Since Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) announced his presidential campaign on April 7, his wife Kelley has emerged as one of his top surrogates and defenders.
Kelley has been stepping into the spotlight to promote her new book about the importance of female friendship. Inspired by a close knit circle of friends from her college days, she collected a selection of essays in “True and Constant Friends,” that celebrates the bonds between sisters, daughters, mothers and grandmothers.
With a female-centric project in hand, Kelley is now well-positioned to combat charges of sexism that have been leveled against her husband.
In the first few days of his campaign, Paul was criticised after a testy interview last week with “Today” host Savannah Guthrie. He also has been reticent thus far to speak out and clarify his position on a key women’s issue: abortion.
During the exchange with Guthrie on April 8, one day after the launch of his presidential campaign, a humorless looking Sen. Paul appeared annoyed when Guthrie listed off perceived changes in his foreign policy views as part of her question on his platform.
“Before we go through a litany of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a question, ‘Have I changed my opinion?’ That would sort of a better way to approach an interview,” he told Guthrie.
Some accused the Republican politician of having patronized Guthrie, but Kelley Paul fired back in support of her husband.
“Frankly, it offends me, because that’s not who he is,” she told the New York Times on Monday, when asked about the sexism allegations.
“He’s the last person in the world who would ever be dismissive of someone because they’re a woman. I mean the last person,” she continued, adding that he worked for years with a female surgical partner at his ophthalmology practice.
However, she did concede that her husband, the father of three boys, could learn to be gentler.
“Someone could make the argument that perhaps he should be more poised, he needs to be smoother with this. And that’s legitimate,” she added.
To publicize her book, Paul returned to her husband’s stomping ground and was a guest on “Today” Tuesday. But she was interviewed by Hoda Kotb and not Guthrie.
On the criticism of her husband, she said, “It’s hard for me sometimes to see him being criticised because that’s not who he is in terms of his relationships with women.”
Kelley, who has moved with the couple’s youngest son from Kentucky to Washington DC to be close to her husband, seems ready and willing to hit the trail to promote Paul 2016.
She introduced her husband at his campaign launch rally last Tuesday and starred in a heart warming campaign video that introduces Rand Paul in “Kelley’s words.”
Other spouses of declared candidates do not seem likely to play such prominent roles.
Jeanette Rubio, wife of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), appeared on stage at her husband’s presidential launch rally in Miami on Monday but did not speak.
President Bill Clinton, husband of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was not included in her campaign announcement video and is not accompanying Clinton on her road trip to Iowa. Given his notoriety, the ex-president is reportedly expected to play a “backstage” role in his wife’s operation.
Heidi Cruz, the wife of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is taking a leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs while her husband makes his White House bid. She took the stage with the couple’s two daughters at the conclusion of her husband’s speech to announce his campaign on March 23. She has appeared on certain campaign stops with her husband and was even caught appealing to female voters in a women’s bathroom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Kelley Paul, though, is a bona fide politico in her own right. She previously worked for the GOP consulting firm Strategy Group for Media, and she is advising her husband to open up and share from the heart during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The senator’s campaign team did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the part she make take in his effort.
Her greatest role in may be simply softening the image of the “famously dour senator,” as her husband was characterised in a 2013 Vogue magazine profile.
“Paul is more likable when Kelley’s around — and likable still counts in politics … Kelley’s ebullient smile and occasional appeals for restraint balance her husband’s prickly delivery,” the fashion glossy concluded.
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