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Rand Paul, the self-described “lib­er­tarian-ish” Senator from Ken­tucky, is not the pres­i­dential fron­trunner — he’s even fallen in recent polls. He is not the most heavily-covered in the news. Some pundits pro­claim his pres­i­dential cam­paign is already over, despite Time magazine’s description as “the most inter­esting man in pol­itics” (‘The Rein­ven­tions of Rand Paul,’ Oct. 16, 2014).

Ulti­mately, this is just another symptom of primary pol­itics. Rand Paul has been prominent on the national stage for years. Can­di­dates like Carly Fiorina or John Kasich are rel­ative new­comers to most Amer­icans. It’s natural for the elec­torate to fixate on the shiny and the new, for a while, but that doesn’t amount to sub­stance.

Despite recent poll data from Public Policy Polling showing Paul at 1 percent among Repub­lican can­di­dates, he has staying power. The rumors of his political death are being grossly exag­gerated. His strong grass­roots support, unique policy posi­tions, and his wide cross-party appeal means he will stick around to the bitter end.

Ulti­mately, Paul pro­vides a ral­lying point for the growing liberty movement: polit­i­cally active and rabidly pas­sionate, the small movement could well tip the election. Samuel Adams is thought to have said, “It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brush­fires of freedom in the minds of men.”

His falling numbers are caused by the sheer size of the Repub­lican field. While he has a small, ded­i­cated lib­er­tarian core, other can­di­dates are chipping away at more main­stream support — Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, even Donald Trump.

In order to survive in a pres­i­dential primary, a can­didate needs either vast sums of money or strong grass­roots support. While Paul has low fundraising totals, roughly seven million in the second quarter of 2015, half of that was in small con­tri­bu­tions. That means that he’s attracting a core group of sup­porters who pas­sion­ately support him. Passion is key in pri­maries, and Paul sup­porters have a lot of it.

He has focused pri­marily on nur­turing and growing this grass­roots support, much in the vein of his father Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 pres­i­dential bids. In addition, the Paul cam­paign has showed the most social media savvy, and with some of the most ardent sup­porters. Social media is quickly becoming one of the most important cam­paign tools, and a solid strategy is a great aid to a cam­paign.

Pres­i­dential pri­maries are highly unstable, espe­cially early on. Few voters have made up their minds, vac­il­lating from one can­didate to the next depending on media cov­erage, name recog­nition, and noise. Most voters have yet to settle on the boring policy pro­posals and budget plans. They determine their support by weighing rhetoric and stump speeches.

At this stage in the primary, polls are unre­liable, volatile, and heavily skewed. The first chance to win del­e­gates is at the Iowa Cau­cuses, Feb. 1, 2016. That’s five months away. Polls five months out are a poor gauge of what the field will look like at caucus time. This time in 2011, Rick Perry was leading by double digits. Six weeks later, it was Herman Cain. A month after that, Newt Gin­grich. The polls reflected their per­ceived elec­toral strength at the time, but not in reality.

Many can­di­dates will drop out by Iowa, and their sup­porters will flock to the remaining can­di­dates. Rand Paul stands to benefit from that, because he pro­vides a legit­imate and viable alter­native to the status quo.

Rand Paul is running a cam­paign of ideas, not one of noise and blind rhetoric. His strength is in his indi­vid­u­ality and uniqueness. On foreign policy, civil lib­erties, and genuine budget reform, he stands alone. The chal­lenge for Paul is to con­vince voters to support his “lib­er­tarian-ish” alter­native.