With the end of the next campaign finance reporting period three weeks away, no doubt the fight for the title of "GOP Nominee" between Trey Grayson and Rand Paul will soon be entering round 5 of a 10 round championship bout.
So how would the judges score the fight so far?
First, Trey Grayson came into the ring as the champion. Not only did he have a better trainer, a better record and money behind him, but his status as the champ meant the challenger had to take the fight to him and win decisively. Those are some of the advantages of being the champ.
Round one was all about getting attention and no doubt Rand Paul landed far more blows in the media than Grayson. For those familiar with "Google Alerts" the stories in the news on a daily basis about Paul eclipsed those about Grayson. In fact, when Grayson's name popped up on an alert it was more often than not as a "mention" in a story about Paul. Score round one for Paul.
Round two was all about raising money. Grayson came out strong but then out of nowhere Paul stunned the political world by out raising Grayson and amassing enough dough to become highly competitive. Not only did Paul's flurry of fund raising activity excite observers but his steady increase in numbers made it clear that at least in this one area, he was far from punched out. Round two also goes to Paul.
Round three was measured by the Survey USA poll which put Paul on top among likely GOP voters. Paul himself said that he entered the race expecting to get about 10% of the vote. Coming out ahead of Grayson in a statewide poll means Paul won the third round on all cards.
The fourth round was all about credibility. At first it looked like Grayson had rocked Paul with a few well landed blows to his mid-section finding discrepancies between the words he spoke about Gitmo and the words he published on his web site. Then came the head shot from the NRSC which questioned Paul's veracity when he reported that they had committed to him to not endorse in the race. But Paul seemed to recover well and before long rocked Grayson with a skillful combination of punches.
First, he deftly brushed aside the criticism and effectively shook off the effects of the hit. Then Paul began showing up again and again on national news programs and seemed to reach deep inside to gather the energy of the TEA party movement, getting the crowd behind him. And then Paul executed a crushing right when he was the ONLY one of the two to get out front for state senate candidate Jimmy Higdon who defeated his better funded democratic opponent despite all of the predictions of a loss.
This latest punch was not a knock out, but clearly Paul took advantage of an opening and that politically smart move on his part was a solid hit. It would be hard for anyone to suggest he is not a real contender. Score round four for Paul.
Round five will be the fourth quarter finance reports. If Paul out raises Grayson again, he will be ahead in the count with only five rounds to go. Certainly he needs to continue to take the fight to Grayson, who is still seen as the champ, but if Paul wins the next two rounds, it will take a knock out punch to beat him.
While Grayson may very well be playing a bit of rope-a-dope and letting Paul punch himself out, Paul is showing little sign of tiring. Grayson packs a helluva hard right hook, a lesson learned from his undefeated trainer Mitch McConnell. But there is always the risk that Paul will go the distance and win in a close decision.
Grayson better answer the next bell on his feet and ready to fight. It doesn't even look like Paul is breathing hard, yet.