It's a question I was first to ask Rand Paul last year, if elected would he support Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell as Republican Leader of the U.S. Senate or would he support South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who had reportedly challenged McConnell for the post behind the scenes in January, 2009.
Paul refused to commit to McConnell, raising eyebrows among McConnell's key aides and providing primary opponent Trey Grayson with what appeared to be a chink in Paul's campaign armor.
As it turns out, the McConnell/DeMint flap did nothing to impede Paul's progress, and when Paul decided to accept campaign contributions from McConnell and other "bailout senators," Paul said that he was not succumbing to them, but had "won the argument."
Now, as Paul is again asked about his Senate leadership vote, he says he might vote for someone other than McConnell, just as DeMint says that he is interested in a Senate Leadership post.
If he wins in November, (Paul) says, he is interested in helping to form a new “nucleus” of conservatives in the Senate — a “tea-party caucus.” Does that mean he would consider voting for a GOP leader other than Sen. Mitch McConnell, his fellow Kentucky Republican and Senate minority leader? “Maybe,” Paul says. For now, however, he is pleased to have McConnell’s help on the trail, especially after the senior senator backed Paul’s primary opponent.
“I think I will be part of a nucleus with Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, who are unafraid to stand up,” Paul says.
DeMint told the Greenville (S.C.) News that challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is "not my plan," though he said he is open to seeking an "elected leadership position once 10 to 15 new conservatives — many of them supported by DeMint — join the ranks as he expects," the News wrote.
DeMint has previously balked at running for Senate GOP leader, but his openness to running for a lower post could raise eyebrows on Capitol Hill.
The South Carolina senator has backed several Senate GOP primary candidates who were initially not endorsed by leadership, such as former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio and Kentucky's Rand Paul. Both men emerged over candidates first favored by the party establishment; Paul's opponent was even endorsed by McConnell.
Does Paul feel he does not need McConnell nor McConnell's fund raising connections to win the election? Does Paul feel a need to bolster his Tea Party bona fides after cozying up to McConnell? What would be the reaction in Kentucky if Rand Paul is elected, but at the cost of losing Mitch McConnell as Republican Leader?