Poor Poor Pitiful Paul

As regular readers know, I’m not a big fan of Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, or libertarianism generally (I am fond of Dan Paul, a relative of Rand and Ron who happens to be my pastor, and is on a different planet politically from his kin, but that’s another story). But after reading Isaac Isenstadt’s near-obituary of Rand Paul’s presidential campaign today, I do have some sympathy for the wiggy dude.

And that’s the case whether or not Isenstadt’s account of a doomed and sinking candidacy short on money, full of internal acrimony, and undermined by a lazy or undisciplined candidate is accurate. Isenstadt says his take was informed by “more than a dozen sources close to the Kentucky senator,” all anonymous (most of the named sources are people like Ed Rollins and Kellyanne Conway who probably don’t know any more about the internal discussions in the Paul campaign than I do). But I gotta say: It has the aroma of a hit job inspired by a disgruntled former campaign honcho (or maybe two) who’s now working for somebody else and has scraped up every unpleasant anecdote they can think of, with the other sources maybe confirming or failing to refute them.

I’m not impressed by all the “internal turmoil” anecdotes Isenstadt throws in; presidential campaigns are by their nature rolling balls of high-tension madness.

The deeper charge is that Paul’s going to run out of money because he shirks potential donors, up to and including the Koch Brothers. We should know before too long if that is the case; Paul’s initial financial disclosures were a bit underwhelming for the Crown Prince of the Revolution, with its famous money-bomb small donor base. And he hasn’t made up for that with big-time Super-PAC funders, either. The standard interpretation from friends and from inside the campaign is that he’s paying a price in excitement for the steps he’s had to take to transcend the old man’s isolation and become an acceptable mainstream GOP candidate; and he’s now “rebooting” the campaign to get some of the old libertarian mojo working again.

If Isenstadt’s right, of course, the only thing that could save Paul’s financial bacon now is a good swift kick in the butt to make him do his own part in fundraising.

Either way, Isenstadt’s right about one thing: time is growing short. Paul isn’t in any danger of not making the first candidate debate cutoff, but he’s pretty far down in the weeds in a large field. He has made news this week by being the noisiest proponent of a “defunding” of Planned Parenthood; that could be an effort to turn things around (though not with an issue beloved of his libertarian backers) or perhaps Amanda Marcotte is right that this is the rare issue that could unite libertarians and Christian Right folk. Or for all I know he could be taking high-profile positions as an elaborate way to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of potential SuperPAC endowers. But yeah, a lot of influential people read Politico, so it would behoove Rand Paul to show that Isenstadt’s wrong pretty soon.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.