"I think a lot of you moved out West, or your parents or your great-grandparents, you came out here to be left alone,” Paul told The Washington Post's Katie Zezima this summer. “Some came looking for land, some came looking for opportunity, but the thing is — most of us — it’s an American thing to want to be left alone."
That focus, and that optimism, cast a new CNN poll in even darker hues. In a survey of 285 likely caucus-goers, only 2 percent said they supported Paul. That put him 36 points behind Donald Trump, whose free advertising in the form of a landmark hotel casino on the strip doesn't change the fact that he's as supportive of eminent domain as Paul's opposed to it.
The weak numbers are even more striking in the context of the Paul family's Nevada roots. Former congressman Ron Paul won 14 percent in the 2008 caucuses, and 19 percent in 2012. Between those years, the "liberty movement" inspired by the elder Paul took over parts of the state party; Paul activists dominated the slate sent to the 2012 Republican National Convention.
The lack of any notable support for the GOP's leading libertarian flummoxed Jon Ralston, a leading Nevada political reporter and analyst. "It seems weird," he said.
Paul's campaign brushed off the numbers as unreflective of what can happen in the state come February 2016. "People don't vote for months and this is a marathon," said Paul strategist Doug Stafford. "Our efforts are designed to win the voting, not polls months out."
In 2008 and 2012, polling did under-estimate Ron Paul's eventual vote total. But the state has been lightly polled this year, and as Rand Paul sunk to single digits in Iowa and New Hampshire, some liberty activists wondered if the land of legal prostitution and sagebrush rebellions would bail him out. Wednesday's poll isn't a promising sign.