Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says the odds are better than 50-50 that a Paul will run for president next year but it's unclear who would be the family standard-bearer. Yet one thing is certain: the younger Paul won't make a bid for the White House if his father, Ron Paul, tries again.
Ron Paul, a U.S. representative from Texas, unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 2008. Now Rand Paul, the junior Kentucky senator and tea party favorite, is being encouraged to jump into the political fray if his father sits out next year's race_ never mind that he's only weeks into the job after one of the fall's most-watched Senate races.
The Kentucky senator said he's not ruling out a bid if his father decides against a repeat run.
"The biggest decision for me is whether my father runs or not," the younger Paul told reporters Thursday.
Nonetheless, Rand Paul said it sounded "pretty reasonable" that one of the politically prominent Pauls would be in play.
"I think there will be one on the ballot," Paul told reporters after speaking to a Rotary club gathering in Louisville. "I think there's a good chance of that."
His father was in the crucial primary state of New Hampshire on Thursday. During a college campus stop, Ron Paul said he hasn't ruled out running for president again but isn't on the verge of making a decision.
Ron Paul said his focus right now is on the nation's economy and whether it worsens, signaling its course could influence his decision.
"If we get a reprieve and things just look great, I might not be as enthusiastic," the elder Paul told reporters after a speech at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. "But if it continues like right now, it makes it almost inevitable that somebody will have to start talking about what we need to do."
Asked about father-and-son presidential prospects, Ron Paul said the matter hasn't come up with his son.
"We've never discussed it," he said.
Adding to the family political intrigue, Rand Paul is preparing to visit Iowa, the state with the nation's lead-off caucuses. Early next month, he will speak at an Iowa Republican event dubbed "Night of the Rising Stars."
Any entry by the younger Paul would further cement his swift political rise. The eye doctor from the Kentucky city of Bowling Green won election in November after emerging from near obscurity and endearing himself to conservatives with his prescription of balanced budgets, low taxes and less government regulation.
Though a freshman senator, Paul says he's already getting encouragement to run.
"We've had supporters in different states indicate that if my father is not running, that they would like me to," he said.
No matter what happens, Paul said he would like to play a part in next year's GOP primary sweepstakes in some form.
"I just want to be part of that, whether it's actually as a candidate or just trying to help decide who the candidate is," Paul said. "I just don't know that yet."
He said the tea party deserves a role in determining the GOP nominee.
Any Paul in contention would face a crowded field of Republicans hoping to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama.
Associated Press Writer Holly Ramer contributed from Durham, N.H.