The Republican primary has seen its fair share of metaphorical punches exchanged between candidates, and it’s now had its first literal one.
On Thursday, a Rand Paul senior staffer claimed he was “physically assaulted” by a top deputy for Marco Rubio at a GOP conference in Michigan. John Yob, the national political director for Paul’s campaign, alleged Rubio deputy campaign manager Rich Beeson punched him in the face without provocation.
Yob said he had reported the assault to state police and they were vigorously searching for the thug.
The brawl had all the makings to become an embarrassing episode for the Rubio campaign — until security footage surfaced of the vicious blow. (RELATED: Paul Adviser Accuses Rubio Strategist Of Punching Him In The Face)
The “punch” looks more like a shove, and Yob looked remarkably unharmed by the altercation. The Paul staffer’s response to the whole affair resembled that of a soccer player flopping on the field in the hope of getting an opponent yellow carded.
Unfortunately for Yob and his candidate, the event quickly turned from being an embarrassment for Rubio to another humiliation for Paul.
Even more unfortunately for the Paul campaign, the event illustrated a fundamental problem of the libertarian’s candidacy: he and his team keep looking like wimps.
Sure, Beeson probably shouldn’t have pushed Yob. It’s fair to say the whole affair was pretty unbecoming for two grown men in the national spotlight. However, the Paul adviser histrionically playing the victim of a brutal assault — all done in order to score political points — was the least respectable aspect of this whole affair.
Yob, and by extension the Paul campaign, came out looking whiny and weak. It was also particularly rich that the campaign that’s running to get the state out of people’s lives cried for the state to bring the hammer down over a light shove.
But the staffer’s whiny and weak response only mirrored that of his boss’s performance in Wednesday night’s debate.
The Kentucky senator had promised to attack Donald Trump with “both barrels” and bring down the billionaire bully. (RELATED: Rand Paul Preparing To Go After Trump In The Debate: ‘I Think He Deserves Both Barrels’)
Instead, Trump dominated his assailant with ease the whole night. The Donald preempted the libertarian’s planned assaults early on with unexpected verbal razors and Paul could only muster a feeble retort on his foe’s maturity. (RELATED: Trump: Rand Paul Shouldn’t Even Be On This Stage)
Later on in the debate Trump insulted Paul again during an unrelated discussion, and the senator implored the moderators in a monotone voice to be allowed to respond. The moderators ignored Paul’s plea, who seemed to be the only candidate to routinely ask for permission to speak during the whole debate.
Pretty much all observers agreed that Paul was one of the night’s biggest losers. His double barrels turned out to be a tiny, single-barreled squirt gun and he only looked strong when he was talking foreign policy. The performance mirrored that of Paul’s time in the first debate where he was also considered one of the event’s biggest losers and was trounced by Trump.
It’s little wonder then that Paul has one of the highest unfavorability ratings of any GOP candidate. In the latest CNN poll put out Sunday, 38 percent of voters had a negative view of the senator, behind only Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. But both Bush and Christie have higher favorable ratings than Paul’s 25 percent. CNN’s findings correspond with past polling that show a majority of Republican voters aren’t liking what they’re seeing from the former tea party star.
Paul currently finds himself in the unenviable position of being an unlikable candidate with a message that conservatives don’t really care for. The persona he’s cultivated on the campaign trail and showed off on the national stage isn’t doing him any favors. (RELATED: Sorry Rand, The GOP Is Not Having A Libertarian Moment)
In a primary season that loves fighters, Paul is certainly not considered one of them. And it isn’t for a lack of trying.
Paul promised to be a fighter in the debate and come out guns blazing. That promise never came close to materialization and he was overshadowed by opponents who were far more combative than himself. (See Trump, Fiorina and even Jeb Bush.)
Besides the debates and his political director’s “assault,” Paul’s whiny reputation has been bolstered by frequent complaints the candidate makes about the party, the Republican base and, of course, his nemesis Donald J. Trump.
That’s not how things were supposed to be for Paul. He looked poised to be the rebel against the establishment and ready to do battle with any candidate who challenged him on his unorthodox views. Time declared him the “most interesting man in politics” and it looked certain he would exceed his father’s anti-establishment success in 2012.
Instead, he’s the most disrespected man on the debate stage. Rather than making waves, his message — which many all over the political spectrum thought would catch eyes — is getting scant notice. The only time Paul can get attention is when he’s calling Trump a fake conservative or the front-runner is making fun of the backbencher’s height.
Voters so far are only seeing a wimpy kid getting tossed around by the schoolyard bully and whining to the principal about it. Even if Paul’s message could connect to the Republican masses (which, by accounts so far, it can’t), his persona is anathema to those same folks.
They don’t want a wimp, they want a fighter.
And John Yob is doing him no service by complaining to high heaven over a push.
If Rand has any hope of turning his fortunes around, he needs to start actually hitting his opponents with both barrels and demonstrating bravado.
He can start by educating his staff on what would constitute a punch.