Senator Rand Paul is beloved by the Tea Party, but he doesn’t seem to be worried about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s prediction the GOP establishment will “crush” primary challengers supported by conservative groups. When he was asked about McConnell’s recent comments in an interview with Blaze Radio Tuesday, Paul suggested his fellow Kentucky Republican didn’t really mean his vow to crush Tea Party insurgents.
“I think, in the middle of the campaign sometimes, things are said that may not be intended,” Paul said of McConnell’s remarks.
Paul, a likely 2016 presidential candidate whose strong support among the base was displayed in his landslide victory in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll last week, also addressed the idea the Tea Party’s strength is waning.
“I think the Tea Party still is a huge part of the Republican Party and really the energy of it,” Paul said, later adding, “I still believe the Tea Party is a big factor and will be a big factor in the elections.”
Paul was also asked about whether primary challenges against McConnell and other establishment candidates supported by Tea Party-linked groups are productive for the Republican Party.
“For the most part, primaries, I think, are a good thing. I think we need to try to keep the debate on a civilized plain so we don’t damage each other so much that the Democrats take advantage,” Paul said. “While there can be contention, it can’t be so bitter that, in the end, you want the Democrats to win or you don’t show up in the fall to win if your guy didn’t win in the primary, because there truly is a difference. For all of our squabbles up here, there is a big difference between Republicans and Democrats.”
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