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Mitch McConnell Stands By Presidential Caucus Plan for Rand Paul

J. Tyler Franklin
Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.

This story has been updated.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday again endorsed a Kentucky Republican presidential caucus, this time just days before the state party's central committee votes on the proposal.

The rule change, which the state party’s central committee will consider on Saturday in Frankfort, would allow Sen. Rand Paul to simultaneously run for re-election to the Senate while also seeking the state support for the Republican presidential nomination.

State law prohibits a name from appearing twice on a ballot.

Under the proposal, Republican voters would cast ballots for presidential contenders at events spread throughout the state and run by local Republican parties.

This week, conservative WDRB.com columnist John David Dyche wrote that Paul should choose between the Senate and presidential campaigns. Others, including Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, have criticized Paul's desire to seek both offices simultaneously.

But on Tuesday, McConnell said he thinks the party should approve the caucus proposal — as long as Paul covers the cost.

“All we cared about was to give Rand a chance in his presidential race,” McConnell said. “Because of the peculiarities of Kentucky law he asked us to do a caucus — and all I ask of him is to defray the costs of it, and he’s indicated he is going to do that."

Paul said recently he wrote a $250,000 check to the party for a caucus and has vowed to cover whatever it costs. However, as The Courier-Journal reported, the money has only been set aside -- not transferred to the party.

McConnell has previously backed the presidential caucus concept.

The caucus proposal requires a two-thirds vote of the committee. State Republican Party leaders have mixed views on the idea; concerns range from fears of low turnout to technical challenges.

Despite his endorsement of the caucus proposal, McConnell said he would not talk to party chairs and lobby for its approval.

“I’m not doing anything,” he said following an event Tuesday hosted by the Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve said I think it’s appropriate to have the caucus provided it doesn’t cost the party anything. And Rand has said he’ll pick up the tab, and that’s good enough for me.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said Rand Paul's campaign had written a check to the party to cover part of the cost of a caucus. In fact, Paul's campaign said they had written a check but had instead only set the funds aside.