As Sen. Rand Paul prepares for a live online event tonight — his answer to being excluded from the Fox Business prime-time debate — a super PAC that once worried his campaign is readying some good news. Concerned American Voters, run by former Freedomworks president Matt Kibbe and Young Americans for Liberty President Jeff Frazee, raised about $3 million in the third fundraising quarter. All of that has been pointed at voter contact efforts in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses. And in an interview, Frazee suggested that the campaign had identified enough potential Paul supporters to win the caucuses.
"We're waiting for Rand to catch fire," Frazee said. "If that happens in Iowa, there are millions of dollars sitting on the sidelines, waiting for him."
Concerned American Voters got off the ground in June, and since then it has made 1.1 million voter contacts in Iowa to identify 37,352 likely caucus goers. They've been marked as certain to support, likely to support, or maybe to support Paul. (Frazee did not go into detail on the size of each sector.)
In the event that all of those voters, or just four in five of them, turned out for Paul, the candidate will have wildly defied the polls and possibly won the caucuses. In his hair's breadth 2012 caucus victory, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum did not quite win 30,000 votes. Yet Paul, said Frazee, really and truly had built on his father's 2012 Iowa network. He had more caucus captains, 1,019, then anyone else who had announced them; he had, through Concerned American Voters, a grass-roots organization in no danger of flipping to anyone else.
What neither Frazee nor Paul knew was how the candidate's decision to boycott tonight's debate would affect that base. Concerned American Voters was not the first outside group to pledge a grass-roots, voter-dragging campaign; Billionaire and poker player Andy Beal, Whole Foods founder John Mackey, billionaire options trader Jeffrey Yass and original Uber investor Scott Banister. In the 48 hours since his boycott announcement, Paul had received the most intense media coverage since a pre-Trump heyday.
"I think it helps with activists," said Matt Kibbe. "I haven’t talked to any donors yet, but one thing we've always wanted to do is raise money from small 'l' libertarians, and what they want is for Rand to be himself. He's sort of been unleashed."
Paul, meanwhile, is continuing the media tour. He appeared on "The Daily Show" for the first time Wednesday night, taking part in a "singles debate" with new host Trevor Noah. And before his town hall, he'll make a return appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball."
It's unclear whether Paul will make the main stage in the next Republican debate, to be hosted by Fox News in Des Moines on Jan. 28.