Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has built one of the most impressive presidential campaign operations for any of the so-called outsider GOP candidates in 2016, pulling together a consortium of heavy-hitting politicos, grassroots leaders and a team that’s designed to go the distance all the way to the Republican convention if that’s what it takes to win.
Paul’s been the subject of a variety of liberal media attacks this week, from the likes of Politico, Mother Jones and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, but in each case not one person spoke on the record to them. Breitbart News has, over the past 24 hours and throughout the course of the campaign, spoken with more than a dozen of Paul’s presidential campaign staffers, interviewed the candidate multiple times, and attended scores of Paul presidential campaign events. This level of access will bring forth an accurate look inside Paul’s campaign for president that’s based on actual interviews, on-the-record statements and in-depth reporting from the ground—not from a desk in Washington, D.C., or northern Virginia.
“This campaign is built for the long haul,” chief Paul for President strategist Doug Stafford—a longtime Paul aide who worked on his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign and as his U.S. Senate office Chief of Staff—said in an email to Breitbart News on Tuesday evening in response to the liberal media attacks.
All of our efforts are aimed at when the voters first go to their caucuses and primaries in 2016. This is a marathon, not a sprint. No one will have bolder ideas or a better organization when the rubber meets the road. The Washington spin machine has never understood how campaigns work, nor does it stick to reporting facts and news. Instead it seeks to manufacture division and feed its own storyline ideas. We won’t play their games and we won’t be distracted from the goal of helping make sure Rand Paul is the nominee of the party and the next president of the United States.
Before joining Paul’s campaign back in the 2010 Senate race, Stafford worked his way up the ranks of the National Right to Work organization—a powerful grassroots group active in many states across the country. He’s just one of many key and talented Paul for President staffers.
Other key power players in Paul’s orbit include: former Texas GOP chairman and now Paul senior adviser Steve Munisteri, chief Paul New England Strategist and 2012 Rick Santorum presidential campaign manager Michael Biundo, chief Paul Michigan strategist and national political director John Yob—who worked as Santorum’s 2012 national delegate director and as the deputy political director for the John McCain-Sarah Palin 2008 ticket—Paul senior adviser Chris LaCivita, a well-respected political hand who’s currently the president of firm Advancing Strategies, Paul religious liaison Doug Wead—who served as special assistant to President George H.W. Bush when he was in the White House and worked for Paul’s father now former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) in his 2012 presidential campaign—and Paul campaign manager Chip Englander, who successfully led Illinois GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner’s upset victory over incumbent Democratic, now former Gov. Pat Quinn.
Others include well-respected pollster Tony Fabrizio, who worked for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign and on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s successful gubernatorial bid in 2010, and former Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker—who also worked on Paul’s father’s 2012 campaign. Then there’s also, of course, Sergio Gor—the communications director for Paul, who worked for now former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and for Fox News Channel before joining Paul’s inner circle a couple years ago—press secretary Eleanor May, who’s worked for Paul in various capacities in the Senate office and now the campaign since 2011, and chief digital strategist Vincent Harris. Harris’ clients have included now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), now former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, now former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and more. Paul’s rapid response director is Joe Kildea, a former George W. Bush White House staffer who’s represented various high-profile corporate clients after working for a while in the news business at places like ABC News and The Daily Caller.
Everyone in Paul’s inner circle—an eclectic collection of talent from across the political spectrum—has at least one thing going for them: they’re winners. Munisteri held off the left’s efforts to turn Texas blue, Biundo won 11 states in the 2012 GOP primary—an incredible feat—while running Santorum’s campaign and Yob has twice helped Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder win elections.
LaCivita has a decades-long history of political victories including as National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) political director leading the GOP to recapture the majority in 2002, helping lead the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth effort in the 2004 presidential election, helping Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) win re-election last year coming in late to rescue the struggling incumbent, winning elections in states like Florida and Virginia, among a litany of other wins.
Fabrizio served as chief strategist and pollster for Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, and has advised several more senators, congressmen and governors throughout his decades-long political history. Englander went into Democratic territory in Illinois to beat an incumbent Democratic governor with a Republican candidate last cycle, and has years more history in the state. Wead–who, in addition to working for the first President Bush and for Ronald Reagan, helped now former President George W. Bush win the 2000 GOP primaries by leading him to victory in the 1999 Iowa straw poll.
“I have worked in campaigns for 43 years so I know a talented campaign team when I see one,” Munisteri said in an email. “Rand has a superb team consisting of a half dozen top advisors, any one of which could run a nationwide campaign themselves. Having worked in five presidential campaigns in Iowa as well as having worked in New Hampshire I know our infrastructure there positions us to be very competitive.”
“Successful campaigns are multi-dimensional—they organize and message—and they utilize all available tools at their disposal to communicate to an ever-changing electorate which is bombarded hourly by competing campaigns and organizations,” LaCivita added in an email. “The Paul for President campaign is structured for the long haul and is disciplined in its focus on communicating why Rand Paul is the best choice Republicans have in defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
What’s more, for a candidate who’s pretty much universally despised inside the beltway in Washington, D.C. by several people in his own party’s establishment and by the left, Paul has amassed a fairly impressive list of top endorsements. McConnell, Paul’s home state colleague from Kentucky and now the top GOP senator in the U.S. Senate, tops that list, but he’s got quite a few other GOP members of Congress supporting his White House bid publicly: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Curt Clawson (R-FL) and Ted Yoho (R-FL). A source close to Paul tells Breitbart News that at least six more Republican members of Congress will endorse the senator’s presidential campaign in the coming weeks.
There are more high-profile endorsements Paul has earned outside of his congressional peers. Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK)—a black conservative from Oklahoma who’s viewed among conservatives as the political equivalent of a rock star—has backed Paul’s candidacy, appearing with him at his presidential campaign announcement in April in Louisville, Kentucky, and at a variety of events throughout the country.
“Football games are not won in one quarter neither are Presidential elections,” Watts told Breitbart News in an email on Tuesday evening. “I’ve played a leadership role on three presidential campaigns, and win or lose, there is a common denominator—building a long-term strategy, staying the course and reaching new voters has proven to be winning models. Rand Paul is able to carry the Party’s message of liberty, prosperity, security, justice and fairness to the American voter. Like Jack Kemp, Paul has the ability to resonate among a diverse group of voters from Iowa to Detroit. This is how Republicans can win in 2016.”
In New Hampshire, Paul’s team has rolled out lots of key Granite State endorsements, including various elected officials and key grassroots activists—Biundo and state Sen. Andy Sanborn being the key leaders of that effort—something Biundo, who led Santorum to victory in 11 states last cycle, told Breitbart News is gaining traction there.
“Rand has assembled a team that is doing the hard work and laying the groundwork both nationally and in the early states that will pay dividends when the non stop fury of election days begin in February of 2016,” Biundo said in an email. “In New Hampshire alone, we have assembled a 150-person leadership team that spans all 10 counties and surpasses what most campaigns end up with when Election Day has already passed. I have been doing this for over 20 years now, and I know from first-hand experience that a presidential campaign has many ups and downs, but it’s the campaigns that are built on a strong foundation and practice strong fundamentals that are around when the snow begins to fly.”
Similar grassroots and leadership teams exist in plenty of other states for Paul: Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan.
“Nobody running for the Republican nomination is better positioned to win the liberty and small government voters than Rand Paul,” Spiker, the former Iowa GOP chairman now working for Paul, told Breitbart News.
“We’re well on our way to building an organization that will rival any campaign over the last 25 years. From the precinct level to the county level, we’re on schedule,” Steve Grubbs, a former Iowa state legislator and veteran of the state’s political world, added in an email to Breitbart News.
David Fischer, a former co-chair of the Iowa GOP and now co-chair of Paul’s Iowa effort, told Breitbart News that there’s no doubt Paul will get most of his father’s supporters.
“I served as Iowa Co-Chairman for both of Congressman Ron Paul’s campaigns for President and I can tell you that Rand Paul is by far the best-positioned candidate to win the vast majority of Ron Paul’s support,” Fischer said in an email. “Nobody else even comes close.”
Paul’s dad, the hardcore libertarian sensation former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), is also obviously backing his son’s candidacy enthusiastically.
“His philosophy is close to my philosophy,” Ron Paul told Breitbart News of Rand Paul in a recent interview in Houston, Texas, at a fundraiser where several family members attended. “It’s for less government, for liberty, and nobody else even has the vaguest understanding if you compare what his understanding is for free markets and Austrian economics. Nobody else even comes close.”
It’s worth noting that when Ron Paul, in 2012, came in third in the Iowa caucuses—winning about 3,000 votes less than what Santorum, who won, and Mitt Romney, who came in right behind Santorum, each got—school wasn’t in session at Iowa’s colleges and universities. In 2016, the Iowa caucuses will be in early February rather than in early January like 2012, meaning that thousands more young college-age voters will be participating in the process–giving Rand Paul a much better chance than his father to potentially win or at least fare better. With even more candidates in the race this go-around, too, that means Paul could walk away a winner in Iowa rather than just a top-tier contender heading into the all-important next state of New Hampshire.
Along with a handful of other candidates, Paul is one of the few lucky enough to be virtually guaranteed a slot in all the debates, even with networks aiming to cap the number of contestants to 10 total. That means he’ll be on stage for sure with current frontrunner Donald Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson. A couple more will join them, but Paul’s got nothing to worry about when it comes to getting on stage. That said, a recent flurry of polls have seen him drop a little bit in the GOP field as the dance floor ebbs and flows.
That prompted Harry Enten, of Silver’s FiveThirtyBlog, to write: “Something is awry at the Rand Paul campaign.”
“Paul saw a brief boost around the time he officially announced he was running for president. But the upswing was fleeting, and he has now fallen behind the pace his father set in the 2012 campaign,” Enten wrote. “Ron Paul steadily rose in national polls as the campaign unfolded. Rand, on the other hand, is steadily falling. In addition to his plummeting support in the early primary state of New Hampshire, Paul has seen his numbers deteriorate in Iowa: The NBC News/Marist polls that came out Sunday put Paul at his lowest point thus far in either state.”
Sure, the polls haven’t been kind to Paul in recent weeks, as Trump has surged and other candidates like Bush, Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have entered the race. But, Fabrizio—Paul’s pollster, the longtime respected GOP adviser—says that’s nothing to worry about.
“Polls are a static view of the electorate at a given point in time, not a predictor this far out — just ask Michele Bachmann, who in early August of 2011 was leading the GOP field in Iowa, or Newt Gingrich, who led the field for 4 of the 6 weeks leading up to the Caucuses, only to come in 4th,” Fabrizio said in an email. “A few months ago the media was all about, ‘can Bush be stopped,’ then it was ‘can Walker be stopped,’ and now it is ‘can Trump be stopped.’ That in and of itself should tell any astute observer that this is a long process, and as voters learn more and more about the candidates and what differentiates them, who leads the field will shift many times.”
Enten admitted that exact point later in his article, writing that it “would be a mistake to put too much emphasis on Paul’s meager standing in horse race polls” at this time, because “it’s super early, and the Republican field is crowded and confused; as more and more candidates enter the race — there are now 16 — it becomes more difficult for candidates to maintain their support.”
But that didn’t stop him, Mother Jones and Politico, among others, from writing pieces suggesting Paul’s burning out.
“Rand’s father, Ron Paul, always attracted a fair amount of money and a fair amount of steady support. Not huge amounts, but respectable,” the liberal Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum wrote on Tuesday. “The reason was that he was never seriously running for president. He just liked having a stage for his ideas, and since he wasn’t trying to win, he could stay as true to his libertarian beliefs as he wanted. He had no need to waffle.”
Drum goes on to suggest that Paul has “tanked” his presidential campaign because he “waffles” and “changes his views.”
“He spends time looking at polls. He worries about saying things that will piss off the white evangelicals, or the elderly, or the pragmatic business set,” Drum wrote.
The result is that the folks who admired him for his principled libertarianism are dropping him, while the rest of the Republican Party has yet to warm up to him. After all, he is the guy who said the ongoing chaos in Iraq was the fault of the Republican president who started the Iraq War, not Barack Obama. He’s also the guy who wanted to eliminate aid to Israel. And he’s the guy who wanted to gut Medicare for everyone—even the folks currently receiving it. He’s kinda sorta changed his mind on all these things, but that makes him look like a sellout to the libertarian crowd and a opportunistic panderer to the tea party crowd.
But that’s really not the case. Paul isn’t as pure libertarian as his father—he never has been nor will he ever be—but he’s “libertarian-ish,” as he likes to say and told a group of supporters at a Twitter town hall in Austin, Texas, before he launched his presidential campaign during a multi-day stint at the South by Southwest conference. It’s something that has naturally allowed Paul much broader appeal than his father ever got, and makes him acceptable to both grassroots conservatives and libertarians as well as to more mainstream Republicans.
Paul is able to deliver pretty much the exact same speech to Republicans literally on a country club in Florida or a state GOP dinner—as he did in Naples, Florida, right after keynoting the Alabama GOP dinner in Montgomery back in February—that he gives to a Tea Party rally in Houston, Texas, or that he gives in an inner-city community like he’s done in places like Bowie State University in Maryland or in Chicago or Baltimore or Ferguson, Missouri.
His message is one of limited government—smaller, more restrained government—and a push to follow the entire Constitution, not just parts of it that are popular with Republicans. In the past year, Paul has taken that message to places throughout Texas, Kentucky, Florida, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, California, Maryland, Missouri, Michigan, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois and more.
He’s held campaign and pre-campaign events in some of the most interesting places, including at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, at the #WomenBetrayed rally just this week in Washington, D.C., against Planned Parenthood, at places like Bowie State University and U.C. Berkeley to crowds not necessarily friendly to Republicans, in inner cities of Detroit and Chicago, and to conservative strongholds like the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit.
Paul has spoken to the National Urban League—the only national Republican to speak there in four years—the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, multiple Koch Brothers seminars, the Cato Institute’s annual event in Naples, and at the Las Vegas-based Freedom Fest in previous years but not this year. He’s keynoted local and state GOP dinners in Dallas, Texas, Montgomery, Alabama, throughout California and in other parts of the country.
He’s also made a clear decision not to follow the rest of the GOP pack to every single cattle call in early states, drawing a distinction between himself and the rest of the field. When Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) held a Roast and Ride motorcycle event with several of the other GOP candidates in Iowa, Paul was in New Hampshire with the state to himself, speaking to overflow crowds and meeting voters in diners throughout the place. When a large group of candidates gathered in Greenville, South Carolina, for the Citizens United-hosted South Carolina Freedom Summit, Paul was in Silicon Valley opening a new tech office there. There are countless more examples of Paul paving his own way.
It’s not that Paul is avoiding either state. He’s spent plenty of time—and is going to be spending lots more—in both early states, but he’s for the most part made a clear technical campaign decision that he wants to prove he can throw his own events, meet voters and interact with them on his own terms and push his message out independent of the contours of big cattle calls.
When it comes to fundraising, it’s no secret that some of the biggest billionaires aren’t big fans of Paul—and are instead backing candidates they believe are more likely to be pliable by their lobbyists, like Rubio or Bush, should they be elected—but that hasn’t stopped Paul from outpacing lots of his competition in terms of building a highly successful grassroots fundraising machine.
More than 108,000 people donated to Paul with an average donation of $65, his campaign confirmed exclusively to Breitbart News a few weeks ago, and he raked in about $7 million in the second Federal Election Commission (FEC) quarter of the year. While he’s not at the top of the GOP class in fundraising, Paul certainly has—with that many grassroots donors—lots of support among the grassroots with a willing base of financial supporters.
There are also at least three Super PACs backing Paul—one of which, Concerned American Voters (CAV), has hired activists in Iowa and just announced it raised $2 million after existing for just one month.
Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) executive director Jeff Frazee and former FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe launched the group a month ago and, according to the Washington Post, hired Matthew Pagano–who’s been around the liberty grassroots world for some time, along with 39 other grassroots activists to work in Iowa to back Paul. Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel noted that CAV’s effort has one mission: “the explicit goal of winning Iowa for Paul.”
One wealthy donor, PayPal board member Scott Banister, gave CAV a total of $1.25 million. The $2 million total for that group comes after another pro-Paul Super PAC, America’s Liberty PAC, raked in another $3.1 million on Paul’s behalf. That group is led by longtime Paul family ally Jesse Benton—who led McConnell’s successful re-election last cycle. The third and final pro-Paul Super PAC, Purple PAC, has pulled in another million bucks to push Paul on the campaign trail.
“There are some very wealthy libertarians out there, and they’re all going to be hearing from me,” Ed Crane, Purple PAC’s president, said in a statement to the Associated Press. “It’s a strong potential base for Rand.”
The AP’s Julie Bykowicz wrote that this means “[d]eep-pocketed libertarians are giving big to help Rand Paul win the Republican presidential primary.”
Paul is also, according to RealClearPolitics polling averages, faring best by several points against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in national polls—and he’s actually besting her in several polls released over the past several months in swing states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, New Hampshire, Arizona, Washington, and Iowa. That’s probably why the Democratic National Committee (DNC), according to The Hill, has made Paul its top target in 2016.
“Paul ranks as the DNC’s top target, with 203 mentions. Christie follows with 202 attacks, and Bush trails closely behind him with 199,” The Hill wrote in early July. “With a slew of declared candidates and even more potential contenders, the DNC has spread its fire wide. The DNC has hit 17 potential Republican contenders over the last year.”
All of that and more is why it’s so odd that Politico—a normally respected news outlet when it comes to political matters—would spend more than 2,300 words on a story designed to make it look like Paul’s presidential campaign is falling apart.
“Rand Paul 2016: Inside His Campaign’s Downward Spiral,” read the headline on Politico, and underneath it was a sub-headline that makes it sound like he’s already lost the election: “He was once a serious contender for the White House. Now, his campaign is fighting over what went wrong.”
Politico’s Alex Isenstadt then proceeded to write the 2,300-word-plus invective based on no actual on-the-record interviews whatsoever. In the second sentence of his article, Isenstadt even admitted that the article had thin sourcing—and that everyone who spoke to him “spoke on the condition of anonymity.”
“Rand Paul, once seen as a top-tier contender, finds his presidential hopes fading fast as he grapples with deep fundraising and organizational problems that have left his campaign badly hobbled,” Isenstadt wrote. “Interviews with more than a dozen sources close to the Kentucky senator, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of an underfunded and understaffed campaign beaten down by low morale.”
Isenstadt, despite failing to get anything on the record from anyone, proceeded to attack Paul’s campaign and Paul himself.
“They [Isenstadt’s anonymous sources] described an operation that pitted a cerebral chief strategist against an intense campaign manager who once got into a physical altercation with the candidate’s bodyguard,” he wrote.
And they portrayed an undisciplined politician who wasn’t willing to do what it took to win — a man who obsessed over trivial matters like flight times, peppered aides with demands for more time off from campaigning and once chose to go on a spring-break jaunt rather than woo a powerful donor. They sketched a portrait of a candidate who, as he fell further behind in polls, no longer seemed able to break through. Paul, lionized as ‘the most interesting man in politics’ in a Time magazine cover story last year, was supposed to reinvent the Republican Party with his message of free-market libertarianism, his vision of a restrained foreign policy and his outreach to minorities. Instead, he has been overshadowed by louder voices like Donald Trump’s and better-funded figures like Jeb Bush. His theory of the 2016 primary — that Republican voters would reward a candidate who promised fresh ideas and an unconventional approach — has not been borne out in reality.
But Englander, Paul’s campaign manager, told Breitbart News that the Politico piece isn’t anything serious. Of course, with Trump leading the field nationally—and recent polls showing even the most established candidates like Rubio especially but also Bush and Walker in potential danger of slipping, even in Florida—anything is possible in 2016. If Paul hits a rhythm later this year, especially since he’s got such a unique base of supporters–which he calls the “leave me alone coalition” that he’s not competing with anyone for–while aiming to expand that by attracting more moderate Republicans and more conservative Republicans and evangelicals, Paul could take off with a fury. And he certainly has built a rocket ship that can sustain that, should he hit stratosphere.
“It’s a favorite Washington pastime to hyperventilate about every little piece of nonsense,” Englander said in an email.
It’s silly that the mainstream media focuses on polls that show Rand moving within the margin of error, while ignoring the Economist poll from a couple weeks ago with Rand in second place. We’re focused on the long game, building out strong grassroots organizations in all fifty states, rolling out conservative supporters, and putting Rand in front of record crowds. Here’s what matters: Rand leads Hillary in five states Obama carried. He’s building the largest grassroots organization in Republican history. He’s the only candidate with a flat tax that would be the largest tax cut in American history. He’s the only candidate with a plan to balance the budget in five years, and who fights for term limits and requiring Congress to read the bills. We look forward to the debates.
Paul’s team certainly expects he’ll take off soon.
“Senator Rand Paul is uniquely qualified to connect with GOP voters while at the same time appealing to non traditional voters,” Gor, Paul’s communications director, said in an email. “No one else is able to deliver a CPAC speech at a liberal institution like UC Berkeley and receive a standing ovation. No one else can pack a GOP Lincoln Day dinner in Texas with over 1,000 people and then be welcomed to Ferguson. No one else can appeal to Silicon Valley on issues of privacy better then Senator Paul.
“When the fog clears and voters actually start paying attention, the contrast between Senator Rand Paul and the rest will be undeniable. He is uniquely positioned to grow the Republican Party, and he’ll be be able to put together a winning coalition like no other candidate.”