Rand Paul, who said in November that you don’t have a right to pants, apparently thought he had a right to be in the big boys debate, no matter how terrible his poll numbers. So much for not having a right to anything.
Paul wanted to be on stage with Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, and as is well known by now, threw a snit fit and refused to participate in the second tier debate because “second tier sends a signal to the voter that you’re not the same and don’t have a chance.”
It’s an interesting plan, because as CNNs Dylan Byers put it, his actual goal seems to be to “ditch debate, get more media.” In fact, Byers argues that “Skipping Thursday’s debate may have been Rand Paul’s savviest political move yet.” I guess some people see the allure of the finger.
Here’s the thing: Paul got more air time flipping the media off than by playing the GOP’s debate game on Fox Business. That doesn’t make his message any stronger, of course, and he still thinks you have no right to pants, but hey, he got the attention he wanted. Per Byers:
Instead of flying to South Carolina for debate prep, Paul has been on a two-day media tour in New York City, after which he will head to New Hampshire and Iowa. In the last 48 hours, he has done interviews with “The Dr. Oz Show,” Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” and Fox News, as well as multiple interviews with CNN and MSNBC, that were all pegged to his decision to skip the debate.
What does this mean for Paul? According to Byers, “Based on those show’s averages, the Paul interviews have likely been watched by at least 7 million people total. The last Fox Business undercard debate, in November, averaged 4.7 million viewers.”
Paul, who instead of debating ran a #RandRally at Twitter HQ, even got the vicarious thrill of a “We want Rand” chant at the debate, but like his campaign, it lasted only a few seconds, a hiccup in history.
And he seemed to second guess his decision when he tweeted,
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 15, 2016
The answer is yes – if you show up. But you didn’t. So you don’t.
Paul claimed Thursday that the GOP and Fox News are trying to “pre-decide” the election, as though his poll numbers mean nothing. Appearing on “New Day” he told Alisyn Camerota, “People have to realize that what the media is doing here is pre-deciding an election.”
If you look at the polls, it’s hard to make that argument: you see that Paul is pulling in from 1 to 3 percent of voters. His best performances are in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll with 3 percent, in IBD/TIPP with 3 percent, 2 percent Fox News poll, and just 1 percent in the CBS/New York Times poll.
Poll numbers do mean something, and right now his numbers are on a par with people who have already dropped out, like Jindal, Perry, and Graham. See for yourself courtesy of Real Clear Politics:
Sure, bad numbers don’t preclude his winning, and good numbers don’t guarantee a win, but they are an indication of how Republican voters feel about him. Even his new book last November sold less than 500 copies in the first two weeks. His famous 18-minute “filibuster” last October made him a national joke.
If he doesn’t like where he stands, he should do better. It’s really that simple. But he’d rather whine and blame it all on the GOP and Fox News, even though only 50 people showed up at a rally in his home state of Kentucky last year.
He whined to Camerota,
“I have an important voice. What do you think the liberty movement, the liberty voters in the Republican Party are thinking now? That the Republican Party in league with the media networks is saying we’re not going to let the liberty candidate on the stage.”
Another difficult argument to make. Bernie Sanders has been all but ignored by the mainstream media, vilified by those who have taken note of him, and yet he is beginning to challenge Hillary Clinton at the polls. Why? His message resonates.
Paul’s message of pseudo-libertarianism has always been dominated by his appealing to the conservative culture war, and his stances are a confusing mish-mash of ill-thought out ideas. His failure to stand up to Trump and make a case for libertarianism, to carve out a nich for himself, as Sanders has done, doomed him.
Yet according to Paul, Fox Business’ decision somehow “disenfranchises the voters of Iowa or New Hampshire.”
And then the inevitable sour grapes crept in, as he told Camerota:
“So what it is, is about predefining the race? We have not had one vote yet and everybody is going crazy like Donald Trump has won the race already.”
That’s stretching things a bit. No one is defending Fox Business but likewise, there is no defending Paul’s performance in the polls. Since the spring, Paul has been on a downward trajectory. He doesn’t seem to have much right to complain about where he is now, and no one to blame but himself for having no message and no charisma.