It wasn't unanimous, but Kentucky Republicans voted Saturday to hold a presidential preference caucus next year, helping U.S. Sen. Rand Paul get around a state law prohibiting a candidate from appearing on the same ballot twice. But the approval of a caucus is conditional on whether Paul has transferred $250,000 to an account controlled by the Republican Party of Kentucky before Sept. 18. If the money is not there, the party will automatically revert to a primary.
If you missed Friday's show, you may not know that Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) presidential campaign very nearly faced an insurmountable obstacle over the weekend -- one which might have brought his national ambitions to a sudden halt.
Fortunately for the Republican senator, his state party did him a favor. Unfortunately for the candidate, his troubles are just beginning.
A little background is in order. State law in Kentucky, like many other states, prevents candidates from seeking more than one office at the same time in the same cycle. For Paul, that's a problem -- he's running in 2016 for the White House and for re-election to the Senate. The Republican lawmaker asked the state legislature to change the law, so he could pursue both without giving up either, but lawmakers politely refused.
All of which led to an important state GOP meeting over the weekend. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported on the results:
We've all heard about attempts to buy an election. This offers a literal example of the phenomenon. The Republican Party of Kentucky didn't want to foot the bill for a March 2016 caucus, just to satisfy the long-shot ambitions of Rand Paul, so the senator is prepared to write a check to the state GOP to help cover the costs.
He added Saturday that Team Paul will transfer the money "when it's ready."
In terms of the mechanics, assuming the senator follows through on his financial commitment, Rand Paul has apparently found a way to circumvent state law and run for both offices. Kentucky will still hold a presidential primary, but Paul won't compete in it. Instead, he'll run in a special caucus -- designed and paid for by Rand Paul -- that he's very likely win.
He'll probably lose the race for the GOP presidential nomination soon after, at which point the senator will shift his focus back to his re-election bid.
So, problem solved?
In the short term, yes. Paul has invested a great deal of energy into this two-campaigns-at-once scheme, and state Republican officials gave him exactly what he asked for.
Looking ahead, however, this gets a little more complicated. If, just for the sake of conversation, Paul somehow wins the Republican presidential nomination, the Kentucky GOP will suddenly find itself without a Senate candidate. States pass these one-race-at-a-time laws for a reason.
And if Paul's national bid falters -- a far more likely scenario -- the Kentucky GOP is left with a weakened Senate incumbent, who's spent very little time actually in the state, running against a rising star in Democratic politics.
Watch this space.