Rand Paul 2016 comes into focus

Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY) in Louisville, Ky., campaigning for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Nov. 3, 2014.
Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY) in Louisville, Ky., campaigning for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Nov. 3, 2014.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is talking more and more openly about a presidential run as post-midterm attention turns to 2016 -- and even more about Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

In an interview with Politico’s Mike Allen, Paul questioned whether Clinton would end up the Democratic nominee based on her age and health. The remarks came days after Paul mocked Clinton for failing to elect Democrats in last Tuesday's midterm election in states where she campaigned, labeling the defeated candidates "Hillary's Losers."

“I think all the polls show if she does run, she’ll win the Democrat nomination,” the Republican senator said. “But I don’t think it’s for certain. It’s a very taxing undertaking to go through. It’s a rigorous physical ordeal, I think, to be able to campaign for the presidency.”

If she does run, he made clear his noninterventionist foreign policy, one of his biggest vulnerabilities in the GOP primaries, might be a key part of his message in a hypothetical general election matchup. 

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“Her main Achilles’ heel is that she didn’t provide an adequate defense for our consulate in Libya,” Paul told Politico. “And also, she didn’t think through the unintended consequences of getting involved in the Libyan war. So I think you’d have an interesting dynamic, were there a [Republican] nominee that was for less intervention overseas and in the Middle East and that’s fiscally conservative. You’ve never seen that kind of combination before, and I think there’s a lot of independent voters, actually, that might be attracted to that kind of message.”

Kentucky voters dealt Paul a setback on Tuesday by keeping the state house of representatives in Democratic hands. Republicans hoped to take over the chamber in order to change a state law that bans candidates from appearing twice on the ballot, meaning Paul could have to choose between running for re-election in 2016 and running for president.

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According to the Politico report, however, aides believe Paul will press forward with his re-election either way while they look for a way to challenge the law or find a workaround (past suggestions have included leaving Paul’s name off the state primary ballot, among others). With well over a year until the first primary votes are cast, they’d have plenty of time to launch a national campaign in Louisville while keeping their options open depending on his performance.