FRANKFORT (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says he will help Gov. Matt Bevin get a waiver from the federal government this summer to begin charging Medicaid recipients for their health insurance.
“You can’t load so many people on the wagon that there is not enough people pulling the wagon, because it bankrupts the country and you overwhelm the economy,” Paul said. “I want more latitude for the governor to figure out ways to try to help people transition from government assistance to actually having jobs.”
That will be part of Paul’s message this week as he visits 18 cities in four days, his first major trip in Kentucky since ending his presidential campaign. The town hall-style events begin in Scottsville on Tuesday and end in Radcliff on Saturday. Paul has had similar trips in recent months, but this time he won’t be dogged by questions about his other campaign.
Paul is favored to again win the Republican nomination, where he could face Democrat Jim Gray in the fall. The Lexington mayor is the most well-known of the seven Democrats vying for the nomination. Gray has kept a low profile on the campaign trail so far, having to deal with a massive fire that destroyed the Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington and a setback with a planned development at CentrePointe, a vacant downtown city block.
While Paul hasn’t faced much opposition from Gray yet, he could run into criticism from Steve Beshear. The former Democratic governor who expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid population via executive order created a tax exempt organization last week designed to “educate voters” about Kentucky’s health care situation. Beshear hinted that could include partisan political ads.
That likely won’t change Paul’s plan of criticizing President Barack Obama, a tried and true strategy for Kentucky Republicans that party leaders have credited with their success in recent statewide elections.
“It will continue to be a big issue and really Kentucky Democrats will have to either, you know, distance themselves from President Obama (or) they will have to explain why they supported him,” Paul said.
But while Paul said Obama’s policies have “devastated our state,” he conceded the economy is getting better, although “at a snail’s pace.” His chief gripe continues to be the national debt, which he faults both political parties for letting get out of hand and acting as an “anchor that weighs on our economy and prevents us from growing and creating jobs as we should.”
Kentucky Democrats say Paul is vulnerable this year because his presidential campaign distracted him from raising money and gave the impression that Kentucky was just a “backup plan.” But Paul notes he did not have a Democratic challenger until just a few days before the filing deadline, so he has not needed to focus on his re-election campaign until now.
And despite spending the past year campaigning across the country, he said he has plenty of energy left for Kentucky.
“I don’t consider any discussion of the future of the country of what we do to be sort of something that is disagreeable,” he said. “I find that actually energizing.”