(WHAS11 Political Blog) -- His father mathematically eliminated from the GOP presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) announced Thursday that he is supporting the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney and will campaign for him.
Paul acknowledged a recent secret, half-hour meeting, a "good and honest discussion" with Governor Romney in Washington.
"My first choice had always been my father. I campaigned for him when I was 11-years-old," Paul said to host Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel. "He's still my first pick, but now that the nominating process is over, tonight I'm happy to announce that I'm going to be supporting Governor Mitt Romney."
The endorsement not only opens a gateway to the legions of Ron Paul devotees, but also proffers a bridge to the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. At the least, Rand Paul's declaration prevents the question of his endorsement from becoming a distraction for the Romney campaign that seeks to coalesce various factions of the party before the Republican National Convention.
"I can be an asset in securing the conservative base of the party," Paul said, "but I also think that myself, my father and the movement that he started attracts a lot of independents, also. So, a lot of these young people aren't necessarily the conservative base."
In a statement late Thursday night, Romney returned the favor, further expanding the younger Paul's presence on the national scene and extending rhetoric to reach Paul's "Liberty" supporters.
“I am honored to have earned the endorsement of Rand Paul. Senator Paul has been a leading voice in the effort to scale back the size and reach of government and promote liberty," Romney said in a statement.
"Over the past three and half years, President Obama has made government more and more of a presence in our lives, and Americans can’t afford four more years of the same failed policies," Romney continued. "As President, I will reform the federal government and make it smaller, simpler, and smarter. I am grateful for Senator Paul’s support and look forward to working with him to get America back on the right track.”
Sen. Paul, a freshman Republican who was elected less than two years ago, has done little to discourage conjecture about his own ambitions for higher office. Paul used a friendly platform on the Fox News Channel to reach 2010 primary voters en route to a "Randslide" general election win in 2010. Since then, he has maintained a visible presence on the national stage through frequent appearances on Fox and other national cable networks.
On Fox News on Thursday, Paul compared himself to Romney, saying both men endorsed Republican presidential nominees after each man's father was unsuccessful in running for president.
"I think we have a lot of the same family values," Paul continued, "and trust and feeling of the importance of the family unit. And I think that draws a kinship between our families."
Paul also disclosed that he recently met with Gov. Romney in Washington to discuss Romney's support of several of Rand and Ron Paul's priorities including auditing the Federal Reserve, implementing more congressional oversight of the Fed and limiting federal regulations.
Paul said that Obama administration energy and environmental regulations threaten 50,000 jobs in Kentucky.
"I think there's a lot of kinship between us on those issues," Paul said.
In particular, Paul pointed to his father's "legion of young followers who are on the Internet" and concerned about Internet freedoms.
"Governor Romney is right there with us on those issues," Paul said.