Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced Wednesday he is dropping out of the Republican presidential race. In a statement announcing the suspension of his campaign, Paul said, "It's been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House. Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty."
Paul struggled to gain traction in a crowded field of Republicans. He placed fifth in the Iowa caucuses Monday night and is polling at just two percent in New Hampshire, a state that votes Tuesday. Paul was also facing money problems. He had just $1.3 million in the bank at the end of the year, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Paul told advisers yesterday that he is seriously considering ending his presidential bid.
Paul is also running for re-election to his Senate seat in Kentucky. He convinced the state legislature to change the rules to allow him to run for both offices. But his failing presidential campaign was also harming his Senate race. Democrat Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington, saw a weakness and filed papers last week to challenge Paul in Kentucky.
In 2014 and even at the beginning of 2015, Paul's candidacy looked promising. He was attempting to expand the Republican Party by reaching out to minority groups by focusing on issues important to them. For example he attempted to appeal to African Americans by pushing criminal justice reform.
The libertarian minded senator gained notoriety for fighting against government surveillance and a bloated defense budget. He staged a ten-and-a-half talk-a-thon on the Senate floor last May in opposition to an extension of the the PATRIOT Act. But he also tried to separate himself from his father, Rep. Ron Paul who ran for president multiple times successfully sticking to his libertarian philosophy of international isolationism and a smaller government.
While Rand Paul's campaign centered around his libertarian-leaning ideology, he attempted to mainstream those beliefs. It's a strategy that didn't work when the Republican field became crowded with a multitude of candidates and it made Paul look like he was waffling on issues critical to libertarian-minded voters.
He lost the support of much of his father's coalition by walking back some of his positions. After being criticized for opposing military aid to Israel, Paul shifted his stance to deflect attacks that he was abandoning Israel.
Paul's 5 percent support in Iowa is far below his father's third place finish with 21.5 percent support in the state four years ago. Ron Paul also won 23 percent in New Hampshire, a feat that Rand Paul was nowhere close to achieving.
While Paul's been unable to poll well, he has built a solid grassroots organization. In New Hampshire, his campaign had 13 paid staffers and made 600,000 phone calls to voters.
Paul has no intention of endorsing before New Hampshire. But other campaigns that need every vote possible could try to reach Paul's supporters.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who holds similar beliefs to Paul on issues of government surveillance and some components of foreign policy, including regime change and drones, put it bluntly: "He ran a good race. We are working hard to earn the support of his supporters."
In an interview with NBC News, Ohio Governor John Kasich said he won't change his tactics to reach out to Paul's supporters, but he was sure to mention one of Paul's central issues.
"I don’t think I have to tailor my message. If somebody were to ask me about some of the issues on surveillance, I think Rand Paul’s had some good things to say about it," Kasich said.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, doesn't seem to be making a concerted effort to appeal to Paul's supporters.
"I think, you know Rand is someone I disagree with on a lot of issues. But, as I said the other night at the debate. He actually, he believes strongly in what he stands for and I respect that," Paul said.