ALEXANDRIA — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, an outspoken opponent of President Barack Obama's health care law, described his frustration upon signing up for the Washington, D.C., exchange, which the senator did Wednesday.
Paul spoke to reporters Thursday after an event in Northern Kentucky, saying that the law is not a success in Kentucky despite the high interest and thousands who have enrolled.
"It made me an unhappy person," Paul said, chuckling.
Paul said the process took him more than two hours, and several times he lost the information he had entered into the troubled website.
"I got all the way through with Obamacare one time, and then I lost all my information," he said.
When asked how to fix the health care law, Paul said, "I'm not sure if there is a fix.
"I will vote to try to make it less bad if possible," he said.
Paul took issue with the suggestion that Kentucky's implementation has been a success; it has been hailed by Democrats around the country, including Obama.
"People are saying Kentucky is a success — 280,000 people have been canceled by their insurance," he said.
The state's junior senator, flirting openly with a White House run in 2016, spent Thursday touring the state continuing to sell his idea for "Economic Freedom Zones" — suspended and lowered tax rates for areas of the country where unemployment rates are well above the national average.
The senator stopped and spoke to reporters at almost every stop, invariably hearing questions about the Republican primary between U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.
Paul reiterated that he is still endorsing McConnell but added that he "tries to be nice to all Republicans" and hopes that it will be "a healthy process and not a destructive one."
Paul was stuck in an awkward position last month when observers began to wonder how devoted he was to his endorsement of McConnell, noting his kind words for Bevin the day the challenger filed to make his run official.
Specifically, there was some question about whether Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager and a longtime ally of the Paul family, had angered Paul last month; Benton and Paul had seemed at odds when Benton tried to qualify kind words Paul had for Bevin.
Paul on Thursday laughed off the idea that the dust-up had led to an awkward Thanksgiving, as Benton is married to Paul's niece. The senator said Benton is doing his job by defending his candidate.
"I try to take it with a grain of salt the things that he says," Paul said. "He's doing his job, and I'm trying to present my position the best I can."
The senator was asked what he thought about the race and whether he has seen evidence that Bevin is gaining traction against McConnell.
"Just from what I've seen, I don't think it's particularly close at this point," Paul said.
He added: "My guess would be that the general election is fairly close."
Analyzing state politics, Paul said he has no plans to endorse in a Republican gubernatorial primary that is likely to include former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner, who told the Herald-Leader this week he will likely announce his run early next year, and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
"I'd say it's at least a 50/50 shot you'll get a Republican win in 2015," Paul said.
The senator also weighed in on next week's special election in the state House 7th District to replace former Rep. John Arnold, who resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment.
Paul said he has circulated emails on behalf of Suzanne Miles, the Republican candidate, who is locked in a tight race with Democrat Kim Humphrey.
"I think (Miles) has a good chance," Paul said. "You know, the Owensboro area has become pretty conservative."
White House comments on McConnell
During Thursday's White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney was asked about President Barack Obama mentioning Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell recently and repeatedly as Obama seeks to defend the Affordable Care Act, which has struggled nationally.
"I think (Obama) took note of the fact that Kentucky is a state where we've seen a significant number of people sign up, based on what Kentucky is reporting, for the Affordable Care Act under the state exchange," Carney said. "And that instead of calling on Congress to repeal, or Washington to repeal the Affordable Care Act, (McConnell) ought to listen to his own constituents, who are demonstrating by their actions that they want and need affordable, quality health insurance."
Carney was asked whether Obama's criticisms of McConnell were a suggestion from the president that likely Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes would be a better senator for Kentucky.
"Oh, I see. This is about electoral politics," Carney said. "I didn't get where your question was coming, that it's about the election. No, this is about policy. This is about policy and the fact that Sen. McConnell's the Republican leader."
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com