Rand Paul's primary win in Kentucky leaves his father beaming
By Perry Bacon Jr.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Two years ago, veteran Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) ran a quixotic presidential campaign in which he railed about many of the GOP's stances on key issues. By the end of the race, he had a huge following among libertarian activists, but never won a primary and was so shunned by the conservative establishment that he was excluded from one of the Republican debates on Fox News.
But on Tuesday night, Paul stood at the podium here to celebrate a victory that could push his views toward the Republican mainstream. Aided by backers of the Ron Paul presidential campaign and an anti-establishment mood among voters in here, Paul's son Rand triumphed Tuesday in the U.S. Senate primary here over Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state who had been recruited by GOP leaders to run for the seat.
The victory seemed to make plain that the Paul family is now in the center of Republican politics. Rand Paul appears on Fox News so much, Grayson complained that the network had effectively endorsed his opponent, and his campaign won the support of key GOP figures such as former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
"It symbolizes the growth of the freedom movement," Ron Paul told reporters after his son's victory. "This is great symbolism and a great reality that the country is shifting in our direction."
Asked why his son galvanized support in a way he didn't two years ago, Rand Paul attributed it mainly to the 2008 bank bailout and the actions of the Obama administration, which he says have increased anti-government opposition.
"All of these things came together," he said.
Rand, 47 and Ron, 74, (both doctors, dad is a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, the son an eye doctor) don't agree on all issues: Ron Paul frequently calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, a stance his son has not taken. Rand Paul sharply opposed earmarks, calling it wasteful, while his father has pushed such money for his district, saying earmarks give Congress, rather than the executive branch, power to decide how money is spent.
Political strategists here say Rand Paul was aided by not adopting his father's strongly antiwar views in a state unlikely to back a Republican calling for the withdrawal of troops.
At the same time, both men share a broader libertarian philosophy that drives opposition to federal bailouts of companies and other spending.
"When Rand talks about the Tea Party movement, it's the same as saying, 'Talk to the grass-roots people,' " Ron Paul said. "And 'Get rid of the power people,' the people who run the show, the people who think they are above everybody else. That's what people are sick and tired of. That's a message a lot of us have talked about for years and Rand has for about a year, and that's why he's done so well."
Perry Bacon Jr.
May 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Election , 44 The Obama Presidency
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