Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the big man in Republican Kentucky politics. McConnell had decided early in this election cycle he did not want Jim Bunning (R-KY) to run for re-election, and so put strong pressure on Bunning to drop his re-election campaign. Eventually Bunning relented and McConnell thought he had cleared the way for his favored replacement, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. The only problem is that Grayson is getting crushed in primary polls by Rand Paul’s anti-establishment campaign. It is in this environment that Jim Bunning just decided to endorse Paul in what basically everyone is interpreting as a real slight to McConnell (Via NPR):
Bunning no doubt took special delight in endorsing Paul on Wednesday. With a clear jab aimed at McConnell, Bunning said Paul “will be his own man in Washington, not beholden to the special interests and beltway insiders who come looking for handouts on a daily basis.”
I doubt Bunning’s endorsement will make a real difference in the race, mainly because I think, with such a strong lead, Paul is already on track to win, but it does give Paul the appearance of having some support from Kentucky’s Republican establishment. Bunning, at least for the Republican primary, could also potentially serve as a good surrogate for Paul at events or fund raising functions.
McConnell is not going to have Bunning to kick around anymore, but it looks like he might need to deal with Rand Paul in his caucus, whose possible election would be a result of him defying McConnell in his home state.