Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had trouble explaining to a conservative audience why he endorsed Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for reelection.
Asked by Glenn Beck on his talk show on Friday -- a clip of which was posted to YouTube on Saturday and caught fire on the web on Monday -- Paul initially dodged the question, and then offered a lackluster answer.
"Um ... I'm here in Texas today to endorse Don Huffines. We got our signals crossed here,” he initially joked, to which Beck laughed.
He added: “Going back to Kentucky, because he asked me. He asked me when there was nobody else in the race and I said yes.”
Paul later clarified the reasoning behind his endorsement of the senator in a statement.
"Mitch McConnell is an important ally and a conservative voice in Washington for the people of Kentucky," Paul said. "The commonwealth is stronger because of his service and I look forward to continuing to work with him."
McConnell has looked to Paul's endorsement to provide him with some credibility within the conservative movement in his bid for reelection, where he faces a primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who’s drawing substantial attention and resources from the McConnell campaign.
Paul’s comments are the latest indication that McConnell doesn’t have the full-throated support of that constituency. The senator also brought on Paul’s former campaign manager, Jesse Benton, to head up his own campaign in an attempt to build bridges within the conservative movement and shore up support on his right flank in advance of the May primary.
But Benton made comments in a private conversation that he’s “sorta holding my nose for two years” in working with McConnell, which were recorded and ultimately went public in a damaging news cycle for the senator until he addressed them by making light of the situation with a photo of him standing alongside Benton while the latter pinched his nose.
Paul’s endorsement of McConnell has been seen by many political observers in Kentucky as Washington as the former conservative insurgent — who was actually opposed by McConnell in his 2010 Senate campaign — positioning himself to run for president in 2016, when he’ll need to expand his base of support outside of the libertarian wing of the party. McConnell’s backing could help him gain some credibility with the party establishment.
Despite the evident lukewarm support from conservatives, McConnell is favored to make it through the primary. He’s led Bevin in every public poll of the race by substantial double digits, most recently 26 points.
—This piece was updated at 6 p.m. to reflect clarification from Sen. Rand Paul.