In late February, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul played golf with Donald Trump at Trump’s course in Palm Beach. Trump shot par and walked away with the win.
That’s about the only thing that hasn’t gone Paul’s way in 2014 as he continues to eye a run for the White House in 2016.
More than a year removed from the 13-hour filibuster that sent his star rising and less than a year before Paul could announce that he is running for president, Kentucky’s junior senator is winning over skeptics daily.
What once seemed like a parlor game punchline is growing more realistic by the day: Rand Paul could very well win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
The road map Paul and his team put together — growing his brand outside of Tea Party voters, making inroads with establishment Republican donors, and wooing millennials — appears to be on track.
Black leaders are increasingly inviting Paul to speak and listen to their constituents, top donors are sitting down for lunch with the Tea Party darling — nearly matching what Paul is raising from his strong base of small-dollar donors — and a couple thousand millennials made sure Paul walked away from last weekend’s CPAC convention with his second straight straw-poll win.
A national Tea Party fundraising group aligned with Louisville businessman Matt Bevin plans to launch a radio ad Tuesday that blames Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for a court ruling requiring Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II, who issued a final version of his ruling last week, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush on the recommendation of McConnell. Heyburn served as general counsel for McConnell when he was Jefferson County judge-executive in the early 1980s.
“Republican voters strongly disagree with Judge Heyburn, and Sen. McConnell should admit that recommending him was a mistake,” the Senate Conservatives Fund said in a statement.
The group’s ad also notes that Heyburn ruled in 1998 to overturn the state’s ban on partial-birth abortion.
“Who recommended this liberal judge?” one actor says in the ad.
“Mitch McConnell,” another actor replies.
“McConnell should admit right now that recommending Judge Heyburn was a mistake,” the first actor says. “He knew this judge wasn’t a conservative and promoted him anyway. Now we’re stuck with gay marriage.”
Both actors go on to say they plan to vote for Bevin in Kentucky’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
The group said it will spend $29,000 to run the 60-second ad statewide.
In a statement, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore called the group’s claims “absurd and pathetic.”
“This is the kind of ad voters expect to hear from people who are days away from boxing up their personal effects and auctioning off the remaining printer cartridges in the office,” Moore said. “It is so absurd and pathetic that they ought to stop troubling radio listeners with the obligation of switching stations and admit they have no justification to attack Senator McConnell.”
After Heyburn made his initial gay-marriage ruling earlier last month, McConnell issued a statement condemning the decision and saying that Kentuckians should not have gay marriage “forced on us.”
“I will continue to support traditional marriage and fight to make sure that Kentuckians define marriage as we see fit and never have a definition forced on us by interests outside of our state,” McConnell said.
SCF’s radio ad also accuses McConnell of “political cronyism,” suggesting that he recommended Heyburn because Heyburn had donated to McConnell and served as his county campaign chairman.
“McConnell knew Judge Heyburn was not a conservative, but he promoted him anyway,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “Now Judge Heyburn is forcing his liberal views on Kentucky.”
Spring remains elusive, but the 2015 race for governor has arrived early.
The battle officially kicks off Tuesday morning, when former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner announces his bid for the governor’s mansion in Lexington.
Former Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilwoman KC Crosbie is widely expected to be Heiner’s choice as a running mate. Crosbie is one of Kentucky’s three members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and serves as finance chairwoman for the Republican Party of Kentucky.
Allies of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is considering a run for governor but repeated this week that he will not make an announcement until after this year’s elections, welcomed Crosbie to the race Monday by calling for her resignation from the RNC and state GOP finance committee. They also raised questions about her husband’s work lobbying on behalf of pro-gambling interests.
The tensions between Heiner and Comer have simmered behind the scenes for months as both have made their interest in the race known. With Heiner about to make things official, those tensions appear ready to boil over.
Comer told the Herald-Leader Monday that Heiner, who appears hopeful of selling himself as the social conservative in the race, would have to explain the “inconsistencies” of seeking support from anti-gambling groups while putting Crosbie on the ticket.
A Republican polling memo obtained by the Herald-Leader shows Agriculture Commissioner James Comer with a commanding early lead over former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner in the 2015 gubernatorial primary.
While neither man has announced a run for governor, both have indicated they’re likely to do so.
The poll, conducted by Robert Blizzard at Public Opinion Strategies, found Comer leading Heiner 42 percent to 14 percent among 400 Republican primary voters between Feb. 26-27. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Blizzard and Public Opinion Strategies have done polling for a number of Kentucky Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and state Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer.
Comer and other would-be candidates are prohibited from polling before officially launching a campaign, but Blizzard said in an email that “the poll was not paid for by any candidate, prospective candidate or political action committee.”
By Sam Youngman
Tea Party groups supporting Matt Bevin’s bid against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said they are satisfied with Bevin’s explanation for signing a document that praised the federal bank bailout of 2008.
But lawyers who have worked with and against the Securities and Exchange Commission take issue with the explanation, expressing surprise and dismay that Bevin claimed to not have agreed with the content of a letter to investors that he signed.
Earlier this week, Politico reported that Bevin had signed a letter to investors of Veracity Funds in which he and investment manager Dan Bandi wrote that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, widely considered the first bailout of the global economic collapse, had been a “positive” development for the markets.
Bevin, who has repeatedly criticized McConnell for supporting the bailout, responded to the report by saying that he has always opposed the bailout and that he had not written the letter but only signed it. He also said he thought it would be illegal for him to change the content of the letter.
But allies of McConnell, and attorneys versed in SEC law who are not connected to McConnell, told the Herald-Leader that Bevin could have changed the letter to investors without changing the facts and figures in the accompanying prospectus, which would have been illegal.
Additionally, similar letters to investors obtained by the Herald-Leader show that Bevin sometimes signed the letters and sometimes did not, raising questions about why he thought he needed to sign the letter in question.
Bevin’s explanation that he signed a letter to investors even though it contained opinions contrary to his own is “very odd,” said Mike Edney, a partner at Steptoe and Johnson who represents clients in SEC matters.
An aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that McConnell “kept his promise to Kentuckians that he would not risk another government shutdown or default” when he voted Wednesday to help Democrats cut off debate on a bill to suspend the nation’s debt ceiling.
McConnell, who along with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, led a small group of Republicans in joining Senate Democrats to beat a filibuster on the “clean” debt ceiling bill, has come under intense fire from Republican challenger Matt Bevin and his allies.
McConnell voted against the bill on final passage, but McConnell’s role in leading members of his caucus to help Democrats cut off debate earned the wrath of Bevin and Tea Party groups.
McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said in a statement that McConnell “has consistently said that raising the debt limit without corresponding cuts in spending is irresponsible, and that’s why he and every Senate Republican were united in the final vote against the debt ceiling hike.”
“Sen. McConnell strongly believes that the President and Democrats in Congress are failing the country by refusing to fix Washington’s underlying spending problem,” Steurer said. “Unfortunately, Senate Democrats are in the majority and they were determined to hike the debt limit.”
Republican leaders were determined to avoid another stand-off like the one last October over the federal budget that shut down the government, hurt Republican standing with the public and took focus off of the widely-maligned rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Bevin called the vote “financially reckless.”
“I wish I could say I am surprised that Mitch McConnell voted to hand President Obama another blank check,” Bevin said in a statement. “But sadly, I am not because this is more of the same from a career politician who has voted for bigger government, multiple bailouts and now 11 debt ceiling increases.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer will travel together through Eastern Kentucky next week.
McConnell and Paul are speaking at an event Comer is hosting in Knott County that is being billed as a “special announcement” for Eastern Kentucky.
From there, the trio will travel to participate in meet-and-greet events and a community forum in the eastern part of the state.
Paul and Comer continue to be two of the most popular elected Republicans in the state, while McConnell faces a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.
A group of Republican all-stars, including Kentuckian and former ambassador to Lithuania Cathy Bailey, joined to film a video wishing former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin a happy birthday.
Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Condoleezza Rice, Rudy Giuliani, Lee Greenwood, stars of the show “Duck Dynasty” and U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 presidential candidate who tapped Palin to be his running mate, all joined Bailey in making the video.
Palin’s 50 birthday was Tuesday. Bailey said on the video she was grateful to Palin for her “steadfast conservative voice.”
“Gov. Palin is very fond of Kentucky and has made several visits into our Bluegrass State since she was on the ticket with Sen. McCain in 2008,” Bailey said in a statement. “As I stated in the video, she has been a great voice and champion of our conservative values and principles. She’s remained steadfast.”
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul didn’t miss a beat Thursday when asked at a Commerce Lexington luncheon how to make the National Labor Relations Board more business-friendly.
“New president,” Paul answered.
With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie mired in scandal, Paul has in recent days jumped to the top of some people’s list of Republican presidential contenders and is being discussed as the new frontrunner for the 2016 GOP nomination.
The most recent edition of The Atlantic magazine features a column by Peter Beinart headlined “Rand Paul is the 2016 Republican frontrunner.”
When asked about potentially claiming the political equivalent of a pre-season number one ranking, Paul laughed.
“That sounds unlucky to me,” he said. “I think it’s still too early probably to talk about things like that. My focus right now really is trying to figure out how we can get the discussion back towards how we create jobs in the country, how we get a more pro-business environment for the country.”
With the May primary inching closer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s enemies are lining up to help Republican challenger Matt Bevin.
FreedomWorks PAC announced Wednesday morning it was joining the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project in endorsing Bevin, marking a new entrant into McConnell’s declared war on conservative fundraising groups.
“For far too long, Mitch McConnell has sat on the sidelines of pivotal fights, helping the Democrats pass unprecedented surveillance powers, the TARP/Wall Street bailout, numerous tax hikes and debt ceiling increases and Medicare Part D,” Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks president, said in a statement.
Kibbe also accused McConnell of orchestrating the “McConnell-Reid sellout bargain to increase the debt limit and fully fund a broken health care law, getting a $1.2 billion ‘special project kickback’ in the process.”
“Kentucky deserves better, and looking at the dropping poll numbers for McConnell, there’s no reason to settle,” Kibbe said.
McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore said Freedomworks was once a “constructive partner in the conservative movement” but now has changed its focus to “conservative canibalism in order to pay the bills.”
“So today, instead of standing with Kentucky conservatives, a group that used to pride itself on grassroots empowerment has endorsed a self-funding New England millionaire who takes taxpayer bailouts and falsely claims he attended MIT,” Moore said.
After watching the last two election cycles as conservative groups backed candidates who then lost general elections to Democrats, McConnell is using his own re-election fight as a proxy war against the fundraising groups.
Polling by various groups shows Bevin trailing McConnell by a significant margin, and the challenger’s fundraising efforts continue to pale in comparison to McConnell’s campaign war chest.
With the help of the SCF, Bevin raised about $900,000 in the last quarter of 2013. McConnell’s fundraising numbers for the last quarter have not been made public.