Presidential hopeful Rand Paul has largely been seen as an underdog during the Republican 2016 presidential primary – but his team says the support he’s garnered from the younger demographic may lead to some surprises in the early states.
Over the course of the past few months, the campaign has had between 40 and 50 college students in Iowa making phone calls on a daily basis in an attempt to attract the Libertarian-leaning millennials Paul’s father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, managed to captivate during his presidential bids and time in the House.
“We’ve organized all across Iowa on campuses, we’re recruiting what we call our Iowa 10,000 to try and bring 10,000 college students to the caucus – so we feel really good that our grassroots effort are really strong there,” Senior National Advisor Michael Biundo told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In addition to that, we’ve organized 1,000 precinct captains throughout the state. You need a lot of organization to get people out on an icy, cold Iowa night to spend several hours at the caucus location – and having done it before, having that many precinct captains is a significant milestone a lot of campaigns can’t tout.”
According to Iowa strategist Steve Grubbs, “to win, place or show” they need to get somewhere between 17,000 and 27,000 supporters to show up – and if the campaign is able to reach their goal of 10,000 college students, they are well on their way to creating a political upset.
“What’s interesting is that colleges and universities have not been a part of the caucuses since 2000, at least not on the Republican side, because school has been closed the last two times in ’08 and ’12 – but school is open, and that means a lot of the precinct caucuses are actually in the dormitory buildings, so kids just have to go to their dorm lounge to participate,” Grubbs told TheDCNF. “No one has a stronger college or university game than we do.”
With the Feb. 1 caucus inching closer by the minute, the Paul camp has been hitting the ground to deliver the candidate’s message, having made over 500,000 phone calls in Iowa alone with another half a million expected to be made by the end of the month.
“Big bank accounts and TV ads don’t win Iowa and New Hampshire: grassroots does,” Doug Stafford, Paul’s chief campaign strategist, told TheDCNF.
Despite Fox Business rejecting the campaign’s attempt to get Paul on the main stage at the last debate, the staffers said it may have actually come to their advantage.
“So few people watch those debates that it didn’t have an impact. Those people that missed it saw him on the nightly shows,the talk shows and on the national radio broadcast, so we were fortunate in that we got more speaking time in front of more Americans than any candidate on the debate stage,” Grubbs said. “What’s nice is there is this momentum that’s rising in the Rand Paul campaign – and while millions of dollars are being used to attack Trump, Cruz and Rubio, we are quietly building our organization and largely being left alone as we do it.”
While the candidate has seen a slight uptick in the polls, with the Des Moines Register showing him coming in fifth, the campaign said they don’t believe the surveys are indicative of the actual numbers, saying they expect to outperform the polls.
“If you look at the cross tabs in that Register poll that came out last Wednesday, they ask a question in there, ‘Who did you vote for in the 2012 caucus,’ and something like 28 percent say Romney, 22 percent say Santorum, but a very small number said Ron Paul– even though Ron Paul took in 22 percent at the actual caucus,” Grubbs said. “So the reality is, these surveys don’t find our people.”
In a Harvard Institute of Politics survey of 18-to 29- year-olds, released in December and conducted from Oct. 30- Nov. 9, Paul tied with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 6 percent – trailing Donald Trump (22 percent), Ben Carson (20 percent), and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (7 percent).
But if social media is any indication, Paul may have more of a lead than the Harvard poll credits him for.
According to Yik Yak, an anonymous posting app popular amongst the college crowd, Trump may have been the most posted about, but Paul was the “runaway winner” in terms of positive feedback – having received the highest millennial approval rating following the December CNN debate. The app also found its users noticed the candidate’s absence during last week’s debate, giving him an 84.9 percent approval rating – prevailing over any of the candidates that actually took the stage.
Biundo said the campaign has the largest grassroots leadership team in New Hampshire and they are witnessing the results.
“We had competing town halls with Bush in New Hampshire where we had over 300 people and had barely 200 people in a town just a half a mile away,” he said. “We feel wherever we go, we’ve had a couple hundred come out – even in the middle of a snowstorm. I think it will be a very strong campaign going into the final stretch.”