Paul says he still supports McConnell after endorsing anti-McConnell candidate

Greg Nash
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that he still stands behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), despite endorsing a Senate candidate who has called for McConnell to step down from his leadership post. 
Paul made the distinction on a call with reporters on Wednesday, hours after he announced his decision to back Arizona Senate hopeful Kelli Ward. Ward is a regular critic of McConnell and has pledged not to support him if elected. 
“No, but I don’t think we have to agree on everything,” Paul said when asked if he agreed with Ward’s criticism of McConnell. 
“I see a little different perspective coming from Kentucky and that being my fellow senator. But I do and have opposed leadership on a number of issues.” 
He went on to argue that his endorsement is based more on issues and less on “who becomes leader or who remains leader.” 
Ward has openly called for McConnell to step aside, arguing that his leadership isn’t helping to deliver on President Trump’s agenda. While she didn’t focus specifically on the call for McConnell to step aside on the call, she reiterated her belief that Americans are frustrated about the lack of policy wins in the GOP Senate. 
“Leadership isn’t the most important part of this equation, it’s the policy that the people across the country want us to put in place. It’s the ‘America First’ agenda,” she said. 
Paul endorsed Ward earlier Wednesday in a move that gives the Senate hopeful a powerful ally ahead of what could be a contentious primary. Since Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) announcement last week that he would not run for reelection, a handful of Republicans are thinking about jumping into the race with Ward. 
Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), state Treasurer Jeff DeWitt and former state GOP Chairman Robert Graham are considering the race, as is former GOP Rep. Matt Salmon. Conservative groups are already advocating against a potential McSally bid, with FreedomWorks for America, Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth PAC already releasing statements opposing her bid. 
But depending on how the field shakes out, establishment groups could jump in to back a candidate opposing Ward — the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell and Senate leadership, has already drawn a line in the sand by issuing a statement that Ward will not win the nomination. 
Paul briefly addressed that sentiment in his comments to reporters, arguing that any establishment opposition to Ward will “backfire.” 
“When Washington comes in and tries to pick somebody, the lines are clearly going to be drawn. And in some ways, the establishment has learned that in certain circumstances, people react the opposite way. if they come in and attack Dr. Ward like they have in the past, I think those attacks are going to backfire,” he said. 
Tags Jeff Flake Matt Salmon Mitch McConnell Rand Paul
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