Rand Paul was once one of Donald Trump’s biggest critics. During the presidential campaign, he described the president as an “orange-faced windbag.” He called Trump a “delusional narcissist,” and called his insults “pitiful” and said they the kind of insults one would hear in “junior high.” Donald Trump, never one to back down from a fight, returned the insults. “First of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on the debate stage,” Trump once said during a debate.
But that is all ancient history now though as time after time over the past several months Rand Paul and Donald Trump have found themselves key allies on many issues. After tweeting earlier this month that the U.S. should end foreign aid to Pakistan, Rand Paul tweeted that he “couldn’t agree more.” A few days later he proposed a bill in the Senate to eliminate foreign aid to Pakistan.
Although Paul voted against most Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare last fall, he strongly supported the president’s decision to loosen some Obamacare regulations by executive order. He actually worked with the president over a period of many months on getting the action done. “President Trump is doing what I believe is the biggest free-market reform of healthcare in a generation. I want to commend the president for having the boldness and foresight and leadership to get this done,” he said at the time.
But perhaps the biggest examples of the newly-formed alliance have come in recent days as the White House has been embroiled in a fierce immigration battle with members of Congress. Paul said that he has been working with Democrats on a solution for DREAMers but has been turned down repeatedly by them. But Trump, he said, “has changed the dynamic.” And now any deal that includes a solution for DREAMers has to include significant provisions for border security. He complimented the president for making that happen.
The president has been harshly criticized for incendiary language he used to describe certain countries from which immigrants come to the United States, recently. He’s been called racist. Once again, Paul came to his defense. “You can’t have an immigration compromise if everybody’s out there calling the president a racist,” Paul recently said during an interview.
“All these crazy, over the top criticisms or accusations against the president don’t fit with the president that I know,” Paul said during another interview. One of the nations criticized by Trump was the island nation of Haiti. Paul challenged the notion that president has a negative view of Haiti by citing Donald Trump’s help in funding a medical mission Paul took to Haiti before Trump was president.
Paul has become one of the president’s biggest cheerleaders. What’s behind it? The Senator and President Trump see eye-to-eye on many issues, such as deregulation and the perils of foreign nation building. But the reason for Paul’s affection for the president may also lie closer to home.
President Trump is immensely popular in Paul’s home state of Kentucky. In the Appalachian Mountains region of the state, a region devastated by the collapse of the coal industry and a harsh opioid addiction epidemic, Trump is seen as a guy “riding up on a white horse.” And if progress does not come to areas like this, voters there won’t blame Donald Trump, they will blame the “brick wall” in Washington. Politicians who, they see, as doing everything they can to stop the Trump agenda from being implemented.
It is probably not lost on Paul that his fellow Kentucky Senator, Mitch McConnell, who has had very public disagreements with President Trump in the past, has an approval rating of 18% in his home state. Paul probably understands better than most that Kentucky voters want to see Trump succeed. Paul seems to have seen the dangers in crossing Trump and he’s decided that being a supporter of the president’s is a much safer track to follow.