Bevin, Paul rally supporters, put GOP nominee's support of other presidential contender in rear-view mirror

10/03/2015 09:12 PM

FRANKFORT — Days after voicing support for another Republican presidential candidate, GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin looked to publicly smooth things over with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul as part of a pre-debate rally at Kentucky State University Saturday.

Bevin, who said he would vote for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson during a debate on Kentucky Sports Radio on Wednesday and later that day voiced his support for Paul via Twitter, opened his remarks to more than 50 supporters by saying Paul “would be an extraordinary president of the United States.”

“We are blessed to have him putting himself out there,” Bevin said. “… I remember speaking to her (Paul’s wife Kelley) years ago when he was at the frontend of a Senate race, and this is one of these things where it takes a toll on a family, and Rand and his children are here as well. I’m grateful for the sacrifice that they have made.”

The timing of Bevin’s prior statement preceded news of a lackluster fundraising quarter for Paul’s presidential campaign, which totaled about $2.5 million, according to a report by The Washington Post. That’s down from the $8 million he raised in the prior three-month period.

Paul said those who are calling on him to end his presidential bid “don’t know anything about politics” and “are all writing for a living.” His campaign, he said, is “in it for the long haul.”

“We are doing very well,” he said after the rally. “Yesterday we announced that we have a chairman in each one of the counties in Iowa, all 99 counties we have a chairman. We’re the only race to do that. Last time I was at Iowa State we had 600 kids show up. No other campaign can get 600 kids to show up on a college campus. We have 1,000 college students already set to caucus for us, so we have a lot of good things going on.”

He conceded that “polls haven’t all been good,” but he reiterated that he matches up well against former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup.

Paul has yet to file for Kentucky’s March 5 caucus but said he plans to “sometime this fall.”

Any hard feelings over Bevin’s Carson remark weren’t on display Saturday. Paul, who endorsed Bevin before introducing the gubernatorial candidate, said the Louisville investment manager is someone who will stand up to the federal government at the state level.

Paul offered a few shots at Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, whom Paul bested in the 2010 U.S. Senate race and whom Bevin hopes to top in the Nov. 3 election.

“The only thing he’s famous for is suing business,” Paul said of his former rival. “You think that’s going to help business in Kentucky? We need somebody who’s from the business community, someone who’s not a career politician to stand up. We need a governor who will resist the federal encroachment.”

Paul said afterward that he didn’t take offense to Bevin’s comment regarding Carson, adding that the two had not spoken on the topic “because it’s immaterial to me.”

“It’s also something I understand,” he said. “I mean, there are going to be people I know well who may not support me for the presidency would support me for the Senate, and so you’ve got to understand that and if you don’t, it’s sort of a minor thing.”

Paul was joined at the rally by Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington, secretary of state candidate Steve Knipper and treasurer candidate Allison Ball. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, did not attend as scheduled.

Democratic supporters, including Kentucky Democratic Party spokesman Daniel Bergstein, were eager to remind passersby on Main Street of Bevin’s pro-Carson remarks, holding signs with slogans like “Bevin’s bell rings 4 Ben” and “Carson 4 prez Bevin 4 VP.”

When gubernatorial candidates were asked again who they would support in the presidential primary during the Operation Turnout debate at KSU’s Bradford Hall, Bevin tiptoed carefully around the topic.

The Republican said his previous comments on Carson, Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whom Bevin said he would vote for had he not dropped out of the presidential race, generated “grief from all corners for having been too across-the-board.”

“At least I did attempt to give some answer, but truth be told I don’t think it’s the place of any one of us as candidates to be weighing in in another race,” Bevin said. “That is in 2016. … Interestingly I’ve never actually endorsed anybody ever in any political race. I’ve never given an endorsement. I’m not intending to now.”

He said he’ll “let the voters of America decide ultimately for themselves what they do in the ballot box.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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