FRANKFORT, Ky. — The political outsider who largely financed his U.S. Senate primary race with Internet donations received a more lukewarm response Monday in his first Web-based fundraiser of the general election season.
Republican Rand Paul had banked about $138,000 by Monday evening in a one-day online fundraiser set to finish at midnight.
That's a pittance compared with the more than $1.2 million he banked in a series of Web-based fundraisers during the GOP primary. The largest of the three, held last August, netted more than $400,000 in a 24-hour period. [See who is giving money to your member of Congress.]
Paul faced a political backlash last month when he expressed misgivings about the Civil Rights Act, suggesting that the federal government should not have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if owners don't want to. University of Louisville political scientist Laura Rhodebeck said that, along with a series of other divisive comments, may have cost him some support.
"But I'm still convinced that there's a sizable part of his constituency that likes what he's saying," Rhodebeck said. "They like that kind of in-your-face attitude."
Paul faces Democrat Jack Conway, Kentucky's attorney general and a proven fundraiser, in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning.
By plying the Internet for campaign cash, Paul is using a strategy that helped finance his father Ron Paul's 2008 presidential race. Ron Paul, a Texas congressman who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination, netted an eye-catching $4.2 million in a single day. [See where Ron Paul's campaign cash comes from.]
The younger Paul banked $430,000 in the first of his online fundraisers last year. In four subsequent Internet fundraisers, he picked up an additional $800,000 total.
Paul has since turned to establishment Republicans for fundraising help, flip-flopping on a campaign promise that he would not accept money from lawmakers who voted for the bank bailout in 2008.
Nine of 12 lawmakers who hosted a private fundraiser last Thursday for Paul at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington had voted for the $700 billion bank bailout. The Paul campaign hasn't released the total raised from that event. Tickets went for $1,000 per person, with sponsorships up to $5,000 per group.
Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton painted Monday's Internet fundraiser as a success.
"We're on pace to easily break $100,000," he said. "We feel really good about where we're at right now."
The Paul campaign was sending messages via e-mail on Monday urging supporters to give. "Your generous donation of $100, $50, $25 or even $10 dollars can make a difference," the messages read.
Conway campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley declined to comment. "We'll let the pundits comment on whether or not Rand Paul's fundraising ventures are successful," she said. "Jack Conway is focused on creating jobs, reducing the deficit and bringing accountability to Washington."
Paul reported raising just shy of $2.4 million between January and March. Conway reported slightly more than $2.4 million in contributions of the same period. In about two weeks, the candidates will be required to file reports with the Federal Election Commission detailing contributions received between April and June.