MAYFIELD, Ky. — Kentucky Republicans were treated to a tale of two Rand Pauls ahead of this weekend’s Fancy Farm picnic.
One, the state’s junior senator, acted as attack dog for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP grapples with repeal of popular ObamaCare policy New DNC chairman wastes no time going after Trump Dem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks MORE (R-Ky.), paying deference to the state’s senior senator, who’s locked in a difficult reelection fight and desperately needs some of Paul’s oomph to survive.
The other, a top contender for president in 2016, pushed his own agenda, tooted his own horn and bared his teeth, but at the likely Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.
He fired up the crowd for McConnell at a GOP breakfast in Graves County on Saturday morning but also made his traditional pitch for expanding the party’s appeal, which has become a pet project of his, as he looks toward a 2016 run.
During that address, he thanked McConnell for his work on a range of issues: securing an amendment on the farm bill to boost the hemp industry, getting a vote on a balanced budget amendment and keeping the GOP caucus in the Senate unified in their opposition to ObamaCare.
Paul boasted that their partnership, even though they come from two very different wings of the GOP, “has worked to the benefit of Kentucky.”
“I’m a really loud voice — some of my enemies might say a loud mouth — but I try to draw attention to things that I believe in passionately. But it’s not only drawing attention that gets things done, it’s working together with someone that knows how to get things done and has the power and influence to pass legislation,” Paul said.
But he closed with a pitch to diversify the GOP: “We’ve gotta say that we want everyone in our party ... that’s the only way we’re going to win nationally.”
The contrasting Pauls highlight the conundrum he’d face if he does go forward with a presidential run, as seems likely. Paul kicks off a three-day tour of Iowa on Monday, his fourth visit to the state, and has been rolling out a number of presidential-level hires over the past month.
It’s yet unclear whether Paul is, in fact, allowed under Kentucky law to run for both offices.
But if he is able to, he’d have to juggle the dual pressures of a national and Kentucky statewide bid. And the two Pauls may have goals that are not always in concert and schedules that might clash.
An April New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that Kentucky voters are split, with a third each saying they do and do not want him to run for president in 2016.
Many likely feel similarly to David Jones, vice chairman of the Graves County GOP, who saw him speak at the Saturday morning breakfast.
“I would personally like him to put one more term in as senator. But if he wants to go for it, I would support him,” Jones said of a Paul White House bid.
Still, the hometown advantage isn’t everything. Jones said, “there are a lot of rumors of a lot of strong candidates that might be running this next time, and several of them, I would greatly support.”
To run for reelection in Kentucky, Paul would have to deliver red meat to a conservative crowd and weigh in on local issues — some of which could hurt him on the national stage.
Paul is still trying to work past his infamous criticism of the Civil Rights Act during his 2010 run, which Democrats have used to argue he’s only paying lip service to the idea of diversifying the Republican Party.
The current Kentucky Senate race, which pits McConnell against Kentucky Democratic darling Alison Lundergan Grimes, could eventually offer Paul a test run of sorts for his potential 2016 presidential bid.
There, just as in 2016, he might go up against Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee for president and a good friend of Lundergan Grimes’s father. Clinton is expected to stump for the Democrat at some point in the cycle. Former President Bill Clinton has already made one visit to the state and has another planned for this week.
This weekend, the Senate race seemed to be the contest most on his mind this weekend. While Paul took clever jabs at Grimes, in rhyme, at Saturday’s Fancy Farm picnic, his fiercest attack was that, “to the liberals, she sells her soul.”
Of Clinton, he declared on Friday night: She’s not “fit to lead the country.”
In a much sharper jab than the ones he threw at Grimes the following day, Paul called for the audience at the Friday night dinner to observe "a moment of silence" for Clinton’s finances, a reference to her comments that she and her husband were “dead broke” when they left the White House.
"Somebody must have been praying for her, because she's now worth $100, $200 million. I tell you it was really tough giving those speeches,” Paul went on.
He added that at least “she had her limo driver with her for the last 17 years to commiserate,” another knock, this time referencing the fact she said she hasn’t driven in years.
"I hope she can deal with only $100 million," Paul said. "I certainly wish that maybe she becomes preoccupied with something else because I don't think she's fit to lead the country."