The PJ Tatler

Rand Paul Running for Senate in 2016 -- and President, Too?

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced this morning that he’ll run for re-election to the upper chamber in 2016.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t be running for president at the same time.

Paul’s campaign released a statement touting his endorsements from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will be majority leader next month and benefited from Paul campaigning on his behalf, and every other member of the state’s GOP delegation.

“I ran for office because, like many Kentuckians, I was alarmed at the problems facing our country: a stagnant and uneven economy, a growing national debt, out-of-control federal spending, a disastrous health care plan, the assault on our civil rights and liberties, and a misguided foreign policy,” Paul said.

“I have drawn attention to these problems and others here in Kentucky, like the War on Coal, an overzealous EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, and the ban on industrial hemp. I have sought to work with any and all who are eager to find solutions and promote reforms. I stand with Kentucky in this fight, and I hope to continue together in the task of repairing and revitalizing our great nation.”

McConnell joined the announcement, calling Paul “an irreplaceable partner” in the Senate.

“His innovative mind for conservative reforms that create jobs and get the economy working again is essential in the U.S. Senate as we seek to reverse Obama policies that have hurt Kentucky families,” he added.

Paul told Kentucky media in a story published Monday that he’s “four to six months” away from deciding whether he will run for president.

And the next steps? National Journal reports that the senator’s “brain trust has spent months developing an exhaustive political and legal battle plan to ensure he can run for both Senate reelection and the White House in 2016—despite a Kentucky law that suggests otherwise”:

They have developed backup plans for their backup plans in an all-out effort to safeguard Paul’s Senate seat should he falter in the presidential sweepstakes. The contingencies range from changing Kentucky into a presidential caucus state to filing a lawsuit challenging the law, from daring Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to keep him off the ballot to taking her out next November if she does.

…The problem facing Paul is pretty simple. Kentucky law says “no candidate’s name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once.” Yet Paul wants to appear as a candidate both for Senate and president.

…They argue the Kentucky statute is unconstitutional when applied to federal races, citing the U.S. Supreme Court tossing out state-imposed federal term limits. Other national candidates, including Paul Ryan in 2012 and Joe Biden in 2008, have successfully sought lower federal offices simultaneously. But Paul’s team wants to avoid fighting a court battle, if possible.

Currently, the top option Team Rand sees is to shift Kentucky’s May 2016 presidential primary to a caucus in March, which would technically mean Paul isn’t on the same ballot and thus could circumvent the restriction.

The shift would have another advantage for Paul: moving up his home state in the nominating calendar. His team is eyeing March 16—the earliest date a winner-take-all caucus could be held without penalty, per Republican National Committee rules.