And the winnowing continues: Rand Paul announced Wednesday that he is suspending his campaign for president. “It’s been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement. “Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty.”
As almost every political obituary will remind you, Paul entered this presidential cycle as “the most interesting man in politics.” His libertarian-lite brand of politics, though, struggled to break through in a GOP race that only grew more hawkish following last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris. He went on to place a distant fifth-place in Monday’s Iowa caucus with less than 5 percent of the vote. And that was in a state his father almost carried four years ago (with 23 percent of the vote) and one that was at the center of Rand’s 2016 strategy.
In case his lackluster showing in Iowa wasn’t enough to convince him to call it quits, Paul appeared unlikely to make it on stage at the next GOP debate, set for this Saturday. To qualify for the ABC News event, candidates needed to either finish in the Top 3 in Iowa or be polling in the Top 6 either nationally or in New Hampshire. According to RealClearPolitics’ rolling averages, Paul’s sitting in seventh nationally and in ninth in the Granite State.
Unlike many of his fellow also-rans who have little motivation to turn off the campaign lights, Paul always had a compelling reason to shut things down sooner rather than later: his own self-interest. The Kentucky senator is up for re-election this fall—something that has caused him plenty of logistical headaches during his presidential bid—and the sooner he leaves the trail, the sooner he can focus on protecting his seat. GOP leaders, who are eager to see Paul coast to re-election so they don’t have to divert any party resources to help him, had also reportedly been applying additional pressure on him to end his long-shot bid for the GOP nomination.
With Paul’s departure, the Republican field shrinks to 10 candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and—because I’m feeling generous—Jim Gilmore.