Sen. Rand Paul is reportedly set to announce his presidential campaign in April. And (timing!) his supporters are happily pointing to new Quinnipiac polls of three key swing states, which show — for a change — that a Republican is running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton.
That Republican, of course, is Paul.
Of particular interest are the results in Colorado and Virginia, where Clinton narrowly leads Paul 43-41 percent and 44-42 percent, respectively — within the margin of error. No other Republican is so close in the three states polled — the third being Iowa. And that includes Jeb Bush, who is tied in Virginia but lags in the two other states.
A sampling of the Twitter analysis:
— Chris Moody (@moody) February 18, 2015
Hard to position yourself as the electable guy when you're underwater and Rand Paul is outperforming you against HRC http://t.co/SO73jivznf
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) February 18, 2015
— Paul Bedard (@SecretsBedard) February 18, 2015
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) February 18, 2015
This poll found Rand Paul looking pretty strong against Hillary Clinton http://t.co/R4L5OBxjTD
— Daniel Strauss (@DanielStrauss4) February 18, 2015
All the usual caveats of early polling, of course, apply here. This poll predicts nothing, but it does give a sense of *very early* views of the candidates.
And though it's a good picture for Paul, it's also not that surprising. Colorado and Virginia, after all, should be some of his better states.
The former is known as the birthplace of the American libertarian movement. And a 2009 study from George Mason University ranked it as the second most-libertarian state in the country when it came to "personal and economic freedom."
And Virginia, while not renowned for its libertarian streak, per se, gave Ron Paul 40 percent of the vote in his 2012 primary match-up with Mitt Romney — his best showing in any state. It's worth qualifying that they were the only two candidates on Virginia's ballot (in contrast to other contests around that time) making Ron Paul the only so-called non-Romney option and likely inflating his total at least somewhat. But 40 percent for a Paul is still 40 percent for a Paul.
And there's plenty of evidence of Virginia moving more toward libertarianism, up to and including Robert Sarvis, who had the third-best showing ever for a libertarian gubernatorial candidate in Virginia's 2013 governor's race.
None of this, we would emphasize, is to diminish Paul's case for electability. In fact, it's part and parcel of it. That's because both of these states and other more libertarian states like Nevada and New Hampshire — arguably the most libertarian state in the country — just happen to be swing states in 2016. And Republicans would love to have a candidate who runs well in these states. Paul could be that guy, at least in theory.
And a Saint Anselm College poll last week, indeed, showed Paul running better than Bush and Scott Walker in the Granite State.
But it's also worth pointing out that Colorado and Virginia probably fit Rand Paul the Republican Nominee better than other swing states (Nevada and New Hampshire, again, exempted), and it's hard to draw too many broad conclusions about him being the most electable Republican overall from a few polls.
There are only so many electoral votes, after all, in Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia. And there's very little evidence in the early polling that Paul has a similar electability advantage, for example, in more-populous, swing-y, less-libertarian states like Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania.
After all, the same pollster (Quinnipiac) tested those three states last week, and Paul ran about as poorly against Clinton as everybody else.