[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/24/art.randpaul6.randpaul.jpg caption="Rand Paul will be in Washington Thursday for a fundraiser."]Washington (CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's handpicked candidate in the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky was trounced by Rand Paul.
But that was last month.
Thursday Kentucky's senior senator hosts a fundraising reception and dinner in the nation's capitol for Paul.
Co-hosting the functions is Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. According to an invitation obtained by CNN, 10 GOP senators and 9 Republican House members are part of the welcome committee for the events. The invitation suggests donations for a reception at the NRSC headquarters as $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for political action committees. Donations for a dinner at Bistro Bis, a restaurant a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol building, range from $4,000-$5,000 for PAC's.
Part of Paul's message as he battled for his party's Senate nomination was that he was the anti-Washington candidate. He became a favorite of Tea Party activists, and was also assisted by supporters of his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and a leader of the libertarian movement.
Paul easily knocked off the establishment candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, whom McConnell supported, in the May 18 primary.
In his victory speech, Paul warned that "a day of reckoning" had arrived for the Washington establishment.
"I have a message from the Tea Party," he said. "A message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: 'We've come to take our government back.' "
During the primaries, Paul promised not to accept campaign contributions from any federal lawmaker who voted in favor of the extremely unpopular 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, better known as the Wall Street bailout, and he criticized Grayson for doing just that. But some of the lawmakers listed on the invitation for the Paul fundraising events voted for the financial bailout.
But Paul says he's not breaking a campaign promise.
"In a primary, you look to define yourself and differentiate yourself from the other primary candidate. In the general you look to unify and bring people together. I think also Republicans since then are unified against any more bailouts," Paul told WKYU radio in Bowling Green.
National Democrats criticize Paul's fundraising visit to the nation's capitol.
"Rand Paul seems to think campaign pledges are revocable. What's next? A pledge to the far right wing, and another one to Kentuckians? Bottom line, Rand Paul is as phony as they come. The only thing sincere about Rand Paul is that he doesn't want Kentuckians to know who he really is," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Deirdre Murphy tells CNN.
The weekend after the primary, McConnell held a unity rally in Kentucky, to close ranks following the divisive primary. And even though they favored Greyson in the primary, national Republicans are now committed to Paul.
"We are proud to support Rand Paul's candidacy and we are confident that he will have the resources needed to win this November," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Amber Marchand tells CNN.
Paul faces off in the general election against Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic Senate nominee. The battle is to succeed two-term Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who decided against running for re-election this year.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn