Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to the media following a meet and greet event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, July 1, 2015.
Photo by Nati Harnik/AP

Rand Paul gets pulled into the Trump whirl

Donald Trump continues to overshadow all other 2016 Republican presidential candidates and Tuesday it was Rand Paul’s turn to get drawn into the mix.  

The Kentucky senator had hoped to steer the conversation to a discussion of his plan to change the tax code — even sending a Tweet with images of Paul holding a chainsaw urging voters to watch a Fox News interview Tuesday to “find out what Rand Paul is up to.” But Trump’s dominance in the field meant Paul was prodded to explain GOP voters’ support for the reality TV star.

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“It could be the free billion dollars of publicity he has gotten by being on every channel all the time,” Paul said with a smirk. “This is going to happen throughout the campaign. It’s going to be a long year and a half, year process.”

He continued, “I think what you’re going to find is, is that many people will, once their ideas are put out to the public, are going to have a chance. Right now, one individual is getting that chance. But I think you’ll find that people are going to look at all of the candidates before making a decision.”

Paul’s comments came on the heels of a new Washington Post/ABC News poll that found Trump pulling in 24% support among registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. In that same poll, Paul was tied for sixth with Dr. Ben Carson, who earned at 6% support — behind Trump, Scott Walker (13%), Jeb Bush (12%), Mike Huckabee (8%), and Marco Rubio (7%). 

Trump’s surge means he will be a prime target in the first GOP presidential debate on Aug. 6 — just more than two weeks away. Fox News, the network hosting the debate, has said only the top 10 candidates in the field can participate in the debate, using polling averages from the last five national polls. NBC’s First Read on Tuesday detailed the latest polling averages, which suggest Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham would not make it into the debate if it were held today. 

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Paul’s campaign also unveiled a new ad Tuesday asking “How would you kill the tax code?” and featuring Jimi Hendrix’s version of the national anthem. The ad shows Paul — wearing a black “Detroit Republican” t-shirt and clear safety goggles — standing in front of a pile of burning papers, pushing a stack of papers into a wood chipper, and also cutting through a stack of paper with a chainsaw.  

“We thought we’d have a contest at on how people would want to kill the tax code,” Paul said in the interview.