- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Kentucky, returned to network TV on Sunday, saying that his political views are mainstream enough to win the November election and that he will support the GOP leadership in Congress.

“I’m going to put Kentucky first,” Mr. Paul said during a debate on “Fox News Sunday” with his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway.

Mr. Paul also used the debate to deliver the larger Republican message that the November elections are really a referendum on President Obama’s legislative agenda, including high-cost bailouts and health care reform, and that reducing the national debt is among his top priorities.

“It’s not a revenue problem,” he said. “It’s a spending problem.”

Mr. Conway, the state’s attorney general, and Mr. Paul, one of the original 2010 “tea party” candidates, squared off in their only nationally televised debate with just 30 days remaining before the general election.

Polls show Mr. Paul leading in one of the most closely watched races this election cycle. The race has captivated Americans nationwide since Mr. Paul, an ophthalmologist and first-time political candidate, defeated Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who was backed by the Republican establishment, in one of the early midterm primaries.

A Rasmussen poll last week showed Mr. Paul leading Mr. Conway by 11 points.

Though Mr. Paul largely has avoided attacking Mr. Conway, on Sunday he portrayed Mr. Conway as a full supporter of Mr. Obama’s agenda. Mr. Conway said he supports the health care reform and other Obama administration initiatives, but would have voted against bailouts.

“There was not enough accountability in them,” he said. “We had people getting bonuses after getting the bailouts.”

Said Mr. Paul: “What he needs to do is either defend his president or run away - so far, he’s running away from President Obama and the agenda.”

Mr. Paul is a strong supporter of repealing the health care law.

When Mr. Conway said he was honored to be running for former Democratic Sen. Wendell Ford’s seat, Mr. Paul shot back, “I didn’t know it was Wendell Ford’s seat. I thought it was the people’s seat.”

Though both candidates agreed that Bush-era tax cuts should be extended, Mr. Paul accused Mr. Conway of flip-flopping on the issue.

“You were for them before you were against them before you were for them again,” Mr. Paul said.

Mr. Conway said he opposes special-interest provisions that allow U.S. companies to send jobs overseas, but supported the Bush administration tax cuts.

Mr. Paul also accused Mr. Conway of supporting the Democrats’ so-called “cap-and-trade” legislation aimed at regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, which he called “a disaster for coal jobs” in Kentucky.

Mr. Conway said that he did not support the House bill passed in 2009 and that he always will act to protect coal.

“Don’t read the news,” he said. “Take a look at my actions as attorney general.”

Mr. Paul also said he would consider raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare for future recipients because the wave of retiring baby boomers might overburden the systems.

“To put our head in the sand and just say we’re just going to keep borrowing more money is not going to work,” he said. “There will have to be changes for the younger generation.”

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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