Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s profile just keeps getting higher and higher. His 2010 electoral win off the Tea Party wave, despite not holding any prior office, came as a surprise to many in both the GOP and elsewhere. And a scant three years later his star burns even brighter, vaulting up to the status as an early contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, according to a poll released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling.
The poll showed that within a crowded field, Paul has skyrocketed: the Kentucky senator's gone from 10% in early February (6th place) to 17%, a strong second. Florida Senator Marco Rubio still leads the field at 21%, a one point drop from the 22% he enjoyed the month before his infamous post-State of the Union address and water grab. Of course the golden question from here is simple, can he translate his success into a successful 2016 run?
More polling seems to support at least the notion of a Rand Paul rise within the Republican Party. A Quinnipiac University Poll released on Tuesday shows Paul running close in a densely pack field of candidates. He picks up 15%, very respectable when compared to frontrunner Rubio’s 19% and Wisconsin representative and former 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s 17%.
Paul has made rumblings of running for president in 2016 even before his star arose. Back in November he told ABC News "I’m not going to deny that I’m interested." And back in December in a local news interview he said, "I want to be part of the national debate. I think I have something to offer."
Outside of polls, Paul has been dong his best to keep his media profile high despite not having high profile opportunities like a response to the State of the Union or being a former vice presidential candidate. His 13-hour filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA saw him rise to a new national level. Rand Paul quickly followed up with a theatrical speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, carrying a copy his filibuster to the tune of "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. Paul would go on to win the CPAC straw poll with 25%, narrowly defeating Marco Rubio who received 23%
Of course all the hopes, dreams, and straw poll are for naught if Paul does not actually make an effort to run for president. This is what makes Paul’s visit to New Hampshire next month an important weather vane signal for 2016 presidential election watchers. New Hampshire is often seen as the most friendly to Paul's primary constituency, conservative libertarians. Paul will be the first 2016 hopeful to speak in the Granite State, delivering the keynote speech at the state’s first Liberty Dinner on May 20.
New Hampshire may hold the first primary in the nation but Iowa is the first contest. Paul is actually visiting the state on May 10. Iowa has already seen other presidential hopefuls visit or plan to visit such as Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
Speeches are all well and good but there are other things that Paul will have to do in preparation for a 2016 run. One of the standards is writing and releasing a book, which Hillary Clinton announced she was doing on Thursday. If Rand Paul wants to stay competitive, he will have some catching up to do.