Rand Paul no longer a surprise candidate in Senate race


by Joe Arnold


Posted on March 8, 2010 at 7:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 10 at 2:16 AM

With this week's WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll showing Rand Paul with a 42% to 27% lead over Trey Grayson in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Kentucky, Paul says he is growing accustomed to being the frontrunner in the race. 

"Yeah, we've sensed that because the other side tends to attack us all the time now," Paul said in an interview at his Bowling Green opthamology practice, "So, we figure if they're attacking us, we must be ahead."

 Paul's ascendency to the top of the polls is no longer a surprise, but it is still stunning.  In August, Paul's showing in the first WHAS11/Survey USA poll of the Senate race shocked the Kentucky Republican establishment .  At that time, Trey Grayson, as expected was the leader in the GOP Senate primary, but Grayson only led by 11 points over the first-time candidate, Paul.

Now, seven months later, it's Rand Paul with the double digit lead.  Todd County businessman Bill Johnson tops the remaining four Republican candidates with 5% support among likely primary voters. 

The Grayson campaign, though blindsided by the tea party fueled Paul surge said in a statement that  "Trey Grayson is running a race designed to peak on May 18th when the only poll that matters is taken."

But Grayson has a lot of catching up to do.

The only category where the Secretary of State leadsis among non-gun owners, not quite the statement a conservative candidate would like.

In a series of attack ads, Grayson has called into question whether Paul - the son of libertarian icon Ron Paul is really the  conservative Republican he says he is.  Grayson has kept up the drumbeat on Paul's evolving position on whether the Guantanamo Bay detention center should remain open.  Though Paul now says that he, like Grayson, supports keeping GITMO open, earlier statements have been less clear.  A Grayson ad has used audio sound bites from a Ron Paul presidential campaign event in Tennessee in which Rand Paul calls for a decrease in military spending and talks of "dirty coal."  

"I think really we've defined ourself as the conservative in the race," Paul countered, "as the one who will reign in federal spending, who will balance the budget.  And if he just goes out there and tries to criticize me, I think it will be a tough time for him because he hasn't really defined himself yet."

The poll was conducted early last week - and is a snapshot in time if the primary was held today.

"Perhaps before joining the family business,"  the Grayson campaign statement continued, "Ron Paul's son should ask Governor Northup and Governor Henry how much a March survey matter," in references to Democrat Steve Henry and Republican Anne Northup's unsuccesfull bids for Kentucky Governor in 2007.

Paul says he's ready, if Grayson uses attack ads to whittle into his lead.

"We've raised about the same amount of money as he has," Paul said, "so we will be able to compete if he does choose to go negative, we will be able to respond."