A CNN poll released on Monday places Rand Paul back in the top five Republican presidential candidates. Paul is tied for fifth place with Mike Huckabee at 5 percent, while Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Chris Christie lag behind him at 4 percent. Trump and Carson still lead the field with 27 percent and 22 percent respectively.
This comes in the wake of yet another hit piece about the “libertarian moment that wasn’t,” published by Politico’s Michael Lind. Lind wonders whether Paul’s poll numbers will even qualify him for the next debate on the very same day that a major poll shows him ahead of most of the field.
Politico is the same publication that invented the “Cruz is stealing Paul’s voters” thesis, based on sparse bits of anecdotal evidence such as one former Ron Paul voter telling a reporter at the Republican Liberty Caucus national convention that she prefers Ted Cruz to Rand Paul.
The Republican field is still dominated by perceived “outsiders” Trump and Carson, but that doesn’t mean either of them has what it takes to actually win. Polling that drills down into who Trump’s supporters are has consistently shown them to be disaffected independents and moderates—not exactly the types of people one expects to show up at a caucus or knock on doors for their candidate. And Carson has embarked upon a book tour rather than an actual campaign.
Rand Paul, on the other hand, has a built-in advantage with his strong and youthful ground game. There are several hundred Students For Rand Paul organizations across the country, his campaign has hired well-placed field directors, and the Concerned Voters for America Super PAC supporting Paul isn’t simply running TV ads; they’re hitting the pavement, persuading people with a strong history of participating in Republican caucuses and primaries to support Paul.
Whether Paul, or any other candidate for that matter, will be able to break through the Trump and Carson noise remains an open question. What’s abundantly clear, however, is that Paul’s campaign is no more dead than Cruz’s, Fiorina’s, Christie’s, or Kasich’s—standard Beltway media narratives notwithstanding.