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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is dispensing with conventional wisdom and predicting an Electoral College landslide for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential contest. But he’s leaving the door open for his own White House run as early as 2016.
“I think all of the polling is underestimating where we’re going to be. My prediction — and of course I could be wrong — but my prediction is that this is going to be 1980,” Paul said. "This is going to be an election that was projected to be very close, we have all these battleground states, but in the end, Romney’s going to pull away and he’s going to win by a bigger percentage than anyone predicts.”
That year, Republican Ronald Reagan carried 44 states and accumulated 489 electoral votes in defeating incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
Paul, who came into the Senate with the backing of the tea party movement and a national network of conservative supporters, questions the methodology of the presidential polls this cycle.
“I think the polling is modeling on 2008 and not really factoring in an enormous wave election of 2010, and then I think we’re still headed in that same direction,” he said. Most national polls show the contest between Romney and President Barack Obama very close, with similar numbers in many battleground states.
Paul notably declined to rule out a future presidential run of his own.
“You know, a lot of that depends on what happens … a week from Tuesday. I want to be involved in the national debate,” he said. “I want to transform the Republican Party into a party that’s competitive in all 50 states.”
Paul spoke at the Republican National Convention and has made campaign appearances in support of Romney, including in swing states New Hampshire and Ohio, despite disagreements with Romney on foreign policy. If Romney’s elected, Paul says he would push to avoid new “pre-emptive” wars with Syria and other countries.
While he predicted a blowout victory for the GOP in the presidential race, he was much more cautious about chances of taking control of the Senate away from the Democrats, saying he would put the odds at about 50-percent. On that point he echoed his senior Kentucky colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
He said he thinks McConnell has done a good job of balancing the needs of conservative Senators within the Republican Conference and those of the more moderate Senators from New England. He said he will support McConnell’s re-election bid next cycle.
McConnell has hired Jesse Benton, a longtime political aide to the Paul family, to run his 2014 campaign.
He was less committed about supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), however. Paul and Graham are on opposite sides of the spectrum on foreign policy and defense spending issues, and Graham actually participated in a campaign conference call to defend Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) from an attack ad being run by Paul’s political action committee.
“I don’t foresee getting involved in primaries against incumbent Republicans. But I would say that if incumbent Republicans are campaigning for Democrat Senators this time around, they may have their own problems in their primary without me being involved,” Paul said.
After being questioned about comments made about abortion by GOP Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana, Paul explained his own strategy on social issues.
“I primarily talk only about the economic issues, even though I am socially conservative,” Paul said.
Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.) and Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock have run into trouble in their respective Senate races in part due to their widely publicized statements about abortion.
“I don’t think the law’s changing any time soon” with respect to abortion rights, he said. “So, when we get bogged down in talking about exceptions and bizarre sort of exceptions to rules, I think at that point we’re getting away from really what the primary thing that’s going on in our country.”
Paul made the comments during a live interview on C-SPAN’s "Newsmakers" program this morning.