Despite Media Narratives, Rand Paul Still Has a Path Forward

CNN: Rand Paul campaign on “death watch”

Fox News: The collapse of Rand Paul and the libertarian moment that never was

MSNBC: Rand Paul facing the question no candidate wants to hear (about dropping out)

Observer: Will Rand Paul be the next candidate to drop out?

Rand Paul himself: I’m not dropping out.

Ignore what the candidate himself says – the narrative is set. Paul, who once graced the cover of TIME magazine as “the most interesting man in politics,” is all but over in the eyes of the mainstream media. To them, Paul is strapped for cash, buried in a crowded field with no path forward. But media narratives and reality don’t always match up.

Paul’s fundraising is lackluster, but relative to candidates with similar polling numbers, he’s hardly on “death watch.” Paul fares much better than former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, secret Democrat Ohio Gov. John Kasich, or NSA spokesman and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

But the rest get better treatment in the media. Huckabee and Christie aren’t labeled as “finished” during their frequent primetime Fox News slots, and the Chicago Tribune just published an editorial gushing over John Kasich’s ability not to be a jerk.

Disregard that Paul has 99 co-chairs for his Iowa leadership team spread across the state, and 275 in New Hampshire. He has more endorsements (37) from New Hampshire legislators than anyone else. He is organized on more than 300 college campuses nationwide and has a solid niche in the GOP electorate, unlike Christie, Kasich, or Huckabee, who represent the status quo.

And despite Donald Trump consistently claiming Paul is at 1 percent, the Kentucky Senator polled better than both Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in the two most recent Reuters polls that went underreported.

Is there a vast media conspiracy against Paul? No. But there is a bias within the status quo against the “libertarian moment” that media pundits are now gleefully saying is never coming. As FiveThirtyEight pointed out this spring, while few Americans may self-identify as libertarian, many Americans have libertarian views, and it would seem to be increasingly so.

Thanks to the expansion of government and government intrusion by both parties, Americans do tend to adopt more libertarian stances on many issues. A 2013 survey of 1,000 voters nationwide found that 58 percent of people generally believe individuals should be free to do what they want as long as they don’t hurt another individual. Many of these are likely more casual voters, who have just yet to hear a candidate that articulates a fiscally responsible and socially tolerant message not present in either major party *gently nudges Rand Paul to work on campaign messaging*.

Thanks to a crowded field, a lazy media, and an occasionally inefficiently run campaign in dealing with the aforementioned two factors, 58 percent of Americans are not yet supporting Paul.

Paul still faces an uphill climb to be the GOP nominee for president, and it would require an ideological shift within the base of the Republican Party – though it wouldn’t require an ideological shift for most Americans. The safe bets for the nomination would be well-funded Lehman Brothers favorite Jeb Bush or GOP rising star Marco Rubio or Scott Walker.

Even with the odds stacked against him, Paul appears poised to be in it for the long haul, possibly until the Spring when he really has to decide between seeking the presidency and his Senate seat. He may lose, but by staying in the fight, a libertarian brand of conservatism stays in the fight, too.