GEORGETOWN — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul suggested Wednesday that Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes should consider disowning President Barack Obama if she hopes to run a competitive race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"I don't know it will be as competitive as some think it will be," Paul said Wednesday during a brief news conference after speaking to about 140 people at a Scott County Republican Party Independence Day luncheon.
"The biggest thing and the hardest part for any Democrat to win in Kentucky for a federal office is that you pretty much have to disown the president," Paul said.
Paul, R-Bowling Green, said Kentuckians especially are upset with Obama for pushing environmental policies that hurt the coal industry. He predicted that issue would be a major drag on Grimes' efforts to unseat the Republican incumbent from Louisville, who has been in the U.S. Senate since January 1985.
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Paul said in March that he backed McConnell's re-election bid.
Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, announced this week that she would seek the Democratic Senate nomination next May. Several lesser-known Democrats will compete with Grimes, a lawyer from Lexington, in the primary election to pick a party nominee to run against McConnell, who has not drawn an opposition in the Republican primary election.
Grimes' political consultant, Jonathan Hurst, said Wednesday that McConnell was "clearly scared that his 30-year grip on power is coming to an end."
"It's foolish for anyone to underestimate Alison Lundergan Grimes," Hurst said. "She will stand up to leaders of both parties when it comes to putting families of Kentucky first."
Although Paul has pushed for term limits on members of Congress, he said that stance does not conflict with his support of McConnell.
He noted that his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was in Congress for 23 years before retiring in January.
"I've always been for the concept of term limits, but the concept has never been directed toward anyone," Paul said. "I'd rather have someone 30 years in office for Kentucky jobs and Kentucky coal than someone defending the president's war on coal."
Democratic-leaning groups are running a TV ad in the state that says McConnell has stayed in office too long.
On other subjects, Paul said:
■ He is talking with several conservative U.S. House members in an effort to include in an immigration bill a provision that allows Congress, not the president, to decide whether U.S. borders are secure. The Senate did not accept a similar amendment offered by Paul.
■ He continues to consider running for president in 2016 and probably will make a decision in a year.
During his speech at the luncheon, Paul spent a great deal of time criticizing former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is considered by many Democrats to be the party's best hope for retaining the presidency.
He criticized her harshly for not doing more to prevent the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. A heavily armed group killed four people, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and injured 10 others.
Paul also said the Republican Party needed to be more inclusive. "We need to have more African-Americans, more Hispanics, more Jewish Americans, more Arab Americans. When we do, it's going to be easier for us to win national elections."