Rand Paul rally helped by 2 tea party stalwarts

ERLANGER, Ky. (AP) -- U.S. Senate hopeful Rand Paul marshaled the political firepower of two tea party stalwarts, including his congressman father, at a rally Saturday in northern Kentucky's GOP stronghold.

It was the first joint appearance by Paul and his father, former Republican presidential candidate and Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, since the primary campaign. They were joined tea party power broker Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., at an event that drew some 300 tea party activists to a Holiday Inn ballroom.

"Tonight, I'm going to make a prediction," the elder Paul declared to boisterous applause. "Rand Paul is going to be the next senator for the state of Kentucky."

Rand Paul faces Democrat Jack Conway in a closely watched race for the seat of Sen. Jim Bunning, who opted not to seek a third term.

Despite leading in most polls throughout the general election campaign, Rand Paul urged supporters on Saturday to campaign hard because he expects the polls to narrow.

DeMint, one of the GOP's most conservative senators, has been lending support to candidates across the country. The tea party, he said, "has the establishment shaking in their boots."

Rand Paul and DeMint hold similar smaller government philosophies and a desire to shake up Washington. During his speech Saturday, DeMint quoted from a thank-you card he had gotten from Rand Paul. It said: "I smile when I think what we can do together in the Senate."

Conway has said he is no critic of the tea party movement, saying the people involved have raised legitimate concerns about rising federal spending.

Conway spokeswoman Allison Haley repeated Saturday that Rand Paul has made some questionable proposals since entering the race, including once suggesting a $2,000 deductible for Medicare and later suggesting that drugs aren't a pressing issue in the race. Rand Paul has said his words were taken out of context in both instances.

"Rand Paul just doesn't understand Kentucky," Haley said.

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