Rand Paul, what are you running for?

Posted at 6:43 PM, Nov 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-23 18:43:42-05

Rand Paul’s presidential aspirations were neatly summarized Monday when he came to town.

The Republican senator from Kentucky and presidential candidate held a book signing at the Crestview Hills mall. About 60 people showed, and that includes the local media and some little kids who were running around.

After that, he traveled to Erlanger to meet with businesspeople in an event sponsored by the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers. About 20 people showed, enough to fit around a table. That didn’t count the media, which was all local, no one national. (And only some of the local newsies showed up.)

The Trump Factor

Compare that to what was going on 115 miles up the road, where Columbus was preparing for Donald Trump’s first visit to Ohio as a presidential candidate. The Columbus Convention Center was planning on 15,000 people, maybe more, coming to see the GOP frontrunner.

Rand Paul’s presidential campaign is going nowhere. The latest polls have him struggling to get to 3 percent in most cases.

Trump, meanwhile, is favored by more than 30 percent of the voters in most polls.

It’s quite a comedown for Paul, who, just a year ago, was featured on the cover of Time magazine with the headline, “The Most Interesting Man in American Politics.”

Which all raises the question: “Rand Paul, what exactly are you running for?”

Rand Paul listens to the audience chants during his announcement for president.

Paul has hedged his political bets. In April, he announced he wanted to be president. Then, he convinced the Kentucky GOP to change its entire nominating process so he could run for re-election for U.S. Senate at the same time.

So Paul is aiming for the White House, but if that doesn’t work out, there’s always the consolation prize of representing the people of Kentucky in the U.S. Senate?

Paul should make up his mind. Does he want to be president or senator? Those are two entirely different offices, two different constituencies, two different sets of issues, two different kinds of campaigns.

Fair to Kentuckians?

In the now highly unlikely event that Paul became the Republican nominee for president, his name could appear on the ballot in Kentucky for two offices next November. Then what?

Is that fair to Kentuckians, who deserve a candidate for Senate who is fully engaged in representing their needs?

I asked him about that on Monday and here’s what he said:

“I think I’m a good senator for Kentucky. I actually make 99 percent of my votes. I’m there all the time doing the business of the state.  I’m also, quite often, traveling around the state hearing people’s concerns. So, I think I’ve very much been a good representative for Kentucky and ultimately the only people who get to decide that are the voters, and in the next year, the voters will get to decide whether I’ve done a good job or not.”

Maybe. But Paul’s insistence on running for Senate and for president has kept serious challengers for his Senate seat away.

The fact is, Kentucky is being shortchanged by a senator who has aspirations for a higher office but who won't commit. Fortunately for them, the rest of the nation appears to be making up his mind for him.