Paul's caucus plan opposed by Trump, some Kentucky Republicans

Paul's caucus plan opposed by Trump, some Kentucky Republicans

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, dealing with a rash of bad news on the presidential campaign trail, now faces opposition from fellow Kentucky Republicans over his push to change the state's GOP primary to a caucus.

The opposition, first reported by the website Politico, comes just days before the Kentucky Republican Party's central committee vote scheduled for Aug. 22.

Paul's staff say the senator will honor his pledge to pay for the caucus, estimated to cost $400,000 to $600,000 in the first year. Yet some members of the party's executive committee are questioning whether Paul will do so.

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"I'm certain they will vote (on Aug. 22)," state party chairman Steve Robertson said. "The question is, I don't know how they will vote."

Paul wants a caucus so he can continue running for both the presidency and re-election to his Senate seat at the same time. Kentucky law bars him from appearing on the same ballot twice and, as it stands, that would be the scenario in the Republican primary next May.

The proposal approved by the party's 50-member executive committee earlier this year calls for a caucus on the first Saturday in March. In 2016, that would be March 5.

The full 340 member central committee must still vote before a change could be made. Paul has been the strongest supporter of the plan, having lobbied for it since last year, and plans to attend the Aug. 22 meeting to answer questions.

"We have said time and again that Sen. Paul stands by his previous commitment to fund the caucus and that we have the funds available," said Kelsey Cooper, a Paul spokeswoman. "The money is in the bank, and we anticipate the support of the full central committee for a caucus in 2016."

Despite Paul's assurances, Robertson said the largest concern remains the cost of the caucus changes -- especially in the first year.

"I don't know that there's doubt (that Paul won't pay), but I know that there's confidence when money is in hand," Robertson said, confirming that Paul's campaign has not yet provided money to the party.

Former Metro Councilman Ken Fleming, who has a vote on the central committee, said he planned to decide how to vote after he heard from Paul next Saturday.

"I want to hear from him," Fleming said in an interview Tuesday. "I want to know exactly how this is going to be funded."

Former Jefferson County Republican chairman Jack Richardson said he supported Paul's request because it would make Kentucky more relevant in the nominating process. The plan before the central committee calls for holding a caucus on March 5, up from the current May primary.

"It just so happens that in this situation, Rand Paul is the catalyst," Richardson said. "Let's not lose sight of the fact that this is good for the party. How you feel about Rand one way or the other is irrelevant to what is needed for the Kentucky Republican Party."

The caucus plan calls for delegates to be awarded proportionally, rather than a winner-take-all system. That means Paul would have to campaign for votes against other candidates who choose to make inroads in Kentucky.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who has sparred with Paul in recent days, said Monday that Paul "reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain."

"Why is Rand Paul allowed to take advantage of the people of Kentucky by running for senator and (president)," Trump asked on Twitter.

Paul responded with his own attacks Tuesday in New Hampshire, calling Trump "vulgar" and charging that the businessman lacked a vision for the country.

The Kentucky caucus battle comes as Paul, once considered a frontrunner for the Republican nomination, has seen his poll numbers decline.

Two Paul aides were indicted last week for their alleged roles in a pay-to-play scandal involving Ron Paul's presidential campaign in 2012. Meanwhile, Paul's performance in last week's Fox News debate received criticism from some national pundits.

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