— -- When Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced Wednesday that he was suspending his 2016 presidential campaign, he became one of four candidates to do so since the Iowa caucuses.
Though Paul had roughly 2 percent in the latest New Hampshire polling, and came in fifth in Iowa, those who supported him, many of whom are libertarians, are now up for grabs. And candidates hoping to well in New Hampshire are making a play for them.
ABC News analyst Matt Dowd said he thinks Paul’s supporters will end up splitting off among Rubio, Trump and Cruz -- or just refrain from voting altogether.
“Voters bought into his whole message. And I think much of his support was personal to him or his father,” Dowd said in an email in response to questions about how the race will now play out.
Dowd also noted that he thinks the overall impact of Paul’s absence will be minimal. But if the New Hampshire GOP primary turns out to be as close as it was for Democrats in the Iowa caucuses, every vote could count. And candidates are still vying for the votes nonetheless.
“To everyone in this race who was supporting Rand Paul or who was supporting other candidates who have dropped out of the race, I will say, we will welcome you as a part of our team. This is a team for unity,” Sen. Ted Cruz said while campaigning in New Hampshire on Wednesday.
“I have been so encouraged by the liberty movement folks coming to us, and I hope we see a great many more of Rand’s supporters. They will find a home, and we will welcome them with open arms,” Cruz added.
And when a Rand Paul supporter in New Hampshire asked Marco Rubio why he should vote for him, Rubio touted the benefits of enveloping libertarians into the Republican fold.
“I want them to be part of the Republican Party. They are an excellent check and counter-balance in our party,” Rubio said, further noting that the doesn’t want them to form a third party or show allegiance to the Democrats.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has invested his time and effort heavily in New Hampshire, told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl he thinks he has a “good shot” at picking up some of Paul’s supporters.
“I’ve always been able to do well with young people,” Kasich told Karl, referring to Paul’s popularity among college students.
The Kasich campaign recently announced that former Rand Paul adviser Mike Biundo will now serve as a national adviser for them.
For his part, a top Paul aide said Wednesday the Kentucky senator would not be endorsing anyone in the primary, but would support the ultimate GOP nominee. He did win one delegate in Iowa, but the Iowa GOP told ABC News it will not be re-allocating the delegate, even though Paul has dropped out. So, even if Paul were to endorse, that delegate would remain bound to him until the national convention.