Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (above) has taken to praising Sen. Rand Pauls brand of conservatism in public speeches.
He said McConnell understood that Paul represented a constituency of people who are critical for the senior Senator from Kentucky to understand, while Paul had deep respect for McConnell’s knowledge of politics.
As the campaign went on, their relationship — and those of their staffs — continued to evolve so that by the time Paul’s first debate on Fox News occurred in October, senior members of McConnell’s staff played critical roles in Paul’s debate prep.
But it has been a quiet opening for the Senate, with few significant votes and nothing that might split McConnell’s establishment instincts from Paul’s assertively populist conservativism. Republican aides said McConnell and Paul’s relationship has yet to be tested.
“The real test will be in the coming months and years as Rand Paul continues to hold the conservative line when leadership tries to center the caucus,” one Senate GOP aide said. “Those two roles are in tension and conflict — I don’t see Rand Paul changing and I don’t see Mitch McConnell changing.”
However, aides close to the two lawmakers said the increased communication between their respective staff could help diffuse potential conflicts.
Paul confirmed the two lawmakers speak “almost every day” and readily admitted he had much to learn about how the Senate operates.
“I’m really concerned with what we just have to do as far as cutting spending and really have not been here long enough to understand and be a part of how you actually make it happen, other than for me to try to be loud and vocal about how we do what we need to do as a country,” Paul told Roll Call.
Olson noted their relationship has been built on a mutual appreciation for what the other has achieved.
“Mitch McConnell is extraordinarily smart about politics,” Olson said. “In Rand’s case, McConnell became a key mentor and confidant on the art of the political.”
One Republican aide with close ties to Kentucky said McConnell’s acceptance of Paul is a prime example of the Minority Leader’s political aptitude.
“McConnell is a very shrewd politician,” the aide said. “He doesn’t need his right causing him trouble at home.”