Rand Paul

Sam Youngman: There's nothing happy about Rand Paul's run for president

Rand Paul
seems to be  committed 
to the  presidential race.
Rand Paul seems to be committed to the presidential race. AP

In the months leading up to the formal announcement that he was running for president, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul told me a few times that he didn't think a presidential campaign would be much fun.

As of last week, it seems obvious that was one of the few predictions Paul made about running for president that has come true.

Jimmy Fallon is making fun of him; his would-be mega-donors and Kentucky Republicans are going on the record to criticize him; and a leading conservative voice said it's time for Paul to "take your campaign out back and shoot it."

Even Paul is publicly criticizing his own efforts to break through the crowded field and get some attention.

In Iowa last week, Kentucky's junior senator decided to live-stream on the Internet a day on the campaign trail. Suffice it to say, it was not a glimpse into the daily life of a happy warrior.

Reading questions from Google about his campaign, Paul read the third most popular question: "Is Rand Paul running for president?"

Just wait. The answer was worse than the question.

"And uh, I don't know," Paul responded. "Wouldn't be doing this dumbass live-streaming if I weren't. So yes, I still am running for president. Get over it."

The question after that? "Where is Rand Paul in the polls?"

Having fun yet?

That Paul's campaign appears to be circling the drain is by no means a secret or a surprise.

What is surprising is that Paul is giving every indication he intends to stay in the race for "the long haul."

Nobody is happier about that than Kentucky Democrats who, despite their complete focus on the race for governor, are positively giddy at the prospect of a broke, bruised and embarrassed Paul returning to run for re-election to the Senate with his tail between his legs.

For a number of reasons, some valid and some not, Paul's Washington team seems completely unfazed by that scenario, and they are working hard to push back against the narrative that Paul is foolishly pursuing a cratering presidential bid at the expense of his re-election.

Given the results of last year's U.S. Senate race, the case can be made that Paul has time before he has to seriously worry that his Senate seat is in jeopardy.

After all, his most likely opponent — state Auditor Adam Edelen — does not have the luxury of taking his own re-election campaign for granted in a daunting political environment where the top of the ticket is hardly inspiring stampedes at the polls.

But it is much harder to believe the argument, put forth by Paul's top advisers in a memo last week, that Paul is poised for victory in the presidential race.

In that memo, chief strategist Doug Stafford and campaign manager Chip Englander laid out a tenuous-bordering-on- delusional case for why Paul, whom they now are calling SRP (Sen. Rand Paul), is on the cusp of climbing to the top of the polls.

They ignore atrocious fundraising numbers, consistently bad polls and embarrassing missteps in favor of straw-poll victories and youth organization.

Feel free to ask President Howard Dean how betting on college students worked out, and President Michelle Bachmann can tell you all about winning straw polls.

Stafford and Englander wrote this: "If you were SRP — with $2 million, little overhead, the best organization in America, always on the debate stage and you were winning 100 percent of the time votes were counted — would you bet you're closer to dropping out or that you were nearing a breakthrough?

"We bet on breakthrough — and the continued passion and dedication of our team to fight for Sen. Paul's vision of liberty, opportunity and justice for all Americans is what will bring us success when it actually counts — on Election Day."

Betting on a breakthrough seems about as wise as betting on the Washington Generals, but Paul's team seems to be missing the larger point — just because Paul can keep running for president doesn't necessarily mean he should.

Paul might not need to worry about his Senate re-election campaign. For now. But the longer he stays in the race for president, the worse he looks.

Becoming a national punch line is hardly a good way to kick off a campaign, and the indignities are piling up.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin's stated preference for Ben Carson over Paul on the Kentucky Sports Radio debate was followed by a Frankfort rally with Paul that drew only about 50 people.

Pressing forward, Paul's team is trying to give the impression that it is in on the joke.

Last week, in addition to the "autographed zombie clown target" and women's T-shirts with "Rand" spelled in rhinestones, the campaign added a new shirt to its online store: "I watched Rand Paul's live stream and all I got was this dumbass tee shirt."

As funny as that is, it's nothing compared to Englander's take on the live stream in his weekly email roundup to supporters.

"Thousands of people tuned in to watch Rand's day to see what an average day is like on the campaign," Englander wrote. "Many media outlets picked up on the story, and thousands of people got to hear Rand Paul's message."

Paul's message could not have been more clear:

He's losing badly, and there's nothing fun about it.