FRANKFORT — By effectively ending his presidential campaign before Kentucky's primary, Ron Paul has prevented a potentially awkward situation for his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green.
Despite the popularity of Rand Paul, a Tea Party darling who rose from relative obscurity to become one of Kentucky's most popular political figures, Ron Paul was expected to take a shellacking from presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday.
The elder Paul hasn't campaigned in Kentucky, and his son hasn't publicly urged Kentucky voters to get behind his father.
"I think Ron Paul did Rand a huge favor by not embarrassing him," said Republican strategist Mike Karem of Louisville. "Ron Paul's chances were nil to none, and none done left town. He had no chance in Kentucky. He would have gotten slaughtered."
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Ron Paul still will be on Kentucky's ballot, but he effectively ended his presidential campaign a week ago when he announced he'd no longer be spending money on the race. Republicans Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum also will be on the ballot. Neither withdrew in time to have their names removed.
President Barack Obama, the only Democrat on Kentucky's presidential ballot, faces what could be a prickly position because voters will have the option of choosing "uncommitted" on their ballots.
Two weeks ago in neighboring West Virginia, a prison inmate received 41 percent of the vote against Obama. The question looms as to whether Obama, who remains largely unpopular in Kentucky, could face another such embarrassment here.
"I just don't see that happening," said University of Louisville political scientist Dewey Clayton. "The turnout is going to be very low, and so I think those who go vote are more than likely going to vote for Obama because he does have support from die-hard Democrats in this state."
The lack of a competitive presidential race has brewed apathy in Kentucky, where Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said she expects up to 90 percent of the state's nearly 3 million registered voters to sit out the primary.
Grimes said a handful of congressional, legislative and local races have been stirring some interest, but "the presidential election really isn't having an impact on bringing our voters out."
Kentucky voters will have a say in 38 legislative primaries. They'll also vote in congressional primaries involving 25 candidates, most of whom are long-shots who have raised little or no money.
Incumbent U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers, Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie, and Ben Chandler drew no primary opposition, and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth has only token opposition from a fellow Democrat with no campaign cash.
In the Republican-rich 4th District, seven GOP hopefuls and two Democrats are seeking their parties' nominations to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis. That race, Grimes said, is one of the most talked about. But she said it's expected to draw only about 12 percent of eligible voters to the polls. It's also one in which Rand Paul has a vested interested. One of his political protégés, Lewis County Judge-Executive Thomas Massie, is seeking the Republican nomination there.
Rand Paul and Ron Paul have endorsed Massie, who is in a tight race with state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore. Rand Paul also is appearing in a TV ad on behalf of Massie and has made automated calls to Republican voters across the 4th District urging them to vote for Massie.
In his father's race, Rand Paul has largely remained silent in Kentucky, although he has campaigned in states across the country for his father, a 12-term Republican congressman from Texas and a three-time presidential candidate.
"This isn't the kind of state where Ron Paul's been doing well," said University of Kentucky political scientist Steve Voss. "For one thing, the southern states have tended to be more hostile to Ron Paul's foreign policies. What he offered was a less interventionist foreign policy than we usually get from Republicans. And that played well with people outside the South who were unhappy with the Bush administration's aggressive foreign policy. It's not playing so well in the South where the presence of the military is a lot larger."
Tea Party activist David Adams, an ardent Ron Paul supporter, said he thinks the libertarian-leaning congressman actually could have won in Kentucky if he had spent time here explaining his positions. But, because it would have required a major financial investment for TV ads, Adams said it wasn't to be.