As Republicans Trey Grayson and Rand Paul quarrel over who is the true conservative in the Kentucky U.S. Senate race, GOP stalwart Cathy Bailey appears unconvinced by either campaign and might enter the race, herself.
Asked by WHAS11's Joe Arnold if she is now considering entering the U.S. Senate race, the former Ambassador to Latvia under President George W. Bush said she and other conservatives are "watching it closely."
Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson had been widely viewed as the frontrunner in the Republican primary, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly hosting another fundraiser for Grayson in December.
But, Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul, spurred by libertarian minded supporters of his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, has stunned the GOP establishment with more than $1.3 million in campaign cash and a narrow lead in last week's WHAS11/Survey USA poll of the Republican primary.
"I'm confident that when they hear my views, my experience, my track record, we're going to be fine, no matter what those polls say," insisted Grayson.
But Cathy Bailey, is less than convinced, and is questioning Grayson's conservative credentials.
"Obviously, this race is wide open," Bailey said in a statement, "The establishment's moderate choice has slipped and hasn't lived up to the hype. At the same time, what Rand Paul has accomplished is impressive despite some of his extreme positions. I am watching it closely, as are several other concerned Kentucky Republicans who want to keep this seat in true conservative hands."
WHAS11 News has learned that a recent telephone poll gauged voters' opinions on Bailey, who could rely on an extensive GOP donor Rolodex and personal wealth to enter the race months after Grayson and Paul.
"I've talked to mutual friends and I'm comfortable that if she were to run, that our mutual friends would support me because they know I'm the one who has the best chance of winning the primary, the best chance of winning the fall and keeping this seat in conservative hands like it is," Grayson said.
And Grayson says he will not bow out.
"I have zero, zero concern that Senator McConnell or anyone else that's been a big backer of mine or big supporter, or just an advisor of mine is going to jump ship because of what's going on right now. Because of this little phenomenon, where you guys have this crush on this doctor from Bowling Green who has some crazy ideas."
Grayson insists that the underlying premise of doubts about his candidacy is way off. Yes, he will have to fend off the national fundraising support Rand Paul is getting from libertarian minded contributors. But he says that he has more in common with mainstream, conservative Kentucky than the libertarian brand of Republicanism. He says the top priority of any Senate candidate should be jobs.
"One of the things we have to is focus on getting the government out of the way of the private sector. We're curbing government spending so those are kind of all related. Some of these bills that are being talked about are not helping recovery."
Grayson says he will fight for Kentucky jobs, saying employers have told him, "Their health care costs are actually going to go up and not down if cap and trade passes or if the EPA won't let us do any mining in Kentucky that electricity rates in the state are going to skyrocket. These uncertainties prevent job hirings."
A different kind of uncertaintly is on Bailey's mind.
"Hopefully we will all know by January's filing deadline if either the establishment moderate or his insurgent opponent is truly capable of running a campaign that can survive the upcoming onslaught from the National Democratic Party," Bailey said in the statement.
The WHAS11/Survey USA polls so far show only Grayson as the candidate who would defeat either of the Democratic frontrunners.