When Glenn Beck asked Sen. Rand Paul back in February why he was endorsing the scourge of the Tea Party, Sen. Mitch McConnell, hilarity ensued. Rand jokingly pretended that he didn’t know what Beck was talking about, and then excused himself by saying that he only did so because McConnell asked him to endorse when no one else was running. Put that on a bumper sticker, Mitch!
And a good laugh was had by all…
Yesterday in Metcalfe County, a constituent asked Paul the same question that he hates to answer, giving a response that perhaps even tops the answer he gave Beck in the hilarity department. From the Glasgow Daily Times:
One constituent asked him why he came out in support of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville.
Paul declined to answer the question publicly, saying he would speak with her in private and explain his reason for supporting the senior senator.
That’s an even better bumper sticker: “Ask me in private why I’m on Team Mitch!”
This episode highlights the fine line that Rand Paul is trying to walk as he tries to transition himself from Tea Party upstart to a presidential candidate that the establishment of the Republican Party — that he once loathed — can stomach and moderate general election voters won’t run away from screaming in terror. In one room Rand tells people he wants to end America’s interventionist foreign policy, but in another room he tells people he’s not an isolationist like his dad. In moderate rooms or on CNN he tells people that the Republican Party needs to become more socially tolerant and moderate, but in front of fundamentalist crowds in Iowa and South Carolina he beats his Bible on outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage. In one room he says that the GOP is “moss-covered” and in need of a makeover with true believers like himself, but in another room he stumps for Sen. McConnell, precisely the type of Republican that he ran against in the 2010 primary.
The problem for Rand Paul is that under the intense media spotlight of being a so-called “2016 presidential frontrunner,” he’s finding out how difficult it is to say different things to different people in different rooms. That may have worked for Rand in a different era (see: Richard Nixon), but there is no way to keep all of these different groups happy when everybody hears what you’re saying everywhere you go.
Based on Rand’s “private” comment in Kentucky yesterday, it appears that publicly praising Mitch McConnell exposes such a giant weak spot for him that he’s not going to risk doing that anymore. That could either be because he’s getting an earful from angry Tea Party types who put him into office and are furious that he’s now teaming up with Darth Vader to crush Matt Bevin, or it could just be that he knows he hitched his star to a leaky boat — an extremely unpopular senator who stands a very good chance of losing this fall, and therefore becomes meaningless to his presidential aspirations.
Being everything to everyone can be very difficult… and awkward. Such is the life of a crafty, ambitious politician who is doing his best to “play the game.”