Get ready for two Pauls, one Congress. Rand Paul, son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), won the Kentucky Senate race tonight, according to the cable news networks. With just 103 out of 3,578 precincts reporting, Paul leads Democrat Jack Conway 54.7-45.3. MSNBC and CNN have called the race for the Republican.
The win means the controversial junior Senator from Kentucky, Jim Bunning, who often publicly scraps with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, will be replaced by another controversial junior Senator from Kentucky who got where he is today in part by publicly scrapping with McConnell already.
It may be no surprise, then, that Paul has said he intends to emulate Bunning’s irascible nature, which led him to vote against TARP and hold up unemployment benefit extensions for months while even fellow members of his Republican caucus tried to stop him.[TPM SLIDESHOW: Stranger Than Fiction? TPM Casts The 2010 Midterm Elections]
But Paul, of course, brings his own personality to the Senate with him as well. Perhaps the tea partyest of the tea party incoming class, Paul has wrapped himself in the movement that has come to define conservative frustration this election like no other Republican has. His past as a sort-of libertarian suggests he may take a similar legislative tack to his father, who is often the lone dissenting vote in the House. Paul has said he is different from his dad, but he did enjoy the nearly complete support from his father’s network of libertarian conservatives across the country.
Democrats did their best to use Paul’s sometimes strange past against him, targeting him with what most said was one of the toughest ads of the cycle. The ad, which referred to an accusation leveled against Paul from a woman he went to school with at Baylor University who said he once tied her up, put her in a creek and asked her to worship “Aqua Buddha” as part of a “prank,” was Democratic nominee Jack Conway’s Hail Mary pass.
It apparently didn’t do the job, and Paul is now doing what most people predicted he would — ascend easily to the Senate on the backs of the angry tea party.