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Sarah Palin endorses Rand Paul, highlights GOP divide

Sarah Palin endorses Rand Paul, highlights GOP divide

by Joe Arnold


Posted on February 1, 2010 at 6:05 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 1 at 8:38 PM

Who is your pick for Ky. Senator?

In the biggest endorsement yet in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, the campaign of Republican Rand Paul says Sarah Palin is in their corner.  The endorsement intensfies a battle for the soul of the GOP.

The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential nominee said in a written statement that she's "proud to support grassroots candidates like Dr. Paul." She said she is lending her support because Paul, the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, wants to "shake up the status quo in Washington." Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, made a $2000 contribution to Paul's campaign.

"We're running a conservative grassroots tea party movement against sort of the establishment and I think Sarah Palin is not afraid to pick the conservative," Rand Paul said in an interview with WHAS11.

The Bowling Green eye surgeon has been eager to ride the crest of a political wave - a conservative backlash to big government.

Supporters of his father, U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), have helped bankroll his upstart campaign. While Ron Paul's libertarian ideas launched the Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin is now its defacto leader.

Palin is endorsing Paul, but her 2008 running mate Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and the nation's top elected Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both attended a fundraiser for Paul's GOP primary rival -- Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Is Kentucky now the epicenter of the Republican rift?

"I've always said all along Kentucky's going to be a big part of the national debate and this is," Paul said, "And we define what the Republican is, what the Republican party is, by the candidates.  And I think we're helping to shape and define what the Republican party will be."

The Rand Paul campaign characterizes Grayson as the handpicked choice of a Republican establishment who are "RINO's -- or "Republicans in name only."  The Palin stamp of approval may help Paul counter the Grayson campaign's questioning of his conservative credentials.

In a statement, Grayson campaign manager Nate Hodson questioned if Palin knows what she needs to know about Paul.

“Secretary Grayson has a great deal of admiration for Governor Palin.  We agree with her 100% that Kentucky needs a U.S. Senator who will shake things up in Washington.  My guess is that if Governor Palin knew Rand Paul’s true colors she would think twice about offering her support of his misguided agenda.  Paul’s support of pro-abortion policies, his plan to return terrorists to the battlefield, his opposition to our troops’ work in Afghanistan and his opposition to federal drug laws are just some of the areas where he finds himself hopelessly out of the maintream,” Hodson said.

"I think it shows that there's a huge movement out there," Paul said, "The tea party movement is not going to say no. I mean, if Republicans can win in Massachusetts, something's going on."

Sarah Palin is due to appear at Louisville's Freedom Hall on April 16, as a featured speaker at Southern Baptist evangelist Phil Waldrep's "Women of Joy" conference.  Yet, Paul was unsure if Palin will make any campaign appearances with him.

"We still hope to have further communication. We'd love her to come to Kentucky but she's probably the hottest political speaker in the country and so we'll have to get right in line and try to get her to come."

As the Paul campaign announced the Palin endorsement, the Grayson campiagn announced that 28 state legislators representing 39 Kentucky counties are endorsing Grayson.
 “I am proud to have such widespread support across Kentucky, especially from the Republican elected officials that I hope to be coordinating closely with as the Commonwealth’s next U.S. Senator.  These legislators are all well known and respected statewide.  Their support provides a huge boost to our campaign and will help us continue to build on our strong statewide grassroots organization,” Grayson said.  “Our campaign is gaining momentum each day as we continue to secure support from local leaders.  I look forward to announcing even more key endorsements in the near future.”

Three other candidates are vying for the GOP nomination.