The first Republican presidential primary is more than a year and a half away, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is already winning the votes of campaign managers for GOP congressional candidates across the country.
That’s based on an informal Politico survey of more than 25 GOP campaign managers to get a sense of which national figures down-ticket candidates want stumping on their behalf.
“Rand Paul has a lot of grassroots energy he’s tapping into, the youth and kind of libertarian movement that other candidates just really haven’t grabbed a hold of yet, so that makes him kind of a unique, different choice that could inject some energy into the campaign,” a campaign consultant in a New Hampshire House race told Politico, remaining nameless to avoid alienating other national figures.
A campaign manager for one Republican incumbent said Paul was their top pick, “without a doubt.”
The favored status among candidates and campaign managers comes even as Paul is still a bit of an outlier from other Republicans, with libertarian views that sometimes contrast with traditional conservative or establishment GOP views.
One need look no further than Paul’s own state of Kentucky: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to cruise to victory against Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin in Tuesday’s Republican primary, despite McConnell’s unpopularity among grassroots activists. An op-ed in Kentucky’s Courier-Journal newspaper said that McConnell has relied on “the state’s more popular senator, Rand Paul.” Paul has appeared in a TV ad for McConnell and is featured in a direct-mail advertising campaign. The newspaper reported that McConnell, though certain to win the primary, is trying to keep Bevin’s margin as low as possible to avoid harm going into the more challenging general election.
But Paul, a first-term senator, has a mixed record in speaking for other candidates.
He campaigned for Tea Party Senate candidate Greg Brannon in North Carolina, who nevertheless lost in the state’s Republican primary. However, Paul did boost Curt Clawson in a special election for a Florida House seat. Meanwhile, his PAC has contributed $21,400 to six federal candidates in this cycle, Politico reported.
The second choice among campaign managers is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who despite the fallout from the “bridgegate” scandal is still a prolific fundraiser as head of the Republican Governors Association, and is well-liked among Republicans in northeastern states.
A tier below that are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Walker, facing re-election this year, is admired by Republican audiences for taking on the state’s public employee unions and surviving the recall effort against him. Cruz fires up Tea Party crowds for taking a strong stance against Obamacare last year in the lead up to the government shutdown.
In a lower tier – though still sought after – are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who was the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee.