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Trey Grayson: Rand Paul is winning because Fox News asks him 'softballs'

My colleague Perry Bacon is on the ground in Kentucky, where he filed this interview with fading/rallying (depending on whom you ask) Republican candidate Trey Grayson. For the umpteenth time, Grayson responds to questions about why Rand Paul is doing so well by grousing about Paul's national support.

“I’ve been on Fox News once, on a live feed on one of the shows, and I was told I was to expect a certain line of questioning, and I was given a different line of questioning,” Grayson said. Referring to Rand Paul, Grayson said, “he’s on all of the time.”

“His dad had these phenomenal contacts, so … he’s on Fox News every couple of weeks with softballs,” Grayson said. Imitating an anchor’s voice, Grayson said the questions are like “Rand, tell us about health care, you’re a doctor, Rand, tell us about the tea party.”

Let's step away from the question of whether it is ever, ever a good idea to do a "funny" voice in the presence of a reporter and home in on the more important question. Does Grayson seriously think it's a bigger advantage to be the son of a presidential candidate who scored a whopping 6.7 percent of the vote in the 2008 Kentucky primary than it is to be the candidate endorsed by the state's senior senator, the minority leader of his party? Because I've been covering Paul and his network since 2007, and I have seen many, many people try to use their connections to him in campaigns and get nowhere. Look at Peter Schiff, an economist who appears frequently on Fox News and Fox Business, who brought Paul backing into his race for U.S. Senate in Connecticut and who has gone nowhere.

Why did Rand Paul become a sensation when he could have just as easily become what he was portrayed as one year ago, a novelty candidate with a fun personal story? Because he hustled, he dealt quickly and decisively with staff problems, he plugged into the tea party movement before doing so was obviously a political benefit, and he beat Grayson to the punch on multiple opportunities, like rallying for Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) filibuster of unemployment benefits. Grayson has combated this with outreach to national conservatives like Dick Cheney and Rudy Giuliani -- foreign policy hawks -- in a manner that was too obvious for journalists to miss but too shadowy to avoid irritating Paul's campaign and his voters. And he has repeatedly been frazzled by Paul, going overboard to argue that his libertarian stances will disappoint social conservatives -- a strategy that bottomed out when a Grayson ally misled Dr. James Dobson on what Paul's abortion stance really was, something that so irritated Dobson that he eventually endorsed Paul.

Lots of conservatives get softballs on Fox News. Few have the hustle to run a serious Senate race. At the 11th hour, it's like Grayson still doesn't take Paul seriously.

By David Weigel  |  May 17, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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