What A Week: Rand Paul Takes The National Stage

May 21, 2010 2:37 p.m.

Despite his undeniably impressive victory over the GOP establishment on Tuesday night, Kentucky Senate nominee Rand Paul’s first week in the center of the national spotlight has turned him from The Next Big Thing to — at best — the object of extreme skepticism.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Paul delivered this warning to the political establishment: “What I say to Washington is, ‘Watch out, here we come.”

Forty-eight hours later, he was on the run from political reporters trying to pin him on his issues with civil rights law and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

What happened?In short, his past caught up with him. Despite the fact that trounced national GOP choice Trey Grayson 59-35, he is still a member of the extreme libertarian fringe of the Republican party. And, as we found out this week, that means he has baggage. A lot of it.

First, Paul told NPR that he took issue with parts of the Americans With Disabilities Act (as well as federal regulation of mining and the environment.) Then came the doozy — a 20 minute discussion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the Rachel Maddow Show.

By the end of that interview, media focus on Paul become all-civil-rights-all-the-time. Paul had told Maddow he was opposed to sections of civil rights law requiring private businesses to accommodate all comers, and that changed everything.

Paul floundered around for most of the day on Thursday, first putting out a statement that said he was opposed to repealing the civil rights act, then saying he actually supported the section of the bill he said he didn’t like and finally stating he would have voted ‘yes’ on the bill had he been in Congress back in mid-sixties.

That problem “solved,” Paul almost immediately jumped into some more hot water. In an interview Friday morning, Paul claimed that the way President Obama has been criticizing BP for helping to cause one of the largest oil spills in the nation’s history was “un-American.”

By now, reporters were on to Paul — it became clear he’s not your average Republican and the media set about turning over rocks to find out what they could learn. It didn’t take much time to paint a picture of a man who fears the coming American Hitler, is a go-to guest for the country’s foremost AM radio conspiracy theorist and gives stump speeches that include warnings about the Left’s plan to replace the Dollar with something called “the Amero.”

Paul is now officially on the fringe (or totally in the mainstream if you’re a Libertarian), about as far away from the establishment conversation as one can get and still be a legitimate political candidate. That’s the national view anyway. Back home in Kentucky, Republicans are preparing to rally around him despite their wariness. They say Paul will still win in November (his Democratic opponent disagrees) though they don’t hesitate to separate themselves from his wilder views.

The week that began with Paul triumphantly bursting out onto the national stage ended with him slinking away from it. Perhaps not willing to take his still-green candidacy to broadcast journalism’s most revered stage, Paul backed out of a long-planned interview on Meet The Press late Friday afternoon.

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