Is Rand Paul Done Trying?

Posted: October 17, 2015 | By: Iowa Caucus Project Staff Tagged: Blog
Presidential candidate Rand Paul speaks at Drake University on Oct. 14. Photo by Skylar Borchardt.

Presidential candidate Rand Paul speaks at Drake University on Oct. 14. Photo by Skylar Borchardt.

Rand Paul looked tired. Drake was the last of the nine Iowa colleges he had visited in three days, and you could tell.

The long line of students snaked along the walls of the Olmsted Center, at least a couple hundred students waiting to shake the Kentucky senator’s hand and pose for a photo. Paul greeted each with an unexcited “Nice to meet you” before his staffer snapped the picture. The process took maybe five seconds before it was on to the next in line.

Paul would smile, sure, but it barely qualified. The corners of his mouth would upturn slightly as if it was physically painful for him to do so. Wearing a blue shirt and red tie and blue jeans featuring a University of Kentucky belt, Paul looked wholly uncomfortable as the long line made its way past him.

It’s certainly understandable. The Republican/quasi-Libertarian presidential candidate had taken thousands of these photos over the previous two-and-a-half days in an effort to get 10,000 Iowa college students to caucus for him on Feb. 1. I got tired of taking a couple dozen photos on prom night. And that was with friends, not hundreds of people whose generation I don’t belong to. I can understand that he was perhaps a little sick of it.

But I’m not running for president. I’ll admit that I don’t know what is going on in his life or the closed-door operations of his campaign, but shouldn’t he have brought a little more energy? A little more fire? A little good job, good effort?

Even though he made headlines for his comment on LGBTQ individuals in the workplace, Paul covered Middle East foreign policy for most of his speech. Here are some highlights:

I talked to a fellow Drake student after Paul spoke. Kyle Antonacci, a senior economics and English from Peoria, Illinois, was struggling to find Paul’s solution(s) to the Middle East crises:

I’m not going to try to undermine his qualifications for running for president, but, I mean, if you’re going to talk about the government like it’s some type of monster and just say that, ‘The Middle East, we can’t really do anything. It’s all just messed up; we should stay out of it.’ That’s not really something a leader should be saying, (he) should be looking for solutions. So that was a downer. He didn’t seem like that much of a leader. He actually didn’t seem like he really wanted to be here, but that’s one man’s opinion.

Make that two men’s opinion. Paul is obviously smart, and for all I know he could make a perfectly good president. But he seemed to be low on excitement effort for someone trying to make a deliberate effort to attract college voters. Maybe it was the fact that he was making his ninth stop in an exhausting three days. Maybe it’s because he’s lagging behind in the absurdly large Republican field. Maybe the frustration that caused his “dumbass” remark on Tuesday carried over into Wednesday. Maybe he didn’t sleep well. I don’t know, but he was incredibly unenthused.

And the turnout for the event was huge. The staffers that had removed chairs in the fear that not enough people would show up had to put them all back. But Paul started by unappreciatively deadpanning that Drake must have cancelled class since so many people were there. Then he spent the first half of his speech portraying the federal government as the device that would draft us all and send us to the Middle East.

I was unlikely to vote for Paul before seeing him, but I wanted to hear what he had to say and see what kind of effort he brought. Instead, I saw what, to me, looked like a guy who didn’t want to try anymore because he thinks he no longer has a chance. And while he almost certainly has no chance, he shouldn’t make it so obvious.

IMG_1208Cannon is a senior journalism and political science major from Kansas City. He interned this summer at the oldest continuously published newspaper in the U.S., the Hartford Courant, and he cares too much about the Kansas City Royals. Follow him on Twitter.