U.S. Sen. Rand Paul took a break from his Lexington weekend to offer some free advice to Kentucky media who sponsored a poll showing U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell trailing Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
"I'd re-check it if I were y'all, because I think you're probably an outlier," Paul said.
In an interview Saturday morning before he headed to Commonwealth Stadium for the Kentucky Wildcats football game, Paul voiced confidence that McConnell will win in November and took a few swipes at Grimes and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Joining in on the media and Republican onslaught over Grimes' recent refusal to tell the Louisville Courier-Journal's editorial board whether she voted for President Barack Obama, Paul called Grimes' evasion "bizarre" and "really unbelievable."
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"Everybody knows who she voted for," Paul said. "She knows who she voted for, and she's not going to tell us, and I think that's an unacceptable answer. I think she still could have a chance when she acknowledges it, but it just shows you how unpopular the leader of her party is and how unpopular her party is nationally."
Grimes spokesman Preston Maddock replied, "What's really bizarre is that Rand Paul has had an impossible time explaining why he supports Mitch McConnell in this race."
Paul also took aim at the Clintons, something he does with regularity as he continues to consider a 2016 run for the White House. Paul has been intensely critical of Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, specifically how her department responded to a terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
When asked whether he thought Hillary Clinton would be of help to Grimes when she comes to the state to campaign Wednesday, Paul argued that the popularity of the Clintons in Kentucky has been overstated.
"I think they've fooled themselves on the whole popularity of the Clintons in Kentucky," Paul said. "You know Clinton won Kentucky when there were three candidates in the race."
Bill Clinton won Kentucky in 1992 with 45 percent over former President George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot. In 1996, Clinton won the state with about 46 percent of the vote over Perot and former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole.
"I don't think that really means he's that popular," Paul said. "I think they've fooled themselves to think that he — or she — will help Alison in the end."
Mary Rutherford Jennings, a spokeswoman for the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Correct the Record, said Saturday that "the only one who's fooled himself is Rand Paul thinking Americans are interested in taking a step backward with his extremist policies. Hillary Clinton's focus on moving our country forward is what makes Americans, and Kentuckians, so excited about her."
In May, the Herald-Leader, along with the Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV and WKYT-TV, polled a hypothetical showdown between Paul and Clinton and found Paul leading the former secretary of state 48 percent to 44 percent.
Paul, who is drawing increasingly larger media crowds as he continues his tour of states that hold early contests in presidential races, making stops to help Republicans along the way, said he anticipates a "big" Republican wave this year, similar to what Republicans enjoyed in 2010 in what Obama later referred to as a "shellacking."
"I think the wind is at our back," Paul said. "We're a fairly evenly divided country, and so sometimes if the wind's blowing strongly at the end you can pick up quite a few seats, sometimes even more than anybody predicts."
He continued: "My sense is it's going to be big, and that we are going to take over the Senate. But we're not taking anything for granted. I'm trying to help as many candidates as I can get across the finish line."
Paul's travel schedule is hectic. On Friday, he took in the horse races at Keeneland after meeting with community leaders in Ferguson, Mo. On Saturday, he attended the football game as part of the University of Kentucky's parents' weekend. Two of the senator's sons attend UK.
A relative by marriage, Jesse Benton, was Paul's campaign manager during his successful 2010 race, but resigned as McConnell's campaign chief in late August after his name was connected to a bribery scandal in the closing days of the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses.
"I don't really have any comment on that," Paul said. "He's been a good friend and he's married to my niece, and I'm supportive of him, and I believe that everything will work out in the end."
McConnell and a number of other top Republicans in the state are scheduled to gather in Bowling Green on Sunday for Paul's "Barnburner and BBQ" event, a fundraiser for the Rand Paul Victory Committee.
Paul reiterated that he is still mulling a White House run, with a spring decision likely.
The senator said that even as he travels around the country building support and trying to grow the Republican Party's brand, he gets back to Kentucky almost every weekend and feels confident he will win his Senate re-election bid regardless of whether he pursues the presidency.
"I haven't sensed any real problems with people thinking I'm not doing a good job," Paul said.