Rand Paul: Being called a presidential frontrunner 'sounds unlucky'

syoungman@herald-leader.comJanuary 23, 2014 

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul didn't miss a beat Thursday when asked at a Commerce Lexington luncheon how to make the National Labor Relations Board more business-friendly.

"New president," Paul answered.

In recent days, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie mired in scandal, Paul has jumped to the top of some people's list of Republican presidential contenders and is being discussed as the new frontrunner for the 2016 GOP nomination.

The most recent edition of The Atlantic magazine features a column by Peter Beinart headlined "Rand Paul is the 2016 Republican frontrunner."

When asked about potentially claiming the political equivalent of a pre-season No. 1 ranking, Paul laughed.

"That sounds unlucky to me," he said. "I think it's still too early probably to talk about things like that. My focus right now really is trying to figure out how we can get the discussion back towards how we create jobs in the country, how we get a more pro-business environment for the country."

With few exceptions, Paul has been reluctant to weigh in on allegations that Christie abused his power by orchestrating traffic gridlock last fall to punish an uncooperative mayor.

On Thursday, Kentucky's junior senator said it's not his "job to decide" whether Christie's problems disqualify him from the nomination hunt.

Paul has been more open in flirting with a White House run than most candidates, but he has repeatedly said he won't decide until after this year's midterm elections.

In his appearance at Commerce Lexington luncheon, during which he fielded questions mostly dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency, Paul wasn't shy in setting his sights on the Democratic frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Teeing off on a question about the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, Paul questioned why reinforcements weren't sent once the embassy came under attack, placing the blame at Clinton's feet with an unprompted 2016 flavor.

"She's in charge of the State Department, and I think that's who was in charge that night, was Hillary Clinton," Paul said. "And you don't want a commander-in-chief who's not going to send reinforcements."

Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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