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Rand Paul envisions himself as a national leader

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 11:15 PM

As Rand Paul says it, he's "not even won dogcatcher yet."  But, the Kentucky U.S. Senate upstart is the frontrunner in the Republican primary, and is already setting his sights on a high profile position in the Senate, and as a national leader.  The question for Kentucky Republican primary voters is, will Paul be an effective agent of conservative change or will he be tilting at windmills in the halls of Congress?

"I want to be a leader not only in the Republican party in our country but also a leader from the Tea Party movement that helps bring the Republican party back to its roots," Paul said, demurring a question whether he is considering a run for president.

Paul, however, is not satisfied to simply be the junior senator from Kentucky. 

"I will lead a Republican coalition and hopefully some Democrats that introduces a balanced budget," he said.

ABC News' This Week  has already booked Paul as a guest for the weekend after the primary, according to the Paul campaign.  The Bowling Green opthamologist has reached Kentucky primary voters as much through the national media as the local media.  On the strength and reputation of his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and increasingly with the strength of his own candidacy, Rand Paul has made dozens of appearances on national cable networks such as Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.

With Paul the darling of the national media, and as he rides the crest of a national anti-establishment wave, WHAS11 posed a question, where does that leave Kentucky if he's elected?

"Will you still fight for Kentucky in Congress, in the Senate if you're actually fighting this national campaign?" asked WHAS11's Joe Arnold.

"Absolutely,"  Paul replied, "I think everything I talk about is for those of us in Kentucky.  I say let's try to leave more money in Kentucky."

Paul's primary opponent, Trey Grayson, says yes - Washington is broken - but Republicans should ask two questions before they vote.

"Who's in the best position to fix Washington?  And the second is, who's going to fix it the right way?" Grayson said during a stump speech in Louisville six days before the election.

Grayson argues that Paul's campaign success is due primarily to his father, libertarian icon Ron Paul's out of state donor base and media connections.   What good, Grayson argues, is Paul's outsider status if he's so far outside the loop that once in office -- he's irrelevant?

"I've got a track record of being different and that's what those voters who are looking for an outsider or looking for something different to shake up Washington,  I'm going to be in a much better position to do all that," Grayson said in an interview, "but I also have the relationships with the folks who are there so we can get things done."

"I'm not going up there to be part of the system,"  Paul countered after a Tea Party event Thursday night,  "I'm going up there to fix a broken system before its too late."

That system is the framework for the success of Kentucky's senior senator, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring home the bacon for the Bluegrass State.  Kentucky is a net importer of federal dollars, due in part to McConnell's seniority and influence.  It's a system that Paul says he will work to abolish.

"Spend based on objective criteria," Paul argued, "Let's not base them on how long the Senator has been in office."

"It's not that roads won't be built," Paul continued, "It's 'don't spend roads based on seniority.'"

Yet, the WHAS11 reporter persisted, "In the interim, between the time that you're elected presumably and when you can change the system, what about during that time?  Are you going to work within the system and still represent Kentucky in that way?"

"We immediately start trying to fix the system," Paul said, "When I'm there, the first thing I'll do is introduce term limits.  The second thing I'll do is introduce a balanced budget amendment.  And the third thing I'll do is introduce my own budget that is balanced."

And for those voters who are dubious about Paul's or any politician's ability to change the system, the question begged to be asked, "If the system is the way that it is, and you can't have that effect there, in the interim then, what are you willing to give up for Kentucky?"

"If the system remains as it is," Paul sighed, "And we have to acknowledge that before we get started in the election, before I win anything that the system will not change?  Then I wouldn't run for office."
 

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