FRANKFORT — About 50 people came out on a rainy Saturday morning to see U.S. Sen. Rand Paul rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin.
Gathered in the basement of the Baptist Ministry Campus at Kentucky State University, the small crowd chanted "President Paul," welcoming the senator and presidential candidate and listening as the two Republicans heaped praise on each other after an awkward week.
Bevin made national headlines this week by saying during a debate hosted by Kentucky Sports Radio that his first choice for president had been Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his second choice was Ben Carson.
When host Matt Jones asked Bevin if he would endorse Paul, who is Kentucky's junior U.S. senator, Bevin said that Paul "would not be the first choice that I would make."
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Bevin quickly tried to amend that statement on Twitter, and at Saturday's rally Bevin said he "truly" considers Paul to be a friend.
"I will just say right now, and I'll put it out there because I know people are going to want to ask about it, this race is about governor, but he is running for president of the United States, and I truly believe he would be an extraordinary president of the United States," Bevin said. "I really do. We are blessed to have him putting himself out there."
Kentucky Democrats sought to have a little fun with the Bevin-Paul awkwardness, standing outside the event with signs that read "Bevin's Bell Rings 4 Ben" and "Carson 4 Pres Bevin 4 VP."
Speaking to reporters after the event, Paul gamely downplayed any tension between him and Bevin, calling the gubernatorial candidate's remarks "immaterial" and acknowledging that there "are people who know me well" who aren't supporting his bid for the presidency.
"You know what's funny about it in the last presidential poll in Kentucky I think I was leading with 20 percent of the vote," Paul said. "Which means 80 percent of the people aren't supporting me for president. But does that mean I don't think they don't support me as their U.S. Senator or don't support me personally? No, so we all have different opinions about who we'll vote for or who we'll support. And if you can't take that, you might as well not run for office."
The last Kentucky poll to survey Republican voters about their presidential preference — the Bluegrass Poll from May, which did not include current frontrunner Donald Trump — showed Paul leading the field with 26 percent.
Despite the lackluster showing, Paul began his remarks by proclaiming "it is an exciting day to be a Republican in Kentucky."
"We are going to win from top to bottom," Paul said. "If we get everybody out, this is the year Kentucky becomes a Republican state."
Paul, picking up where he left off in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, took aim at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway, saying the attorney general would not stand up to President Barack Obama and accusing Conway of being a "part of the machine for his whole entire life."
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr spoke before Paul, praising Bevin, but U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, who was scheduled to attend, did not show.
Paul, who has plummeted in the presidential polls and reported a weak third-quarter fundraising haul of $2.5 million, said he is not planning to drop out of the presidential race. Media outlets that expect him to exit the race "don't know anything about politics."
"We are doing very well," Paul said, before adding: "The polls haven't all been good, I admit that."
The senator, whose poll numbers are hovering around the cut-off line for the next Republican presidential debate, said he was confident he'll be on the main stage.
"It's always important to be part of the debate," Paul said.