Kentucky Senator Rand Paul doesn’t have a problem with Democrats heavily influencing Republican primaries. Paul, a likely contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, refused to criticize Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaign efforts to lure Democrats to the polls with race-baiting ads and promises of government handouts. “I’m for more people voting, not less people voting. I think the people of Mississippi spoke and I think Thad Cochran has done a lot of good things for Mississippi,” Paul told reporters on Wednesday.
What kinds of “good things”? A Tax Foundation study found that Mississippi ranks first in the amount of federal aid as a percentage of state revenue, comprising more than 46% of the state’s income. Sen. Cochran suggested during the campaign that he would like to see the return of earmarks, which lawmakers banned in 2010. Prior to the ban, Cochran steered more earmarks to his state than any other member of Congress.
Sen. Paul also told reporters that one of his sons spent time working on a proposal that would open Kentucky’s closed primary system to independent voters. Mississippi has an open primary system that allows voters to cross party lines on primary day. Paul has also pushed for restoring voting rights for convicted felons and has said that the GOP’s voter ID push is “completely crazy.” He later walked the comment back, explaining that what he meant to say was, “We have to change people’s perception of us as a party so they’ll listen more to what we’re trying to do.”
An estimated 35,000 Democrats crossed over to vote for Cochran in Mississippi after significant ad buys in Democrat strongholds like Jackson. In majority-black neighborhoods, Cochran bragged about his support for historically black colleges and universities, the Jackson Medical Mall, and food stamps. Flyers and radio ads targeting black Democrats took on a darker tone, saying that the Tea Party — and Chris McDaniel — wanted to keep African Americans from voting and opposed federal funding of public schools and SNAP, the food stamp program funded by the federal Farm Bill. Is that what Sen. Paul has in mind when he says we need to “change people’s perception of us as a party”?
How far is Rand Paul willing to go to in order to get “more people voting”? Cochran succeeded in changing “people’s perception of us as a party” by race-baiting and sounding like a Democrat. Is this also Rand Paul’s strategy for expanding the ranks for the GOP and winning the Republican presidential nomination?