FRANKFORT — With the endorsement of Sarah Palin and his close ties to the conservative Tea Party movement, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul has become a darling of the national media.
In the last two weeks, the Bowling Green eye surgeon and the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has been featured on Fox News and CNN and was the subject of a lengthy profile in The Washington Post.
Stories about his campaign have popped up in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist, a London-based news magazine.
The heavy media attention outside of Kentucky is not surprising, given that Paul is leading in some polls of the May 18 GOP primary, even though few Kentuckians knew of him a year ago, Paul campaign manager David Adams said.
"The opportunity for Kentuckians to elect a conservative who has built a successful campaign from grass-roots efforts and has picked up endorsements from national conservatives such as Sarah Palin is national news," Adams said.
Heavy media attention from outside Kentucky is helping Paul attract even more interest in Kentucky, he contends.
"Wherever we travel in state, we try to stop at every media outlet," Adams said. "They seem more interested, in part, because of the national interest. And bigger crowds are turning out to hear and see our candidate."
Nate Hodson, campaign manager for Paul's key Republican opponent, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, sees it differently.
Hodson said it's not shocking that Paul is the subject of so many national news stories.
"Given that Rand Paul's entire campaign is based on his father's political career, it's not surprising that the son is getting attention of the national media," Hodson said.
Hodson predicts that the national media attention on Paul "will come back to haunt him."
"Republicans generally don't like media darlings," he said.
Hodson said Grayson has picked up endorsements from about 50 state representatives and county judges across Kentucky. "We are pleased we have them," he said.
Bill Johnson, a Todd County businessman who also is seeking the GOP nomination in the U.S. Senate race, said Paul is "trying to make this a national race.
"My question to him is, does he really want to be a public servant or a TV rock-star personality?" Johnson said. "It appears the latter."
Johnson, whose campaign often gets little media attention, said he tries to focus on local media in Kentucky.
"Mr. Paul is forgetting that people outside of Kentucky can't vote in this race," Johnson said.
"Personally, I'd much rather have a supporter write a letter on my behalf to the editor to the Lexington Herald-Leader than for me to be on Fox News."
Paul is a hot commodity in national news because "there are lots of interesting things about him," said Fox News correspondent Steve Brown, who did a profile on him last week.
Brown rattled off a list about Paul's news attraction: "He has been able to raise money with the best in his party. Head-to-head polling shows he can compete. The Sarah Palin endorsement certainly isn't going to hurt him at all. And he has this kind of eclectic group of supporters who include followers of his dad."
Brown also said he found many Republicans in Kentucky who "are just fed up with the status quo within their own party and government in general."
"All those folks are coalescing and trying to find a candidate," he said. "Paul has worked hard and made himself a contender."
Former Pulaski County Judge-Executive Louie Floyd is disenchanted with his party and is looking for a change.
He is a Republican quite familiar with GOP politics, especially in the heavily Republican south-central part of the state known as the "old 5th District."
Floyd, who calls himself "an independent thinker," said he has not yet decided who will get his support in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
"Mr. Paul certainly is getting the media attention right now, and there's the old saying in politics that the more publicity, the better," he said. "As long as it is not too bad, that is."