LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul dropped out of the race for President Wednesday.
He had finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses, and will now he'll focus on keeping his Senate seat.
Paul launched his presidential campaign in Louisville last April as one of the favorites, but his campaign never caught fire.
"The race was somewhat shaped by celebrity, more so than any other race that we've had in recent times. Celebrity and polls sort of made the decision, unfortunately for us, on where the news coverage would be," Paul told WDRB News.
Paul, and his supporters agree, that celebrity is Donald Trump. Paul's anti-establishment message got lost.
"He was the Trump of the party, but he got trumped by Trump as did a lot of people,” said Jack Richardson, a Paul supporter and member of the Kentucky GOP Executive Committee.
Democrats believe the entry of millionaire Lexington Mayor Jim Gray into the U.S. Senate race forced Paul's hand.
“More than anything, he didn't want to see a candidate of that caliber to run against,” said Rep. Steve Riggs (D-Louisville.)
Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville) said he was not surprised that Paul dropped out.
“I think he realized that his chances of winning the presidency were slim and none, and his only other shot is his Senate seat,” said Owens.
Paul had been under pressure by some Republicans to focus his attention on re-election.
“What would be the country's loss, I think is Kentucky's gain. So, I'm glad to see him focusing full force on his race for the U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville.)
Paul had convinced the state Republican party to change from a May presidential primary to a March caucus to allow him to legally run for both offices.
Paul will now not be part of the caucus, but party leaders say they have no regrets.
"By moving the process up two-and-a-half months, now Kentucky is relevant. You see a lot of the candidates coming to Kentucky, whereas they wouldn't," said Richardson.
Paul believes the issues he raised regarding foreign policy, justice reform and privacy added to the presidential debate.
"We think we had a unique perspective, but once they counted up the votes in Iowa, we didn't think there was enough really to position us or propel us forward to victory in New Hampshire," said Paul.
In a statement, Jim Gray blasted Paul, saying Kentucky deserves to be more than just a “fall-back plan.”
Paul says he's running on his record, pointing out he made 95-percent of his votes in the Senate.
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