By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service
Republican Rand Paul will run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2016 regardless of any decision to launch a presidential bid. And he will campaign for his Kentucky colleague and Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014.
Paul was here to address the Woodford County Republican Party Reagan Dinner on Friday evening and to give a boost to Republican state House candidate Lyen Crews in his June 25 special election.
Paul said he has decided to run for re-election to the Senate in 2016 though he thinks it may be possible to run both for the Senate and for U.S. President.
Kentucky law forbids a candidate from appearing on the same ballot for multiple offices but there are multiple opportunities for the General Assembly to change that law before the January 2016 filing deadline. With a Democratic-controlled House and a Democratic governor, that’s not likely to happen, but Republicans hope Crews’ election might be the beginning of a change in control of the House.
Paul deflected a question about whether he thought he could run for both offices in the absence of such a change in Kentucky law.
“For now, we know for sure is we’re going to run for the U.S. Senate,” Paul said. “The other decision can come later.”
But if Paul wasn’t unhappy discussing a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday indicating he’s presently the strongest potential Republican opponent in Iowa for Democrat Hillary Clinton should she choose to run in 2016.
In Quinnipiac poll, Clinton leads Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio 48-37 but is ahead of Paul by only four points, 46-42. The same poll showed Paul leading Vice President Joe Biden 44-39 in a potential matchup.
Paul said he hadn’t studied the poll results but he smiled when talking about it. He said his recent visit to Iowa to speak to the state Republican Party at a Lincoln Day Dinner earlier this month might have given him a slight edge over Rubio.
But he preferred to talk about how narrow Clinton’s lead was and as he has done in recent weeks, he said Clinton must accept responsibility for the lack of security during an attack on the Benghazi consulate while she was Secretary of State. Paul has previously said the lapse in security should “disqualify” Clinton as a presidential candidate.
When asked if he would campaign for McConnell in 2014, Paul didn’t hesitate: “Yes.”
Asked whether that might be affected by a Republican primary challenge to McConnell, Paul said, “Let’s just leave it at the first one-word answer.”
While Paul and McConnell have forged an apparent friendship and political alliance since Paul upset McConnell’s preferred candidate, Trey Grayson, in the 2010 Republican Senate primary, some Kentucky tea party activists have vowed to field a tea party challenger to McConnell in next year’s campaign.
In addition to his trip to Iowa, the first presidential caucus state, Paul also recently traveled to New Hampshire, the first presidential primary state. He’s also made a number of policy speeches, including on the Republican Party’s need to reach out to minorities.
Previously, however, Paul called for a constitutional amendment which would no longer allow automatic “natural born” citizenship to children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrant parents. Such citizenship is presently granted by the U.S. Constitution to anyone born in the United States.
Paul said such an amendment won’t be necessary if the country passes an immigration reform bill which secures the national borders and restricts illegal immigration.
Immigration is a sticky problem for Paul. His tea party base generally vigorously opposes any reform they see as “amnesty,” but Paul has said the Republican Party can’t compete nationally with Democrats if it isn’t more welcoming to immigrant populations and minorities.
He said he is considering offering an amendment to any immigration reform bill which would require review of border security and the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country each year before continuing with the reform.
“If the numbers weren’t going down, that would stop it,” Paul said.
Paul’s speech to the Woodford County Republicans reflected recent criticisms of IRS attempts to single out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and also support for Crews.
Democrats currently hold a 54-45 majority in the state House but dream of taking the majority in 2014. If they can elect Crews — he’s opposed Democrat James L. Kay II and independent John Mark Hack — in the June 25 special election to succeed Democrat Carl Rollins, that task will be that much easier.
It would also be easier for a Republican House and Republican Senate to pass a law allowing Paul to run for both the Senate and President in the same year.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.