Rand Paul v. Trey Greyson Debate Reveals The Choices The GOP Faces In The Future

As I noted last night, C-Span broadcast the final debate between the Republican candidates for Senate in Kentucky, and it was quite a thing to watch:

Looking for an opening a week before the Kentucky Senate Republican primary, Trey Grayson used the final debate Monday night to hammer Rand Paul as weak on national security and unreliable on cultural issues

Grayson, who is trailing in the polls, was on the offensive for much of the hour-long session, saying Paul didn’t believe a nuclear-armed Iran was a threat to America, once backed closing the detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was insufficiently opposed to abortion.

Paul shot back by accusing Grayson of distorting his views and running a dishonest, failing campaign.

But the more fundamental disagreement on display throughout the forum, which aired statewide on Kentucky public television, was an extension of the central dispute that has defined the closely watched contest and is dividing establishment and insurgent Republicans nationally: should the party hew to a purist line on fiscal issues, slashing spending and reducing the role of Washington, even if that means taking political risks that may be unpopular with the general electorate?

The contrasts between the two candidates, and between the two strains of the Republican Party, couldn’t be more extreme:

Paul called for eliminating the Department of Education.

“If you send less money to Washington, you’ll have more in your state for education,” he said.

But Grayson said there was a role for Washington in education, citing both the capital needs of the state’s public universities and the students who need tuition assistance.

“Rand would end all that financial aid for students at Murray [State University] and [the University of Kentucky],” he said.

They also split on Washington’s role in agriculture.

Grayson said the federal government had an “important role” in agriculture and that he would have supported the farm bill McConnell helped pushed through Congress.

Paul touted his opposition to the estate tax but said he opposed federal subsidies for farms.

“I’m not in favor of giving welfare to business,” he said.

So, there you have it laid bare. The difference between Rand Paul and Trey Greyson is the difference between fiscal conservatism and big government George W. Bush era Republicanism. Considering that we already know where Greyson’s path leads, I know which side I’m on.

One of the more amusing exchanges occurred over the question of whether the candidates would support fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell for GOP Leader in November:

The two also offered notably different responses when asked who they’d support for GOP leader of the Senate.

Paul initially sought to dodge the question, indicating that McConnell hasn’t had a challenge in years past.

But pressed on what he’d do if McConnell was opposed for the post, Paul said: “Then we’d have to know who his opponent was and discuss it at that time.”

While allowing that McConnell’s position had been good for Kentucky, he did pointedly bring up his disagreement with the leader on TARP and suggested Grayson would merely be a lackey for the leader.

“I think Kentucky wants two U.S. senators, not one,” Paul said. I don’t think we want a rubber stamp of one senator for the other senator. So I will be my own person.”

Grayson, whose campaign is being directed by McConnell’s political organization, said he’d “proudly” support the state’s senior senator.

Paul continues to hold double digit leads in the latest polls:

FireShot Pro capture #263 - 'RealClearPolitics - 2010 Kentucky  Senate Primary (5_18)' -  www_realclearpolitics_com_epolls_2010_senate_2010_kentucky_senate_primary_races_html

A good sign, but I think it’s clear that the race between Paul and Kentucky is really just a microcosm of the choices that the GOP faces in the future.

Here’s the full video of the hour-long debate:

H/T: Cubachi for the video

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