UPDATED: April 7, 2015
LOUISVILLE — Kentucky junior U.S. Sen. Rand Paul made it official Tuesday — he is running for president.
“I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government,” Paul announced on his website, randpaul.com.
Paul, a freshman senator and ophthalmologist who made his home in Bowling Green more than 20 years ago, is scheduled to personally announce his bid for the White House at noon Tuesday at the Galt House.
The senator plans to follow his announcement by participating in a question-and-answer session on Facebook, then attend kick-off events in the early-voting states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada in coming days.
Paul is the second Republican candidate to officially enter the race, following Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who jumped in two weeks ago.
Paul is following in the footsteps of his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president three times. He will aim over the coming months to keep his father’s loyal base intact while broadening his reach to more young voters, libertarian-minded voters and Republicans disillusioned with the establishment GOP.
In a campaign video Paul’s team released Monday, the senator is described as “a different kind of Republican” who will take on Washington, D.C.
By Sam Youngman
Kentucky could gain a president but might lose a senator
By Scott Wartman
The Kentucky Enquirer
Kentucky on Tuesday gained a presidential candidate, but might lose a senator for most of the next two years.
Sen. Rand Paul became the second Republican to announce a run for president in 2016.
A presidential campaign is a full-time gig that leaves little time for sitting in committee meetings or casting votes on the Senate floor.
After announcing in Feb. 2007 he would seek the Democratic nomination for president, then-Sen. Barack Obama missed 57 percent of the Senate roll call votes en route to his election in Nov. 2008, according to GovTrack, a website devoted to tracking Congressional records. His Republican opponent, John McCain, missed 72 percent of the Senate votes in that same time period.
Paul has a slightly less than average attendance record, missing 3.2 percent of the 1,278 roll call votes in the Senate since he took office, GovTrack reported. That’s above the 1.5 percent median average among the lifetime records of current senators.
Paul has spent considerable time traveling across the country the past two years in preparation for a presidential run.
Political experts, however, warned that Paul shouldn’t miss too much time in the Senate because it could come back to haunt him. Former Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston found that out the hard way and lost his Senate seat in 1984 when Mitch McConnell accused Huddleston of skipping out on votes and meetings for private speaking engagements, said Al Cross, director of the Rural Institute for Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. That resulted in McConnell’s famous television ad of a man with bloodhounds searching for Huddleston. McConnell edged Huddleston 49.9 percent to 49.5 percent.
“Mitch McConnell beat Dee Huddleston when he found that one chink in the armor,” Cross said. “Paul will have to be very careful not to miss very many votes.”
That is easier said than done for a presidential candidate in the Senate.
Not many people, however, seemed upset about Paul’s expected absences from Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans saw different positives from a Paul presidential campaign.
For many Kentucky Republicans, the benefits of having a possible president from the state far outweighs the drawbacks of any missed votes.
“It is going to be a good year to be a Kentuckian,” said Troy Sheldon, chairman of the Republican Party for the Fourth Congressional District. “It is all positive. It will be such a great platform to highlight the uniqueness of the state.”
If Paul loses the presidential race, his clout increases in the U.S. Senate, said U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., the congressman from Lewis County who represents Northern Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District. Paul has acted as a mentor to Massie, who worked for Paul’s senatorial campaign in 2010.
The national exposure from a vice presidential run in 2012 increased Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s clout in the House, Massie said.
“Win or lose, this is good for Kentucky,” Massie said. “If he wins, we have a president from Kentucky. Even if he loses, he’s going to be a strong runner and will develop a national base and national following.”
Democrats also see a positive in Paul’s presidential hopes. Kentucky Democrats see his time spent on the campaign trail as an opportunity for them to regain a Senate seat for the first time since 1999 when Wendell Ford retired.
Paul’s presidential run will take time and resources away from retaining his Senate seat. Whether he can run for both still isn’t settled. Kentucky law prohibits a candidate from appearing on a ballot twice. In response, the Kentucky Republican Party (RPK) gave preliminary approval to move the state from a primary to a caucus, which would allow Paul to run for both. The RPK will vote for final approval in August.
Legality aside, Paul’s absence from Kentucky and the Senate gives Democrats a window, many Democrats said.
The Democrats have potential candidates like State Auditor Adam Edelen and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, said Paul Whalen, chairman of the Campbell County Democratic Party.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Whalen said. “I see us being able to take that seat pretty handily.”
With a crowded field of Republicans expected in the 2016 presidential primary, it might also help Senate Democrats, said Worth Hester, assistant director of Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, which specializes in congressional procedure. Another Republican senator, Ted Cruz, from Texas, has already announced his bid. A third Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, from Florida, could enter the fray. That would take away three Republican votes and make it harder for Republicans to get a supermajority of 60 votes to shut down debate.
“There is weight to saying that if you’re not there, how are you representing the people your supposed to be representing?” Hester said.