DYCHE | A Senate Primary for Rand Paul? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | A Senate Primary for Rand Paul?

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John David Dyche John David Dyche
By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

Rand Paul is simultaneously serving as Kentucky's junior U.S. Senator, seeking reelection to that office, and running for President. He faces several Republican foes for the presidency. Perhaps he should also face at least one for the Senate.

Kentucky's GOP appears poised to concede the Senate nomination to Paul. That could be a premature conclusion or even a bad idea.

Some of Paul's positions on important issues are at odds with those of other Republicans in Kentucky and elsewhere. National security is the prime example.

Paul recently staged a high-profile resistance to renewing the Patriot Act. He argued that the law infringed civil liberties, but plenty of Republicans disagree.

Kentucky's other Republican Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported Patriot Act renewal. "We shouldn't be disarming unilaterally as our enemies grow more sophisticated and aggressive," he argued.

McConnell did not name Paul, but blasted Patriot Act critics for a "campaign of demagoguery and disinformation launched in the wake of unlawful actions of Edward Snowden, who was last seen in Russia." The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol understandably asks how can McConnell "even nominally support Rand for president?"

The likely compromise will weaken America's defenses without altogether ending bulk collection of phone records as Paul wanted.

In the course of the debate Paul made an outrageous accusation that some who disagreed with him "secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me." This is not Paul's only intemperate claim recently.

He also asserted that the radical Islamic terror group "ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately." Of fellow Republicans, Paul said, "They created these people," meaning ISIS.

There are valid criticisms of some past Republican policies, but Paul's claim that any Republican "created" ISIS goes beyond the pale. It is looney talk like his father Ron so often spouts.

Paul says he would destroy ISIS. Yet beyond arming a Kurdish state he offers nothing much more than President Obama is already doing.

Indeed, some call Paul an "Obama Republican" on national security. He may well be to the left of Hillary Clinton, which probably puts him in conflict with a large segment of Kentucky's Republican electorate. On matters of such magnitude Republicans in pro-military Kentucky may want a Senate option more in the national security mainstream.

Another reason Paul might merit a primary is the precarious position his simultaneous Senate and presidential bids puts state Republicans in.

Kentucky law forbids a candidate from being on the ballot for two offices. Instead of challenging that law in court, Paul has convinced Kentucky's Republican apparatus to hold a presidential caucus instead of a primary.

This gambit may generate a lawsuit of its own. Regardless, it does not necessarily solve the problem for Paul or Kentucky's GOP, especially if he somehow captures the presidential nomination.

Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader says it is unclear "how a move to a caucus would help Republicans if Paul were to win the nomination for president" because "under Kentucky law, there is no provision for substituting candidates on the ballot after the filing deadline, which means the GOP probably couldn't field another candidate for U.S. Senate if Paul also won that primary election."

POLITICO adds, "The worst-case scenario could mean either that Paul would have to forfeit Kentucky's eight electoral votes to a Democratic presidential candidate or abandon the Senate seat and leave his party without a candidate in next year's general election."

Paul's camp argues that there is no problem and the party (but not Republican voters) can name a replacement if he is the presidential nominee. But nobody really knows how this Paul-centric scenario will play out, especially with Democrats controlling state election machinery.

So what should be a safe Republican seat could become a possible Democratic pick-up. Is it really worth running the risk, especially when critically important control of the Senate could hang in the balance?

Potential Democratic Senate candidates like state auditor Adam Edelen and Louisville mayor Greg Fischer are probably salivating at the predicament Paul's dual campaign produces for Kentucky Republicans. Their stands on national defense issues may also be more appealing to Kentuckians than are Paul's highly nuanced positions.

Paul is right on lots of other topics and remains relatively popular in Kentucky even as he crisscrosses the country campaigning and fundraising for his White House bid. Given that Paul is so very otherwise occupied it might be prudent if his home state party had another Senate option.

Will a credible Republican give Kentucky's GOP an alternative to Paul? Probably not, although there are several good prospects.

Paul has since tried to explain or walk back some of his inflammatory remarks. But if he continues on his current path he could yet convince Kentucky Republicans that he ought to have some political competition here in the Bluegrass State as he does in Iowa and New Hampshire.

(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is jddyche@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)

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