I wanted to get a first hand look at the Rand Paul campaign after all the press releases I get and the attention focused on this race, so I drove to Louisville this morning to bring you a first hand report.
I arrived just as Rand and about 20 volunteers had finished going door to door in the snowstorm asking for votes in Louisville in January. Now for anyone ever involved in a political campaign this is notable for several reasons. January door to door work is rare. Doing it in a snowstorm is dedication and getting 20 volunteers to do almost anything this early in a campaign is remarkable.
I then covered the event at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center billed as the "Rally for Republicans". I didn't know what to expect. I was surprised. For a first time candidate this had the look and feel of the best run republican events I've ever witnessed. Plenty of signage, plenty of volunteers, plenty of registration tables, sign in sheets, name badges, campaign gear (bumper stickers, signs, sweatshirts etc.) to rival anything I've seen, and in 40 plus years, three national conventions and countless campaign events, I've a lot of things to compare it to. The only thing I wondered about was would there be a crowd.
At the early event where WHAS Joe Arnold was conducting an interview with Rand and his father Ron Paul, the place was packed. By the time the news crew wrapped up and the supporters filed in, about 150 people crowded the room and more were outside waiting for some to leave so they could get through the door.
A little bit surprisingly to me, (with all the rumors about Grayson having the "party vote" locked up) I spotted and talked with many long time, reliable republican stalwarts, big donors and those I knew to have been elected party officials who were in attendance. They were more enthusiastic than I have seen them in years. Quite frankly what I observed I can only describe as a rejuvenation of that spirit many Kentucky republicans seemed to have lost over the last three years.
And then I went down the hall and took a peek inside the big event, the main rally. I wondered if the weather would keep a lot of people home. As it was in spite of bad weather on a cold January day Rand Paul drew a crowd of over 800 cheering and energetic fans who drove to Louisville, paid to park, walked through the icy wind and gathered to show their support.*
I had a brief chance to talk with Paul who seemed to be taking it all in with a friendly smile. As one supporter who observed my interview said to me, "Don't make it sound too good, we're fine if they keep underestimating us, but look around. Does this guy look un-electable to you?"
This time I'll let you be the judge. Without embellishment, these are the facts. But with eight hundred people in the room jamming to the sounds of singer Aimee Allen (I left before she performed) I think it's at least fair to say that today Rand Rocked the house.
*Crowd estimate provided by others who remained for entire event