Reprinted with permission of the Courier-Journal:
Fox Business News’s decision to keep Sen. Rand Paul off the main debate stage in South Carolina last week manifested more of the bad luck that has dogged Paul throughout his presidential campaign.
A poll taken in the window that FBN used to determine debate participants showed Paul in fifth place: high enough for the main debate. However — through no fault of the Paul campaign — that poll result was not released until just after FBN’s cutoff.
When FBN offered Paul a spot in the “undercard debate,” he startled many by declining.
Paul then did the best he could with a bad situation by getting more interviews than he could have obtained as a debate participant.
Paul’s presidential campaign has not taken off the way many of us had hoped. That’s a disappointment, not an embarrassment.
Fifth place in a Republican field overflowing with qualified contenders, any one of whom would be better than President Barack Obama, is more than respectable, particularly given this competition.
Moreover, many presidents did not get the nomination on the first try, including Ronald Reagan.
Paul has had the supremely bad luck of running against a force of nature, Donald Trump. The Donald took Paul’s attributes as a politically incorrect outsider and applied steroids.
Regardless of what happens in Iowa or New Hampshire or who wins the nomination, Paul’s political record is still enviable.
Paul has never lost an election. He defeated a heavy favorite, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, in his primary. He eviscerated Jack “Beware of Aqua Buddha” Conway in the general election. Paul is 2 and 0 for elections.
He then went on to make the cover of Time magazine multiple times.
Paul’s impact in the U.S. Senate and on public policy generally has been outsized for a first-term senator. And at a time when the public says it wants bipartisan problem-solving, Paul has shown that it is possible, without compromising one’s principles.
For example, Paul has co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Cory Booker on criminal justice reform, And he has co-sponsored with Sen. Kristin Gillibrand legislation to improve access to justice for victims of rape in the military.
Paul’s voting attendance record in the Senate is near perfect (94 percent) despite his presidential campaign.
One of my favorite things about Kentucky is that because we are a small state, we have many opportunities to interact with our leaders. This is true not just for rich donors; anyone who wants to become involved in his or her party can volunteer and know our candidates in short order.
For those who are not political, it’s still easy to meet our elected leaders at Rotary Cluband Chamber of Commerce events and the like. Indeed, Paul continues to appear at town halls across the commonwealth notwithstanding his presidential campaign and Senate roll calls.
Paul went to Ashland to discuss the effect of high corporate taxes on steel industry jobs. He has fought downsizing for Fort Campbell and Fort Knox. He is looking out for what the Department of Energy does to the Paducah site. He has visited Corbin to discuss the heroin epidemic, visited small businesses in the West End of Louisville and traveled to Pikeville to witness the devastation the Obama administration has wrought against the coal industry.
And in his down time, he performs cataract surgery, pro bono.
Those who suggest that Paul’s presidential run will hinder his Senate reelection — that Kentuckians will punish him for a failed presidential run — ignore this reality.
Many Kentucky voters have met Paul. We’ve personally taken his measure. We’ve seen his sense of humor, his intellect, his respect for the Constitution and his love of liberty.
Nor will Kentucky Republicans punish Paul for requesting (and initially financing) our upcoming caucus on March 5.
For the first time, Kentucky has a voice in the presidential primary by awarding delegates before any candidate has passed the threshold necessary for nomination.
Eleven Republican presidential candidates have each paid $15,000 to participate; what was supposed to be a huge drain on the Republican Party of Kentucky may be a money maker.
One hundred and eleven of 120 Kentucky counties will have caucus locations; those voters residing outside counties with caucus locations will have only a short drive to a nearby county to participate. This grassroots effort will help the Republican Party get data and volunteers. It cannot help but strengthen local parties and lay the way to get out the vote when it’s time to flip the House this November.
It’s going to be a day for Kentucky Republicans to reconnect and to welcome new registrants and volunteers to the party. There will not be any backlash against Paul for requesting the caucus, regardless of the outcome.
Running for president, or any office, takes guts. Good for Rand for putting himself out there.