be forced to vote for that abortion-blocking monster Rand Paul, because GARY JOHNSON and the LP are here to save you!’ Thanks Gary, I the serious prospect of a liberty-promoting GOP president gives me anxiety that only yet another hopeless LP candidate can soothe.

      2. Yeah, it’s almost like he’s a politician or something…

        1. He’s a USELESS stupid pol. Rand is actually good for something. Johnson believes his own BS.

    3. Rand’s poll numbers are meaningless at this time.

      Donations are what matters. I haven’t see his numbers yet, but there have been many speculative columns saying he isn’t getting anywhere near what his father got at this stage in the process.

      1. Sad but true. Donations should never decide who the best candidate is.

  3. Is Rand Paul’s campaign in the midst of a collapse? Everyone from Nate Silver to Politico to the thinkers at Salon has suggested as much. It’s fast becoming conventional wisdom that the Kentucky senator is dead in the water.

    I’m thinking that’s probably wishful thinking on their part. They’re hoping that if they repeat it often enough that enough people will begin to believe it and they can breathe a sigh of relief over dodging that particular libertarian bullet.

    1. I know this might piss off a lot of people here, but I think Trump has taken some of Rand’s support FOR THE MOMENT. There are a lot of tea party types who really like the libertarian ideas for actual policy but are really enjoying Trump beating up on their usual enemies for now – media, SJW et al.

      1. Did I just hear that the Donald isn’t going to attend the GOP debates? He’s totally not serious about this, it’s just an attention stunt. He’ll be out before long.

        1. Link? All I heard was that he said he wasn’t going to intentionally pick fights which is absolute bullshit — but also what he’s “supposed” to say.

      2. One thing I have read is that Trump is popular among young adult males. Guess who is also very popular among young males… Rand Paul. I think they are drawing from the same demographic.

    2. ^This.

      Also, they hope they can convince libertarians of this, which also betrays their sense of their own self-importance and their cluelessness about libertarians.

  4. Same concept as people thinking Bernie is going to get the D nom. They don’t seem to remember Howard Dean too well.

    1. +1 YEEEAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

      Hell, even Jim Rome was all over that hahaha

      1. I still have no idea what the hell happened there.

    2. Good point.

  5. Rand is seriously the only good candidate. There isn’t even one other who is decent. Even though some are betters than others, none of them are good. Unless it’s Rand, I guess the best we can hope for is that it is not Hillary or Jeb.

    1. Yeah, there’s a whole lot I’m not thrilled about about Scott Walker, but he’s who I’m hoping for if rand can’t pull it out.

      1. I think though he might be good on the economy side of things, he’s going to turn out to be the pro-war, pro drug war, tough on crime type.

        I guess we’ll see what he says during the campaign, but that’s what I’m expecting from him.

        1. I know both Walker and Cruz have said some neocon sounding stuff, especially when it comes to the Iran deal, but I think that’s mostly pandering. I highly doubt that any president would just walk out on an agreement with another country. The most they’d do is demand that Iran return to the table to renegotiate parts of it.

          “I am altering the deal, pray I don’t alter it any further.”

          1. I’m not sure how anyone is supposed to even know what the Iran deal is, since a lot is being kept secret by the most transparent administration ever.

            First thing I would ask as a libertarian president is ‘how much money are we giving them?’

            1. a lot is being kept secret by the most transparent administration ever.

              That’s why I suspect most of the anti-Iran deal sentiment is pandering. It’s hard to really be against something no one knows anything about.

              1. That said it probably is a shitty deal considering it’s Chocolate Nixon we’re talking about here.

              2. From this admin, it’s actually pretty easy to be against it. “You have to vote for it to know what’s in it”

            2. The only question I have is “when are the imprisoned Americans coming home?”

              I’m gobsmacked they these politicians would make a deal that didn’t include sending all Iranian-held American hostages home.

          2. The fact that Cruz and Walker are against that deal speaks in favor of them. Rand is the same.

            1. Rand’s mostly against it because he doesn’t know what’s in it, which makes perfect sense.

              1. Same reason Rand was against the trade deal. Cruz fell for it and later had to walk back his support after finding out that Turtlehead lied.

      2. I could vote for Paul or Cruz (although I’d need a couple xanax before heading to the polls for the latter). I’m trying to reserve judgement on Walker but there’s something that strikes me as really establishment about him even though I know about his tussles in Wisconsin… Just can’t put my finger on it yet.

        Before Jordan gets on here and tries to claim this is proof that I’m team red, all of the dems are either establishment or socialist, so that’s a big non-starter.

        1. Where is there a dem candidate to consider for a libertarian?

          Bernie Sanders? Self professed socialist.

          Hillary? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

          O’Malley? One of the most corrupt cronycrats ever.

          Biden? Yeah, I really want a guy with an IQ lower than your average chimp to be president.

          So does that prove that I’m a team red hack? Hardly, I have the same type of things to say about all the GOP candidates as well, outside of Rand and a couple of others.

          Cruz is interesting and he does do some very libertarian type stuff. But he’s too over the top with bringing religion into politics.

          Walker I know almost nothing about, but I have a bad feeling about him.

          1. Come on, you have to admit a Biden presidency would be hilarious.

            1. Yeah, I’m sure he’d say some really funny stuff. Problem is, he’d also DO some really funny stuff, which might not turn out to be so funny in the end.

          2. Yeah, it’s not like Ron Wyden is running. He sucks on economic issues, but at least he’s pretty solid on privacy and government mass surveillance. As it is the Dem field is pretty much shit all the way down.

            1. That makes him about 50% better than Obama.

          3. “Walker I know almost nothing about, but I have a bad feeling about him.”

            Me too, basically I think he’s dishonest(see his flip flopping on ag subsidies in Iowa). Yeah, he stood up to the unions in Wisconsin, but overall I don’t trust him.

          4. Webb might be the lone sane choice for the Dems. PRAY he is their nominee.

            Walker has done some good. He’s said dumb stuff but he puts out.

          5. “Walker I know almost nothing about, but I have a bad feeling about him.”

            I’m surprised no one seems to care about executive experience.

            1. I really, honestly don’t. The only thing I can imagine executive experience being good for is striking “deals” with legislature. Pretty much everything else is being a figurehead for the party/country and appointing “good” bureaucrats to do all the heavy lifting. Oh, and the red button.

              1. “Pretty much everything else is being a figurehead for the party/country and appointing “good” bureaucrats to do all the heavy lifting. Oh, and the red button.”

                You are still describing executive-level tasks, albeit simplistically. They are both executive-level positions. That’s why people think it’s important.

      3. I think Cruz edges out Walker, but at least those two and Paul are good for something. I can almost appreciate Perry because I think Perry knows Perry is kind of dumb. Self-awareness is good. The rest of the candidates seem to exist solely to piss me off.

    2. Walker or Cruz might be … OK-ish. The rest are just God awful.

      1. Fiorina? Jindal? Chaffee (D)?

        1. I lived through Fiorina’s failed Senate campaign in CA. The less we see of her the better.

          1. I was working the booth next to Fiorina’s booth at the CA convention. Every other booth in the hall was manned by members/supporters of whatever candidate or organization the booth was for. EXCEPT Fiorina’s. She had to bring in hired help. Hired help hired from college political departments. As in outright socialist/Marxist drones. They were the biggest dumbasses I’ve ever met in my political career. One guy literally believed, and I mean literally, that the Federal government planned all the grocery truck routes, and that if only a socialist were in charge they could be routed to poor neighborhoods. Seriously. That’s who Fiorina hired to man her booth and follow her around waving her banners.

    3. Unless it’s Rand, I guess the best we can hope for is that it is not Hillary or Jeb.

      Uhh…not Sanders. Unless you’re one of the “run the system into the ground ASAP” types.

  6. For my money, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is still the man to beat.

    Peanuts always come home to a Bush.

    /shriek

    1. This Bush is even more progressive than the dubyah.

  7. Some 98 percent of respondents in a recent CNN/ORC poll had heard of the New York billionaire.

    I’d like to know where the other 2% are, so I can go join them.

    1. Check under rocks.

  8. Polls- garbage in, garbage out.

    1. Except for Millennial polls of course.

  9. Walker? How could a college dropout ever be deemed qualified for the Presidency? We need another man of Woodrow Wilson’s intellectual stature in the White House. Obama, for example.

    1. Obama was ok, but you know, he’s still a man and straight. I think it’s time for a person of color who’s also female or transgendered, or at least gay if they have to be male.

      /something a progressive would seriously say

  10. Until the herd is thinned I think RP is doing about as good as can be expected. The news media has one side ignoring him because his war boner isn’t big enough and the other saying he hates women and brown people. When he can actually state his positions unfiltered he will have better results.

    1. I think Rand is intentionally lying low right now to avoid peaking too early.

  11. Havery any of you donated to the RP for President campaign? I sent in a modest one recently and the emails I get from “him” now are many each day. So much spam it’s as if I went to the wrong porn site or something (not that I have any experience with such things, of course! )

    1. And it’s all fucking SoCon spam, too. Shut the fuck up about Planned Parenthood already, Randy.

    2. I donated a while ago, and have been getting the tons of emails too. He’s got to show me something first though.

    3. I get craploads of emails any time I donate to anything remotely political.

      1. I’ve never donated to something remotely political and I still get craploads of email.

    4. I bought a mug and then spent a week wading through anti-planned parenthood spam from his campaign. I think I’ve unsubscribed from all of it now – fingers crossed.

  12. It is not true that we have no knowledge of what is in the Iran agreement treaty. Rand has absolutely mispoke about what is in the agreement. He came out against it immediately-if he didn’t know what was in the treaty why say he will vote no immediately? He has also misrepresented the Ayatollah comment that the treaty does not prevent Iran from getting a bomb. The first sentence was “because we have issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons…”
    People fell in love with Ron Paul when he stood up to Rudy Guiliani in the first debate in 2008. If Rand is just going to echo the neocons he will lose a lot of libertarian support …

    1. I doubt Rand is going to lose a lot of libertarian support. He’ll lose some of his Dad’s nutbar supporters, including people who seriously believe that this agreement is a remotely good deal.

    2. Troll/spam alert. Notice how it interchanges “treaty” with “agreement”, even using the comical “agreement treaty” term.

  13. “I doubt very much that, once they’ve stopped to think about it for a moment, GOP primary voters will decide they trust a former Clinton financier over the most interesting man in politics.”

    What possible reason do I have to believe such a thing as a primary voter stopping to think would actually occur?

  14. Everyone here is being unrealistically optimistic. Optimism that I find disconcerting in viewing libertarians. 🙂

    Iowa and New Hampshire are looking no better for Senator Rand, and presumably they know him better than all states except his own.

    And this idea that Trump will fade over the summer, like a fever breaking; where is there any evidence that this will happen?

    He is getting 10X as much press as any other candidate on the GOP side; the more aggro he appears, the higher his ratings.

    I don’t believe that he would get the nomination, but as soon as that is clear, he will bolt to an independent run.

    Rise of the Independents, indeed.

    Why would he not, he owes the Republican party nothing

  15. Rand being a dick neo-con is what I’m primarily concerned with.

  16. Jeb Bush is the man to beat??? Common Core….really? I know he has $100 million but I can’t see it.

    1. I have to wonder if money is a better predictor for who will win than polls at this point in time.

  17. I don’t know what this guy’s basis is for thinking Jeb Bush is “the man to beat” (he has money, but nobody outside the GOP establishment wants another Bush in office and it’s unlikely he has any real shot of beating Hillary Clinton in any swing state), but the argument regarding Rand is sound.

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