Kentucky’s annual Fancy Farm picnic is one of the state’s biggest political events, and this weekend was no exception. Rachel Kleinman had a helpful report on some of what transpired at the gathering.
But there was one quote from the weekend’s festivities from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that stood out for me. The Republican leader, who’s in a very tough re-election fight this year, reportedly had this to say about his fellow Kentuckian, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
“I can say this without fear of contradiction: He is the most credible candidate for president of the United States since Henry Clay,” the minority leader reportedly told a county GOP breakfast earlier Saturday, a reference to the Kentucky senator who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1824, 1832 and 1844.
Sam Youngman, a political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, also heard McConnell make the comment, though Youngman believes the senator probably meant the most credible presidential candidate out of Kentucky since Clay.
To be sure, Henry Clay was an accomplished public servant and an exceedingly credible presidential candidate – at different points in his career, Clay was a state legislator, a U.S. House member, a Speaker of the U.S. House, a U.S. senator, and the U.S. Secretary of State. Not too shabby.
Rand Paul was a self-accredited ophthalmologist up until four years ago, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. To date, he has no major legislative accomplishments to speak of and he’s held no other public office.
I can appreciate McConnell wanting to say nice things about his in-state partner, but referencing Paul and Clay in the same sentence seems like a bit of a stretch.
Of courses, the fact that McConnell would even draw such a comparison in the first place speaks to a larger truth.
It’s easy to forget, but in 2010, McConnell desperately hoped Rand Paul would lose. The party establishment, including the Senate Minority Leader, enthusiastically backed Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the GOP primary and assumed he’d win with relative ease.
That, obviously, didn’t happen, and the McConnell-Paul relationship has always been strained.
But when it comes to campaign politics, McConnell is no fool – he and his team can read a poll as easily as anyone else, and they realize that statewide, Rand Paul is far more popular than McConnell. As such, we see the Minority Leader running around making claims he almost certainly doesn’t believe, including the odd notion that Paul “is the most credible candidate for president of the United States since Henry Clay.”
As for the junior senator from the Bluegrass State, Paul apparently sees the partnership as a marriage of convenience. Earlier this year, during an appearance on Glenn Beck’s program, the host asked the senator about his McConnell endorsement. “Uhh, because he asked me,” Paul said. “He asked me when there was nobody else in the race. And I said yes.”