Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signs on to Rand Paul 2016

Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled his support for Rand Paul’s potential 2016 presidential campaign in a wide-ranging interview with the Lexington Herald-Reader after Tuesday night’s Republican sweep of key Senate races and McConnell’s own stunning defeat of his Democratic challenger.

From the interview:

McConnell also is intrigued by Paul’s plans for 2016, when Kentucky’s junior senator faces re-election to his Senate seat while potentially running for president.

It’s a safe bet that Paul won’t be the only member of McConnell’s GOP caucus who considers trying for a move to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Does that require a tricky balance?

“(It’s) not tricky at all,” McConnell said. “Obviously, I’m a big supporter of Rand Paul. We’ve developed a very tight relationship, and I’m for him.”

For president?

“Whatever he decides to do,” McConnell said. “I don’t think he’s made a final decision on that. But he’ll be able to count on me.”

Paul endorsed McConnell in early 2013, months before McConnell’s tea party-backed primary challenger — Matt Bevin — materialized. McConnell trounced Bevin in the May an almost 2-to-1 margin.

After the primary, Senator Paul campaigned alongside McConnell in the Bluegrass State in addition to campaigning for every credible Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in an ultimately successful effort to take the majority.

Having McConnell as an ally heading in to the 2016 cycle is an incredibly important victory for Paul, who may see his legislative star rise as McConnell begins setting the agenda for the Republican-controlled Senate. Paul has led on a number of initiatives like Audit the Fed, criminal justice reform, and NSA domestic spying that could finally get a fair hearing in the Senate. These victories would give Paul an impressive legislative portfolio as he decides whether or not to run for President.

The importance of having the support of Majority Leader McConnell cannot be understated. Paul’s ability to remain true to the principles he espoused when he was elected in 2010 while developling strong relationships with “Establishment” Republicans will certainly pay dividends.

In addition to McConnell’s support, Paul campaigned in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, for Senator-elect Joni Ernst and Scott Brown, respectively. He also made his presence known in North Carolina for Thom Tillis, in Kansas for Pat Roberts, and in other states. Paul was heavily sought after as a surrogate by campaigns, and his support for successful Republicans in key states will not go unnoticed.

In addition to campaigning in person for these and other candidates. Paul cut a number of ads for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in support of Tillis and others. His leadership PAC also dropped six figures on an ad buy to ensure Kansas Republican Pat Roberts won his tough re-election battle.

After Tuesday night’s Republican victories, Senator Paul made sure to highlight the Democrat losses as #HillarysLosers on Twitter, noting that Hillary Clinton had campaigned for a number of unsuccessful Democrat candidates.

Make no mistake, the beginning of the 2016 campaign cycle is just around the corner.

CNN acknowledged this and said of Paul:

There’s [Senator Rand] Paul, rooted in controversial libertarian politics, who emerged in the Senate as one of the more thought-provoking public figures in recent memory, with calls to expand to the party’s reach to younger people and minorities. His biggest asset — a sometimes undisciplined shoot-from-the-hip authenticity — might also be his biggest liability.

Senator Paul scheduled a major meeting next Wednesday in Washington, D.C. to discuss his 2016 strategy. Perhaps they’ll discuss McConnell’s support and how he can best serve the 2016 effort.

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