Just hours before a Friday deadline, the Republican Party of Kentucky received all of the $250,000 Sen. Rand Paul Pledged to raise by then – half of the required amount to pay for a caucus that will allow him to compete for both the state’s presidential delegates and re-election next year.
"The conditions have been met for the Republican Party of Kentucky to move forward with a presidential caucus in 2016," Chairman Steve Robertson said in a statement. "We would like to thank Senator Paul for his effort and due diligence in working to ensure that Republicans across Kentucky will now have an early and relevant say in the 2016 presidential primary process."
At an August meeting of the Kentucky Republican State Central Committee, Paul agreed to put up half of the estimated $500,000 the party would need to stage a March caucus by Friday, a deadline that was intended to ease the concerns of some who wondered if Paul was all in.
Deanna Brangers, Kentucky GOP vice chairman, said earlier Friday the party was still receiving checks as Paul sought to raise money specifically for the caucus from other donors to mitigate the financial impact on his own campaign account.
“They were working on getting as many donors at that level, before they actually transfer that amount over,” she said, referring to a $12,500 contribution limit for contributions to the party. "There are still donations coming in from donors, and the Paul campaign was waiting to see how that settled out before they make that transfer.”
Robertson, during an interview Friday, said only about one-fifth of the $250,000 came from Paul's campaign, while the vast majority of this first round of donations came from donors. Paul's campaign, Robertson said, "did exactly what I would have hoped they would do they got out and raised.”
At the end of June, Paul had about $4.1 million in his presidential fund but only $1.55 million in his Senate account.
The party's confirmation that a caucus will take place comes at a time where Paul’s presidential ambitions are struggling . Pointing to his standing in the polls, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump told Paul during Wednesday's debate, "You shouldn't even be on this stage." In Iowa, Paul reached his highest point in March, following only Scott Walker – the pre-Trump front-runner – and Mike Huckabee, according to Real Clear Politics. Paul’s standings were similar in New Hampshire, where he reached his highest point, 14 percent, in May.
Paul’s insistence to press on – despite the polls and his own re-election campaign to manage back home – has caused “grave concern” among some Republicans in Kentucky, one prominent GOP operative said Friday, prompting a “choir of folks who think he’s jeopardizing the Senate seat.”
While Republican operatives echoed the point privately, Dale Emmons, a longtime Bluegrass State Democratic operative, put his name on it.
“There’s no question that if he continues this folly of a presidential campaign, he’s going to place this seat in risk. He’s not doing anything to help himself,” he said.
Emmons said Democrats will be watching the performance of Adam Edelen, the auditor of public accounts, as a possible Paul challenger.
A Kentucky Senate victory would certainly be a major feat for Democrats – they have not done it since 1992. Republicans hold five of the state’s six congressional seats, and during the last presidential election year, Mitt Romney won with more than 60 percent of the vote.
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