After Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul declined to commit to supporting Mitch McConnell as the Republican Leader in the U.S. Senate, rival Trey Grayson, whose supporters have been stunned by the strength of Paul's poll numbers and fundraising, took advantage of the opening, releasing a statement Wednesday night saying "Paul is too beholden to his Libertarian, out of state donor base to support what's best for Kentucky."
Despite the contested primary, McConnell and more than twenty other GOP Senators hosted a fundraiser for Grayson in August, implying an endorsement of Grayson for seat being vacated by Jim Bunning.
In a wide-ranging interview Sunday, Paul was asked who he would support if the election for Senate Minority Leader came between McConnell and South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who wields clout among conservatives.
"I like both of them and I don't know that I could make a judgement. I have to win the primary first," Paul replied, " So I don't think I'd make a judgement on how I'd vote for leader, but I think obviously Kentucky having a leader is good for Kentucky."
Grayson blasted Paul's response.
"Senator Mitch McConnell been a very effective public servant for Kentucky, delivering on our priorities time and time again, but it’s maybe once in a generation that Kentucky will have the opportunity to have someone in Sen. McConnell’s leadership position in Washington.
I recognize the importance of that for the Commonwealth, and I will absolutely, 100% vote to keep Senator Mitch McConnell as GOP Leader in the Senate if I am elected. I will always put Kentucky first.”
On Monday, perhaps anticipating the possible repercussions of Paul's non-commital response, Rand Paul campaign manager David Adams e-mailed a statement extolling McConnell for his senatorial skills.
"Mitch McConnell is the de facto leader of the opposition to Obama and the Democrats and has earned tremendous respect for his skills.
If I had to point to one distinction, I'd say Mitch is probably the best there is at maneuvering through existing structures and Rand Paul will be the kind of figure to change the shape of things in Washington D.C.
I think the overlooked story is how much good they could do working together," Adams said in the statement.
Here is the news release from the Grayson campaign:
Trey Grayson Will Support McConnell for Senate Leader
Rand Paul is Too Beholden to His Libertarian, Out of State Donor Base to Support What’s Best for Kentucky
Florence, Kentucky – Secretary of State Trey Grayson commented today on an interview Rand Paul did with WHAS-11’s Joe Arnold in which Paul refused to say if he would support Mitch McConnell as Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate.
The story is posted on WHAS-11’s political blog.
“Not only has Senator Mitch McConnell been a very effective public servant for Kentucky, delivering on our priorities time and time again, but it’s maybe once in a generation that Kentucky will have the opportunity to have someone in Sen. McConnell’s leadership position in Washington. I recognize the importance of that for the Commonwealth, and I will absolutely, 100% vote to keep Senator Mitch McConnell as GOP Leader in the Senate if I am elected. I will always put Kentucky first,” said Grayson.
McConnell is only the second Kentuckian to be elected by his Senate peers to the position of Senate Leader. The other was former Vice President and U.S. Senator Alben Barkley (D-Paducah).
Grayson campaign manager Nate Hodson had this to say:
“It is appalling that in the same breath a candidate for U.S. Senate would recognize the importance of Sen. McConnell’s position to our state and then flat-out refuse to say if he would vote to keep Sen. McConnell in that position.This goes to show you just how beholden Ron Paul’s son is to the Libertarian donor base he has built around the country. Apparently when his campaign said he would vote for people in New York and California, he really meant that.”
Hodson continued: “Nothing better illustrates the difference between Trey Grayson’s Kentucky-based, Kentucky-focused campaign and the campaign being run by Rand Paul whose campaign was announced in New York and whose first fundraisers were held in his famous father’s home state of Texas. Kentucky needs a Senator who will focus on Kentucky’s priorities, and once again it has been clearly illustrated that candidate is Trey Grayson.”
August 5, 2009: Paul campaign spokesman Christopher Hightower said of Rand Paul: “If he makes it to the Senate and votes in D.C., he’ll vote for people in New York and in California. His vote matters that much.” (USA Today’s “OnPolitics”) http://blogs.usatoday.com/onpolitics/2009/08/rand-paul-joins-race-fundraises-in-nyc.html