ByÂ David Eldridge, The Washington Times
Just days before the party primaries in Kentucky, outsider Senate candidate Rand Paul holds a double-digit lead over Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the “establishment” Republican anointed by the GOP’s Washington leadership – including Senate minority leader and fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell.
The race is the latest test of the strength of the anti-Washington sentiment fueling insurgent campaigns like Mr. Paul’s across the country – and would be a bitter rebuke for Mr. McConnell from the state party he helped build.
Mr. McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, strongly backed Mr. Grayson in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning. But Mr. Paul, a Bowling Green ophthalmologist, has emerged from the state’s powerful “tea party” movement as the candidate to beat.
Mr. Paul, the son of Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul, downplays suggestions that his race with Mr. Grayson has implications for Mr. McConnell or other Washington leaders.
“This race isn’t about Mitch McConnell,” he said, “It’s about Rand Paul and Trey Grayson and the issues we’re talking about in this campaign. But I will say this: If we do win on Tuesday, this is a big victory for the tea party movement and what we stand for.”
He also downplayed reports that, if he wins the Senate seat, he wouldn’t support the return of his Kentucky colleague to lead the Senate Republican caucus.
“There’s been way too much made of that comment,” he told The Washington Times on Wednesday in a phone interview from Bowling Green. “I said I wouldn’t necessarily vote for him, but I also said I wouldn’t necessarily vote against him. It would depend on the circumstances, and no one knows what those will be. But the fact is, he endorsed [Mr. Grayson], and Grayson represents that part of the Republican Party that my supporters want to see change.”
Many in Washington see Mr. Paul as a proxy for “anti-establishment” figures within the party such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina – both of whom have endorsed the tea party candidate – while Mr. Grayson is seen as an extension of Washington’s GOP leadership.
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