May 18th, 2010
08:27 AM ET
13 years ago

Democrats think Tea Party favorite could hurt GOP chances

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Rand Paul is the choice of Tea Party activists in Kentucky."]Bowling Green, Kentucky (CNN) - A win by Rand Paul in Kentucky's Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, a likely prospect according to most polling, would give the Tea Party movement its biggest triumph of the 2010 election season.

But it will also be a win for Democrats who would prefer to run against Paul - a libertarian-leaning ophthalmologist and son of former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas - instead of the other leading GOP contender and establishment favorite, Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Democrats are confident that Paul's uncompromising small-government views - he would like to shutter the departments of Education and Agriculture, for example - will alienate moderate voters in a general election contest against the eventual Democratic nominee, either Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo or Attorney General Jack Conway. Their primary is considered too close to call as the race enters its final hours.

With a campaign message focused on national fiscal issues, Paul has been propelled to the front of the polls almost entirely on the strength of Tea Party activists and opponents of government spending. He's also been able to leverage his father's nationwide network of supporters - a key fundraising base for the Republican.

But his rapid rise has resulted in nothing but headaches for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Kentucky.

McConnell recruited Grayson into the race last year and lent his political operation to the cause, only to see his candidate falter against a political novice who talks fluently about marijuana policy and favors corduroy pants over suits and ties.

The scenario has GOP leaders fretting about their chances in Kentucky come November.

"Would Republicans be better off with Trey Grayson as their nominee? Yes, absolutely," said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Paul hasn't been talking to voters outside the Tea Party movement, by and large. He is talking to his voters. But as of Wednesday, assuming he is the nominee, he has got to talk to the rest of the state."

Republicans worry that Paul's beliefs, particularly on foreign policy matters, will turn off not just moderates but also rank-and-file GOP voters. Paul opposes the Patriot Act, wants to scale back American military efforts abroad and once called for the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Party apostasies like those compelled Republican heavy-hitters like former Vice President Dick Cheney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to publicly back Grayson - but the endorsements only seemed to boost Paul's outsider credentials.

Paul adviser Jesse Benton disputed claims that his candidate would be the weaker candidate in the general election.

"Rand is winning because he is the best candidate in this race," Benton said in an e-mail to CNN. "Kentuckians know that his message of balanced budgets and real spending reform are what our country truly needs to get back on track."

Paul wants an end to all federal earmarks, a stand that has endeared him to foes of government spending and won him support from conservative luminaries like Sen. Jim DeMint and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Kentucky, though, is a poor state that receives more money from the government than it pays in. It has long relied on entrenched congressional leaders like McConnell and Rep. Hal Rogers to send federal dollars back home to fund basic projects - everything from roads to education to disaster relief.

Democrats in Kentucky, eager to define Paul quickly once he secures the nomination, say the issue of federal dollars will be a principal line of attack out of the gate once the general election table is set.

"We have been blessed with the seniority of our congressional delegation over the years, both Democrat and Republican," said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from eastern Kentucky. "What Dr. Paul talks about, he is out of touch with a lot of people in Kentucky."

Stumbo agreed with observers who say Paul will be an easier candidate to defeat than Grayson, but a Senate Democratic leadership aide in Washington cautioned that this year’s anti-incumbent mood remains potent and unpredictable.

“There is lot of anger towards Washington and Paul can tap into that,” the aide said. “I’m not convinced that it’s a slam dunk for us.”

The aide stressed that the Democratic nominee must focus on jobs and the economy instead of fixating on negative attacks against the Paul, if he wins the nomination. But the aide said Paul’s more peculiar views would be certainly be fair game in the race.

“I think he is majorly kooky, and he is definitely more beatable than Trey Grayson,” the aide told CNN. “But then again, stranger things have happened in politics.”

Filed under: 2010 • Daniel Mongiardo • Jack Conway • Kentucky • Rand Paul • Trey Grayson
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Another case of liberals deluding themselves. Don't forget this is the same bunch that brought us Obozocare by lying and now that big corrupt slimy lie is unraveling.

    May 18, 2010 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  2. lazsensor

    Rand is a Dem's nightmare.He's not left or right but center on issues.But Dems will go insane trying to smear this guy.Good luck!

    May 18, 2010 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  3. BillE

    Great news. They are made for each other. Mitch and Sarah make such a cute couple.

    May 18, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  4. greg morris in jacksonville, fl

    It will be a great day when the GOP loses senate seats in both kentucky and florida.

    Rubio will Fail.

    May 18, 2010 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  5. Peace

    Like father like son. The Senior and the Junior Ran Paul are both the same. Unfortunately, the father didn't reach anywhere so might be the son!

    May 18, 2010 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  6. No Incumbents 2010

    Dems have no chance against Rand Paul in Kentucky. It is a Republican state for federal offices. Rand Paul's supporters combined with the GOP GOTV operation will do everything to ensure Rand Paul's victory. There is no way a conservative state like Kentucky wil go for a big-government bailout-supporting liberal Democrat endorsed by Obama, Reid and Pelosi. The Democrats who claim Rand will have trouble will be themselves voted out of office in November. The people are fed up with what the career politicians have done to us.

    May 18, 2010 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  7. GI Joe

    I like Rand Paul. He sure beats Turtle-face's choice. However, I'd kinda like to see KY go Dem, (I guess Paul will at least get the Obstructionists out of the way).

    May 18, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  8. ED FL

    Just what the country needs , another republican that only can spell 2 letter words like NO instead of a 3 letter word like YES. Heaven forbid if they ever tried to spell or say ABSTAIN.

    May 18, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  9. Dan

    Ron Paul is a disaster in-waiting. Let's put Grayson in the senate,

    May 18, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  10. LIB

    Libertarian.That is how I am voting.Dems and Repubs. Need 2 lose some power,they have come 2 corrupt. The public needs 2 bring them down a notch.

    May 18, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  11. Larry

    This guy is a flake, and already in the pockets of special interests.

    We have an oil spill in the Gulf that will be the biggest man-made disaster in history and he wants smaller government. We're reeling from a financial disaster that was nearly a depression, costed millions of people their jobs and homes, and he wants smaller government.

    Get lost Paul. We've been dealing with thieves and liars like you since Bush took office.

    May 18, 2010 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  12. j

    We`re rootin` for ya Rand.

    May 18, 2010 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  13. jilli

    Mr. Paul also doesn't think much about providing accessibility for the handicapped either...

    "Paul was asked whether he supports the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark 1990 legislation that established a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Paul said he advocates local governments to decide whether disabled individuals deserve rights. Requiring businesses to provide access to disabled people, Paul argued, isn’t “fair to the business owner.”

    PAUL: You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions — like for example if you have a three story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner

    Ah, those poor business owners, being forced to accommodate the accessibility of the handicapped.

    He's a crackpot.

    May 18, 2010 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  14. Mike in NYC

    Thinking the Department of Education should exist is not a "moderate" viewpoint. It should die as early a death as possible.

    May 18, 2010 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  15. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    The democrats shouldnt hurt themselves thinking so much .

    May 18, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  16. Wrong Assumption

    The tea party's reputation is a victim of the media and the dnc.There are kooks in every group, the left has their share as well, a lot of them have tv shows or are in office. Most,not all, but the majority of the tea parties members are just regular taxpaying citizens who are fed up with the government waste of their hard earned money on give away programs that are inefficient, poorly managed,wasteful and riddled with corruption, grants to organizations that are corrupt, brother in law deals, etc. Most of these people have worked all their lives and paid their taxes. They are tired of the way this country coddles people who are too lazy too pull their own weight and let's the corporations get tax breaks by the bushel.I'm not a member of the tea party but I agree with many of their views

    May 18, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  17. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    I don't know enough about the Agriculture Department to comment, but the Education Department is a total failure. All it does is, at great expense, add bureaucracy and confusion. There's really no defensible reason, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, to keep the department in existence.

    Paul's views on this issue, especially in an era when people are getting ever angrier and ever more fed-up with Washington, aren't going to hurt him. To the contrary, I suspect–pro-Washington, pro-bureaucracy, Democrats are more likely to get hurt.

    May 18, 2010 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  18. shadysider

    Paul's father seems to be one of the only people able to speak honestly about fiscal rsponsibility. If his son follows in his footsteps, I would think he'd be a good politician. The Democratic aide in this story refers to him as a kook because they can't believe he'd be honest about fiscal matters. While the Democrats seem to have a better stance on social issues and foreign diplomacy, their reluctance to address fiscal responsibility is always their downfall. They have been given an opportunity to become the party of fiscal responsibility, but we have yet to see it. /Mostly because of the economic crisis and the wars that we were already fighting. /Conservatives, while not loving Bush, will love him for leaving the next Democrat candidate in such a precarious position to begin his presidency.

    May 18, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  19. Susan

    Amazing how the republicans could attach themselves to the "apron strings" of the tea party movement when they thought it would benefit them, only to tremble [now] at the thoughts of a tea party canidate winning a primary. Hey republicans, where is your loyality to the tea party movement now?

    Hate to tell you, but come Novembmer, you will reap what you sow!

    May 18, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    “I think he [Rand Paul] is majorly kooky..." says a Democrat.

    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi

    For a long time, "mainstream" politicians tried to ignore the Ron and Rand Pauls of the country, fully expecting that they'd just evaporate. With comments like that of that Democratic "aide," it's apparent that the Paulian philosophies are under at least the second stage of attack, ridicule. Grayson tried ridicule too, but that didn't work so he's on to stage three, fighting, and by this evening will have completed Gandhi's evolution.

    So, I suspect, come November, will Dr Paul's Democratic opponent.

    Those hiding behind the barriers of Washington's beltway just don't seem to get how mad the country is at them.

    May 18, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  21. Randy, San Francisco

    Tea Party activists will never understand that most Americans are not extremists and do not want to adopt their radical agenda by drinking their bitter cup of tea.

    May 18, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  22. Chas in Iowa

    Let the teaparty and the Palin neo-conservatives put some of these types in the races in November.
    Those are to be the sure win states for the Democrats

    May 18, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |