Depending how you look at it, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s campaign is going either very well, or quite poorly. His campaign has more endorsements in New Hampshire than any other candidate; yet his polling remains quite low. And on the campaign trail, Rand Paul’s mind often seems to be somewhere else.
It's all quite a change from early last year, when Paul announced his candidacy from Kentucky. He was the second candidate out of the gate, following Ted Cruz’ announcement the week before. At that time, Paul looked optimistic, and he expected to attract many new voters to his side. He would rely on his father Ron Paul’s loyal libertarians; woo party-line conservatives; reach out to African Americans. And Paul seemed to have a special way with millennials – like Aaron Bellomo.
On Tuesday, Bellomo was in Manchester waiting in line to get a photo with Paul at the New Hampshire Student Convention.
“I consider myself an Independent, and I do like Rand Paul,” he says, “ I think he’s a lot less militaristic than other Republicans.”
Bellomo is student body president at his college and is active in campus politics. He says he’s attracted to Paul’s commitment to his beliefs, and to balancing the budget.
Who is Aaron Bellomo voting for?
Voters have a lot more options than they when Paul announced his candidacy last April. Since then, few political stars seemed to rise and fall so swiftly as Paul’s. For months, he’s polled consistently around 8th in the GOP field.
But Paul insists his grassroots network can pull off a win in New Hampshire. Between endorsements and volunteers, he’s got plenty of boots on the ground.
“I started about a year ago, before Rand actually even announced his campaign,” says Louri Boilard. She’s one of about 20 volunteers sitting at a folding tables, making phone calls at the Rand Paul headquarters in Manchester.
Like most here, Boilard started out as a fan of Rand’s father, Ron Paul – who built a network of loyal supporters in his 2012 White House bid, and finished second in the GOP primary here.
The phones are busy at Rand Paul’s headquarters. But on the trail, Paul often seems to have little appetite for the grind of retail politics.
Other candidates might revel in autograph signing and photo ops. But after speaking at the Student Convention earlier this week, Senator Paul hustles to the door. Hurrying past students, he says “I think if we stop we’re gonna be harassed.”
That same week at a Dover diner, the former ophthalmologist seemed to prefer talk of uveitis – an eye disease – rather than politics. He spent a long time chatting medicine with retired doctor, and New Hampshire voter, Paul Butler. Butler had to interrupt to direct the conversation back to politics, in this case NSA policy.
With one month left until voters like Paul Butler hit the polls, the time to talk political issues is running out.