Image: Rand Paul
Ed Reinke  /  AP
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul addresses a luncheon meeting of the Lions Club in Bowling Green, Ky., on Tuesday.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 5/26/2010 3:52:27 PM ET 2010-05-26T19:52:27

A week after a come-from-behind victory over the GOP's establishment candidate in a Kentucky Senate primary, Rand Paul is facing a possible challenge by the Libertarian Party and is shaking up his staff after comments he made about racial segregation caused a firestorm.

Despite his pedigree as the son of former Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul, Libertarian Vice Chairman Joshua Koch said Rand Paul has betrayed the party's values with stands he's taken, and they were considering finding a candidate to run for the seat.

It was a startling development that could play a role in shaping the outcome of the race in November by siphoning votes from Paul to the benefit of his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. The news came on the same day that Paul named Jesse Benton, one of his father's former aides, as his campaign manager.

The shake-up was announced a week after a round of interviews in which Paul dismayed fellow Republicans with his views on racial segregation. Paul suggested to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow last week that the federal government shouldn't have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if business owners don't want to.

Despite the timing, Benton said the staffing changes have nothing to do with the postelection political firestorm. Benton replaces David Adams, who was made campaign chairman.

"Our team is remaining intact," said Benton. "We've clarified some roles and will be adding even more talent to what is going to prove an extremely formidable operation."

Rand Paul's father was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988. He is currently a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

Once an ally, Koch had strong criticism for Paul, who won the Republican Senate nomination last week by trouncing the GOP establishment candidate, Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

"He had gone from being an outsider candidate to a tea party candidate to an establishment candidate in the past nine months," Koch said. "It's a complete identity crisis. I've never seen anything like it."

Insisting Paul is no Libertarian, Koch called Paul and his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, "faces of the same bad coin."

The Libertarian Party doesn't have a strong presence in Kentucky. But the race is being closely watched as Democrats seek to reclaim a seat that is being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, a 78-year-old former major league pitcher who opted not to seek a third term.

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University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck said if the Senate race were to be close, a Libertarian candidate could potentially take enough votes from Paul to affect the outcome.

Video: Amid storm, Paul cancels ‘MTP’ appearance "A lot of the Libertarian candidates are people with little or no political experience," she said. "They don't speak well in public. They're underfunded. But it would make a point."

Who the Libertarian Party might put up to run in the race was unclear on Wednesday. The filing deadline is Aug. 10.

The Paul campaign said it wasn't concerned about the development. "If someone wants to split up Kentucky's non-conservative vote more than it already is, that's OK with me," Adams said.

Conway had no immediate comment.

Koch said Paul's views on a variety of subjects differ from the Libertarian Party, including his promised support for any measures to ban abortion and his opposition to same-sex marriage.

"Trying to impose a national standard for that would throw the whole system out of balance, and that's definitely not Libertarian," Koch said.

Koch also said Paul is out of step with Libertarians in his unwillingness to call for U.S. troops to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The reason why we would even consider running somebody in this race is because we're not going to let Rand determine what a Libertarian stands for," he said. "I'm here to say Rand does not have the Libertarian ideology."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Is Palin playing loose with the facts?

  1. Closed captioning of: Is Palin playing loose with the facts?

    all: your business processes to xerox. swee are here with editorial writer ruth marcus whose article today takes sarah palin to task for what she calls fact free commentary. "this is ruth speaking now -- palin has had ample time now outside the crash course of a presidential campaign to develop and exhibit some understanding of the issues. her learning curve , from all the available evidence, is a flat line. three unattractive palin traits have if anything been amplified since the election before her unwillingness to buckle down and to preparation, her tendency to adopt what mccain adviser described as a down is up and up is down version of reality and her enhanced sense of injury at what she cleverly refers to as the lame stream media." that is -- welcome to the show .

    >> didn't hold back there.

    >> no, you didn't.

    >> so give us some examples of she's not beefing up on the issues. give us some examples of that.

    >> well, i think if you listen to her speeches, they strike me as really a kind of collection of one-liners and oh, how is that hopey, changey thing working out for you and not a sort of serious discussion of the issues. and then specifically, think about the gulf oil spill. she was talking about how maybe, and you've been talking, joe, about the administration's response and belated response and not doing the right things with the spill. okay, completely fair enough. she went on fox news and suggested that it was because the obama administration was in the pocket of big oil because of contributions that it had gotten during the campaign. that's just factually incorrect. it doesn't seem to faze her.

    >> you're exactly right, ruth . we've been parroting what a lot on the left have been saying about the president's slow response. but --

    >> i don't disagree with that.

    >> i'm with you, when she said that they were somehow in the pockets of bill oil, obama, compared to sarah palin who she and john mccain , biggest chance we heard on the republican floor was drill, baby, drill. it was -- it really was up is down and down is up.

    >> not just that but look, there is a tension between the get government off our backs, let's not have the too much regulation so we don't, you know, dissuade business from inventing and creating and everything and the problems that we're seeing in the gulf. a thoughtful conservative such as yourself would sit there and, well, i have to say i woke up this morning , turned on " morning joe " and the first thing i saw was your tummy, a live shot of your tummy.

    >> pretty tight. thoughtful and tight.

    >> but a thoughtful conservative would deal with the tension there, stop making me giggle. would deal with the tension there instead of just saying well, they're not cracking down enough.

    >> so why can't she -- and this is what hurts the reporters won't answer for me. why can't see sit down and study up on the issues? is it so frustrating? she goes out and speaks in generalities in cutesy phrases. it drives me crazy. why can't she study up?

    >> because she doesn't feel like it. it doesn't work that well for her and why bother. she's feeling great with her peeps.

    >> these getting rich. thank you for the compliment on my stomach, ruth . ay, yay, yay, yay ay, yay, yay, yay baby, baby, baby, baby... uh-oh

    >> no matter what life throws at you, you can take

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