By Tony McVeigh, Kentucky Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced the man of the hour, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul. In brief comments, Paul warned the crowd – which spilled out onto the lawn – these are serious times in which we live and a day of reckoning is coming if the United States government continues to run up debt.
Paul says the nation faces difficult fiscal decisions ahead that will affect Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. And he says the decisions must be made without chaos, like that seen in Greece. But Paul says he’s an optimist and “there is greatness in America.”
“But let the greatness not dim by an over-reaching, over-arching government,” said Paul. “Let’s limit government. Let’s keep government out of our lives and let’s let allow America’s greatness to thrive and be the great beacon in the world once again. Thank you, very much, all of Kentucky.”
For his part, Sen. McConnell used the rally to bash the Obama administration, and call for more Republican troops to stop the President’s initiatives.
“The only way you make public policy in this country is to win general elections,” said McConnell. “And that’s why we’re here today. To send a clear and unmistakable message to every Republican in Kentucky, that we’re gonna elect Dr. Rand Paul to the United States Senate!”
After the event, Paul met privately with Sen. McConnell and other party leaders, stepping outside only briefly to shake hands and sign some autographs. He fielded no questions from the media. That was not the case with Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who showed up at the rally as promised, and urged his fellow Republicans to unite behind Paul. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Grayson refused to say anything unkind about his former opponent.
“Dr. Paul and I gave each other our words during the campaign that we would be here, regardless of who won, we would endorse the other,” said Grayson. “I gave the word to him. I gave the word to the Republican Party. And as I said, on deficit spending, on energy, on healthcare – he’s the right guy for folks who share those views, and I think that’s the majority of Kentuckians, regardless of political party.”
Across the street, about ten people – including union electrical lineman Donnie Colston of Frankfort – protested against Rand Paul’s positions on numerous issues.
“His views on immigration, his views on a whole lot of things that we fought a long time,” said Colston. “Civil rights – we can’t step back to 1962 with Rand Paul’s ideals. And we’re out here to protest Rand Paul’s coming to the Republican Party here. Surely, we don’t think that Republicans in the state of Kentucky are that far to the right.”
But what about the Democrats? Are they, too, planning a unity rally? That’s what we wanted to know from Attorney General Jack Conway, who grabbed the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination after a bruising primary battle with Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo. On election night, Mongiardo refused to say whether he would campaign for Conway this fall.
“Daniel wanted some time for his family, to spend some time with them, which I understand,” said Conway. “This has been one crazy week. But we’re already working on plans for Daniel and I to get together in coming days and talk. And you’ll see a united Democratic front and a very strong Democratic ticket as we head into the fall.”
One idea Democratic Party officials are tossing around is a series of regional unity rallies across the state. There’s still plenty of time to plan them. General election day, when the U.S. Senate race will be settled, is November 2nd.