- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Rand Paul came home for Thanksgiving to talk about his faith in God.

Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator, who has been traveling the country to support his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and rarely speaks about his faith, plans to fly across the state Monday and Tuesday for several book signings and events to support his lesser known pursuit: re-election to his U.S. Senate seat. And after watching Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin preach “vote your values not your party” on his way to a landslide statewide election victory, Paul started his Kentucky tour on Monday talking about his faith.

Paul has a new book out highlighting the Christian faith of American presidents, including frequent Paul punching bag Barack Obama. He told a crowd at a Lexington bookstore on Monday that his faith is “a daily process of trying to be more Christ-like.” He called it “an uneasy and rocky journey,” describing it as “an overcoming process” hindered by a “healthy dose of skepticism.”

“I’m a physician and it’s not always easy seeing, I guess, tragedy in life,” Paul said in an interview. “I’ve seen people die up close and personal. And I think it’s not always easy to see God’s hand in evil or misfortune.”

Democrats questioned Paul’s faith during his first campaign for Senate in a now infamous TV ad that accused Paul of worshipping a god known as “Aqua-Buddha” while in college. The ad backfired in a big way and Paul would go on to an easy win. Paul would spend the next six years focusing on issues of national security and government finance. But he will run for re-election in a state still embroiled in the actions of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs, energizing thousands of religious voters in the process. Paul supports Davis.

“To know that he has a strong faith is a reassuring thing,” said 34-year-old Josh Barlow of Versailles, who came to hear Paul speak at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington. “Washington and just the general political realm is filled with a lot of people that don’t seem to have a strong foundation. …They are swayed by … public opinion or whatever the flavor of the day or the season is.”

Paul has three book-signings scheduled on this trip, plus seven other stops in all regions of the state.

On Monday, Paul hit on several topics sure to be issues during his re-election, including bashing the Common Core education standards and calling Kentucky’s expansion of its Medicaid program “misplaced humanitarianism.” Paul said he supports Bevin’s plan to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange and scale back the eligibility requirements of its Medicaid program that together have given more than 500,000 Kentuckians health insurance in the past two years.

“It won’t be easy. I think (Bevin’s) got a lot of challenges ahead on how he’s going to do it. So I don’t envy the job of how he’s going to do it,” Paul said.

While Paul’s chances at a presidential nomination are in doubt, his Senate seat is looking stronger. Democrats are reeling from their dismal showing in the Nov. 3 statewide elections and have not put forward a viable candidate. Some Kentucky voters, like 49-year-old Eric Foote, who came to the bookstore wearing a homemade Rand Paul T-shirt, are solid Paul supporters for both campaigns.

But others, including 55-year-old Anne Rush, say they support Paul’s Senate re-election but have some concerns voting for him for president.

“I’m not sure who I’m going to vote for (president) as of now,” she said. “It’s about electability, I think. It’s about beating Hillary at this point.”

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