U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) prepares to do a live interview with FOX News in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Why Rand Paul’s shift in focus matters

As recently as May, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) looked like a fairly competitive presidential candidate. He was a top-tier contender in nearly all national polls, some of which the senator actually led. In June, Paul’s average national support was still in double digits – a status most of the Republican field has never claimed.
The summer, however, was less than kind to the Kentucky lawmaker, and Paul’s support has slowly evaporated. The latest NBC poll found him in eighth place with just 3% support, and that was one of his better showings. The latest Fox News poll showed Paul in 10th place with 2%, while the latest Quinnipiac results pointed to Paul at just 1% – tied with George Pataki, who’s barely trying.
And it’s against this backdrop, as he makes the transition from contender to afterthought, that Rand Paul has decided to “turn his attention to fundraising for his Senate reelection efforts.”
Paul, who is running for president and reelection to the Senate simultaneously, will attend fundraisers for his Senate campaign on Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, D.C., according to invitations for the events obtained by The Hill.
One Republican operative with close ties to Kentucky politics warned against reading too much into Paul’s Senate fundraisers, saying it’s not a sign that Paul is giving up on running for president, but rather a necessity of running for two offices at once.
Well, maybe.
It’s true that Paul is in a rather unique position. There are 20 major-party presidential contenders – 15 Republicans and 5 Democrats – and only one of them is trying to run two separate campaigns for different offices simultaneously. The other 19 are solely focused, at least electorally, on their White House ambitions.
But Rand Paul turning his attention away from his struggling presidential campaign and towards his more realistic Senate campaign doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the former.
This is not to say the fundraisers are evidence of Paul’s imminent withdrawal. But if you’re making a list of which presidential candidate might be the next to leave the stage, and you’re keeping an eye on the senator who’s hovering around 3% in state and national polling, the fact that he’s suddenly raising money for an entirely different campaign reinforces doubts about his long-term prospects.
“Some of this is self-evident,” one Kentucky Republican told The Hill. “If he thought he’d be the nominee, he wouldn’t spend time hedging his bets and raising money for the Senate race. I think that tells you everything you need to know.”