With Republicans still spinning their wheels trying to figure out just what went wrong, the Democrats are setting their sights on the Kentucky senate seat currently held by Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jim Bunning. There is pressure building for the 77-year-old senator to retire from his seat and allow a more viable Republican to run in his place.
Jim Bunning, who has won two senatorial elections, each by the narrowest of margins, is perceived as the weakest Republican up for reelection in 2010. While he has voted against bailouts proposed by his own party, his manner has been awkward, bordering on bizarre. Incidents include refusing to debate his opponent in 2004 and threatening to resign earlier this year so that Kentucky’s Democrat governor Steve Beshear could appoint a member of his own party to his seat. Of course, calling the state’s most powerful Republican a “control freak” probably has not helped Bunning’s cause either.
On the May 17, 2009 broadcast of “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked the senate minority leader and "control freak" Mitch McConnell if he would endorse Jim Bunning. After getting nowhere, Wallace questioned, “So you’re not endorsing him?”
Perfectly evading the question, the professional pol replied, “It’s not clear who the players are going to be yet.”
But even though the 2010 elections are almost a year and a half away and even though the Kentucky GOP establishment was noncommittal, he actually has already made his pick: Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s secretary of state.
The Politico, quoting an anonymous Republican aide said, “For the first time, we now know who the Republican nominee will be next November and that’s Trey Grayson. He’s by far the best-positioned Republican to be competitive and hopefully win in the fall. It’s not even close.”
From an establishment point-of-view and principles-be-damned- we’ve-got-to-win mindset, Trey Grayson is probably the obvious choice among current Kentucky Republican office-holders. After scandal-plagued Governor Ernie Fletcher was unceremoniously drummed from office in 2007, Secretary of State Grayson was one of only two Republicans (former University of Kentucky basketball star Richie Farmer was the other) to survive and he won at a 14-point clip.
But like an always-campaigning politician, Secretary Grayson has re-vamped his website telling everyone, “I look forward to traveling across the Commonwealth and hearing how best to address the problems that face our country. As I explore this opportunity to continue serving you, I am committed to representing all Kentuckians and the issues that are important to you.”
If you read that opening statement carefully, one might be compelled to ask, Does Secretary Grayson have any political principles? Does he really need to travel across the state in order to determine what the country’s problems are? Does this mean he doesn’t have an actual agenda and is going to shape his platform according to what he discerns the people want to hear? Not from a politician!
But there is another option, an outsider.
Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist residing in Bowling Green, Kentucky (my hometown) has recently declared his intent to run for the U.S. Senate by forming an exploratory committee. If the name looks a little familiar, it is because Dr. Rand Paul is the son of Dr. Ron Paul, the only GOP presidential candidate that generated ANY significant support among young people. If anyone heard Ron Paul speak in person during his run for the presidency, there is a good chance that they would have also seen or heard Rand Paul, as his son was a constant companion on the campaign trail.
Outside of his exposure to politics through his father’s political career, Rand’s only other political experience has been as the chairman of Kentucky Taxpayers United, a group that rates legislators' tax honesty and that is dedicated to generating tax reform in the Bluegrass State.
Over the past several months, Rand has already been traveling across Kentucky delivering his message of freedom for the individual through less interference from the government. In a departure from his potential opponent, Rand already has his message. It’s liberty. It’s not about making government more efficient or “getting government back on the side of the people,” as Sarah Palin said ad nauseum, but by making our lives more efficient by getting government out of it.
Whereas Trey Grayson’s website is remarkably vague on where the man stands on the issues, a brief tour through Rand Paul’s website will demonstrate that young Dr. Paul has thought about the issues and has specific stances on them. One look at his position on the Federal Reserve shows that Rand is not only skeptical of central banking (it must be in his blood), but knows Nobel Prize-winning economists who can back him up. Instead of just uttering vague platitudes about “change,” Rand Paul is enunciating what he would do in order to inaugurate change in Washington.
So, in an era where government is continually reaching into the private lives of American citizens, there is a little glimmer of hope in Kentucky. But since Rand will be running on a platform very similar to his father’s and since he is clearly not the establishment’s first choice, Rand definitely has an uphill climb. The inevitable smear brigades are likely warming up as we sit here.
There’s a chance for a liberty candidate to represent the good people of Kentucky. Can Rand do it?
Postscript: One of the downfalls of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign is that many of the people who liked him didn’t feel like they could really support him because he had no chance of winning the GOP nomination after primaries in all 50 states, especially with the big Republican field of 2008. But all that Rand Paul has to do is win one primary against perhaps only one other contender.
And one of the most effective weapons Ron Paul’s supporters wielded were their grossly (intentionally?) misinterpreted “money bombs” where grassroots activists hit up supporters to make small donations on a specific day. Instead of chasing down a few fat cats to make big donations, the Ron Paul supporters got small donations from LOTS of people. Through such efforts, Ron Paul amassed quite a campaign war chest, despite being designated a “second-tier candidate.” Since Rand only needs contributions in one state, how much easier will it be for him to acquire enough funds to satisfactorily challenge the Kentucky GOP establishment? As of this writing, Rand has already received over $20,000 . Of course, the nomination is only the first step.