Paul drops out; where does his local support go?
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
Las Vegas, there's a fight brewing for Jacob Champion.
Jacob is a Rand Paul supporter. Today he lost his candidate. Paul suspended his campaign this morning, bowing to the reality that his run never gained traction. Monday night in Iowa, he didn't even get 5%.
It leaves supporters like Champion now candidate shopping. They're hot commodities for the Republican campaigns working Nevada, 20 days before the state's GOP caucus.
I ran into Jacob this morning, as he was leaning on his car in front of Paul's locked-and-dark campaign office near McCarran Airport.
"Yeah, I heard the news and kind of wanted to see what was going on at the headquarters and see who else was around and see if I could help out in any way," said Champion.
Rand Paul pulls the plug on a state that, on paper, looked like fertile Paul territory. His father ran here twice, taking second place in the 2008 caucus, and third in 2012. Ron's run established a built-in base, which did not result in a 2016 groundswell of support.
"You know, it just wasn't our year, plain and simple," said Dave Ramirez, Paul's Nevada campaign director.
Paul's problem? After his April announcement, the world changed. Terrorism reared its ugly head in Paris and in California. Republicans are itching to take on ISIS, and a candidate who will not write the Pentagon a blank check is a tough sell.
Paul's bigger problem? June 16, 2015.
Donald Trump entered the race, starving Paul and others of oxygen. Trump's message also resonated with a disaffected electorate angry at everything.
"We have somebody that was in front of cameras being extremely loud and feeding off people's fears," Ramirez said over the phone. "You know, people are impressionable, and I think that's what people fed into."
In Nevada, talk to campaigns and they'll tell you what you're seeing nationally is what you see here: a three-person GOP race among Trump, Florida Senator-and-former-Las Vegas resident Marco Rubio, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The question now is who will get Paul's supporters.
"Well, I tell you, I think the Cruz campaign gets a considerable amount of this support," said Ryan Hamilton, Cruz' Deputy Nevada Director.
Hamilton says the Texan's position on smaller government makes their candidate a natural fit.
"We've said since the beginning there are four lanes to this race: the Tea Party lane, the establishment lane, the liberty lane, and the religious social conservative lane. Senator Paul was someone we shared a liberty lane with and we have made a hard outreach to those supporters," said Hamilton.
Paul says he will not endorse another candidate. He's leaving the Presidential race to concentrate his reelection to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky.
Other campaigns I spoke with say the Paul support, smaller though it might be, would split among the remaining candidates. But in a close Nevada caucus, Paul supporters could make a difference.
"I've been talking to a lot of supporters, donors, volunteers and people that were planning to caucus for Senator Paul," said Dave Ramirez. "A lot of them are still going to show up and caucus for Rand."
"Some of them probably won't even participate to begin with. They might just switch parties," continued Ramirez.
Back to Jacob Champion, pondering his next political move.
"I want a conservative, so I'm probably not going to go for Trump. I like Marco Rubio, but he seems to be pushing for a continuation of the same sort of philosophy that we have under George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. I didn't, particularly like their presidencies. I like Ted Cruz, but got issues with his personal style. Wish he'd accomplish more in the Senate," said Champion.
As for Rand Paul?
"I wish he'd stuck it out 'til Nevada. I think he would have gotten a good result out here," said Champion.
He got in his car and drove off.