Mitch McConnell Wants You to Know How Much He Adores Rand Paul

The Senate minority leader wrote a glowing entry for his fellow Kentucky Republican for <em>Time</em>‘s list of the 100 most influential people.

Senate Minority Leader Sen Mitch McConnell shakes hands with Sen. Rand Paul  during a news conference May 16, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
April 24, 2014, 8:06 a.m.

Rand Paul has had a good year.

Last April, the Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an made it onto Time’s list of the 100 most in­flu­en­tial people with an en­dorse­ment from Sarah Pal­in, who noted that she “sent him some cari­bou jerky from Alaska” to help give him strength.

This year, Paul ap­pears on the Time 100 again. But in­stead of get­ting an entry writ­ten by a politi­cian on the de­cline, Paul’s en­dorse­ment comes from the law­maker who leads the Re­pub­lic­an Party in the Sen­ate, and could well wind up as the cham­ber’s ma­jor­ity lead­er in less than a year.

Paul, Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell writes, is “beat­ing the bushes for any­one who prizes liberty, and he’s for­cing people to re­think the Re­pub­lic­an Party.” Mc­Con­nell also got in a semi-veiled dig at one of Paul’s po­ten­tial 2016 com­pet­it­ors, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, by prais­ing Paul for not speak­ing ill of his fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans. Mc­Con­nell’s come a long way from sup­port­ing Paul’s primary op­pon­ent in 2010. The Time entry it­self is titled “The liber­tari­an cham­pi­on,” and is just about as rav­ing a re­view as you’d ever see one politi­cian give an­oth­er.

It’s es­pe­cially rav­ing com­pared with how Paul en­dorsed Mc­Con­nell for his Sen­ate cam­paign this year. Be­cause, while Mc­Con­nell may need Paul in his reelec­tion fight, Paul isn’t ne­ces­sar­ily pub­licly plead­ing for the lead­er’s sup­port.

In Paul’s telling, Mc­Con­nell isn’t quite beat­ing any shrub­bery of free­dom. When asked by Glenn Beck back in Feb­ru­ary why Paul was en­dors­ing the minor­ity lead­er in his GOP primary, Paul said he was go­ing to cam­paign for Mc­Con­nell be­cause “he asked me when there was nobody else in the race.” Paul later cla­ri­fied that he sees Mc­Con­nell as “an im­port­ant ally and a con­ser­vat­ive voice in Wash­ing­ton.” Paul fol­lowed up that en­dorse­ment by dodging a ques­tion about it at a com­munity for­um last week in Ken­tucky.

In re­sponse to the Time 100 en­dorse­ment, a spokes­per­son for Rand Paul said that the sen­at­or “is ex­cited to be a part of the na­tion­al de­bate and is very ap­pre­ci­at­ive of the kind words from his friend and col­league Sen. Mc­Con­nell.”

As Paul spends more and more time craft­ing his na­tion­al im­age ahead of a pos­sible pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, it’s clear that he’s in­ter­ested in more power and in­flu­ence than Mc­Con­nell could pos­sibly give him in the Sen­ate. But Mc­Con­nell, in his court­ship of the liber­tari­an wing of his party, still has a lot to gain from Paul. Writ­ing glow­ing trib­utes in a ma­jor na­tion­al magazine may be a good start.

This art­icle was up­dated with com­ment on Time 100 from Sen. Paul’s of­fice.

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