Struggling to gain traction in the Republican presidential race, Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report This week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat Trump, GOP fumble chance to govern MORE (R-Ky.) this week will turn his attention to fundraising for his Senate reelection efforts.
One Republican operative with close ties to Kentucky politics warned against reading too much into Paul’s Senate fundraisers, saying it’s not a sign that Paul is giving up on running for president, but rather a necessity of running for two offices at once.
The operative said it’s a good use of time for Paul to fundraise for the Senate while he’s in Washington. Paul can tap groups that may be friendly to his Senate bid but aren’t inclined to commit to him, or any candidate, while the GOP presidential field remains this large.
Paul, he noted, isn’t going all in yet on fundraising for Senate – he’s not on the ground in Kentucky fighting for resources with the candidates running for statewide office, where elections for governor on down will be held this November.
A spokesperson for Paul’s Senate campaign did not return a request for comment.
Still, one Kentucky Republican operative said the fundraisers will inevitably be viewed through the prism of Paul’s fledgling presidential campaign.
“Some of this is self-evident,” the Kentucky Republican operative said. “If he thought he’d be the nominee, he wouldn’t spend time hedging his bets and raising money for the Senate race. I think that tells you everything you need to know.”
Indeed, the Senate fundraisers come amid growing media speculation that Paul, who has so far failed to gain traction in the race for the White House, may be nearing the end of his presidential run.
According to the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Paul is in 10th place, taking only 2.4 percent support. He’s similarly buried in most polls of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first three states to cast ballots next year.
CNBC, which is hosting the next Republican presidential debate in late October, has not yet announced the criteria to qualify. However, there is speculation that field could be trimmed down from the 11 who participated in the last GOP debate, potentially leaving Paul on the sidelines.
Paul’s presidential campaign declined to comment for this story, but an aide noted that he is in New York City on Monday for a presidential fundraiser. Paul also campaigned in New Hampshire over the weekend.
In an interview Monday on CNN, Paul insisted he’s in the presidential race for the long haul.
"I'll tell you this, I think we'll be around just as long as [Donald] Trump, or longer," Paul said.
Last month, Paul won a big victory when the Kentucky Republican Party voted to switch from a presidential primary to a caucus, allowing him to be on both the presidential and Senate ballots.
Paul will foot the cost for the change, which is estimated to be around half-a-million dollars.
Paul does not yet have a Democratic challenger in his Senate race, but he’s likely to attract several after the statewide elections in November.
One potential candidate, Kentucky public accounts auditor Adam Edelen, is being met with growing buzz in Democratic circles, where he’s viewed as a rising party star with the potential to give Paul a run for his money in red Kentucky.
The Kentucky GOP operative told The Hill many Republicans in the Bluegrass State will be cheered to hear that Paul is taking his reelection efforts seriously there.
“No question there are an increasing number of people who want to make sure that he’s focusing on the Senate race,” he said. “In Washington right now I imagine he’ll find a lot more people willing to contribute to his Senate reelection than to his presidential campaign, so it looks like he’s making the most out of his time while running two races.”