Rand Paul, sources say, will stump for the Republican candidate in nearly every close Senate race between now and Election Day in November: for Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Pat Roberts in Kansas, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, and Ed Gillespie in Virginia. Paul was in New Hampshire campaigning with Scott Brown and the state GOP two weeks ago. “We are getting an insane amount of requests from everyone who’s running,” a Paul adviser says.
North Carolina is the most interesting stop for Paul, who endorsed, contributed to, and campaigned with one of Tillis’s challengers, Greg Brannon, in the primary. Since then, Paul’s political-action committee, RAND PAC, has endorsed Tillis, though it has not made a contribution to his campaign. Utah senator Mike Lee also endorsed Brannon, and the lack of tea-party support may be hurting Tillis in the general election. Currently the state’s house speaker and a candidate strongly backed by the Republican establishment, from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads to people like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, Tillis has trailed incumbent Democratic senator Kay Hagan in recent polls, by as many as six points and as few as one. Paul’s presence next week is intended to help Tillis shore up the base.
“It’s the least he could do,” says one Republican strategist working closely with the Tillis campaign.
Paul’s ubiquity contrasts with that of some of his colleagues. Marco Rubio, another first-term senator and potential 2016 contender, has intentionally focused his efforts on just four Senate races, in Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa, and New Hampshire.
Rubio’s strategy, says an aide, is to “make a big impact by focusing on a handful of races.” That’s why Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC only endorsed four Senate candidates: Gardner, Cotton, Ernst, and Brown. The PAC has spent over $300,000 on Senate TV ads, one for Cotton and one for Ernst, and Rubio will stump with Brown in New Hampshire twice next month.
The divergent approaches say something about how they’ll approach the 2016 race: Paul relies greatly on the force of his personality, which is in great demand, while Rubio is more focused, purposeful, and deliberate.