By Gabriel Debenedetti and Jeff Mason
ASHLAND Va. (Reuters) - Likely 2016 presidential contender Rand Paul will return to his home state of Kentucky the day before Election Day to campaign with Republican colleague Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Locked in a tight race with Kentucky's Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell has not received much help from Paul, a libertarian-leaning freshman senator who has openly flirted with a White House bid.
Paul has barnstormed the country campaigning for candidates, but his involvement in the Kentucky race has been sparse even as McConnell regularly mentions his more popular younger colleague in campaign speeches.
The two senators come from different wings of the Republican Party; McConnell is a long-time member of the establishment and Paul swept into office in 2010's Tea Party wave.
But McConnell's victory has seemed more likely in recent weeks as poll numbers stay on his side and national Democrats have shrunk their own investment in the race.
Paul said in an interview he would go to Kentucky on Nov. 3 to campaign with McConnell.
"Alison Grimes is in a downward spiral right now. You know, the national party is pulling out of the race. They're no longer going to spend money in her race, and she can't remember who she voted for for president," Paul told Reuters after campaigning for local candidates in Virginia, referring to Grimes' repeated refusal to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama in 2012.
"I think it's pretty difficult if you want to run for high office if you're not willing to admit who you voted for president. It also really shows the depths of the president's popularity that his own party won't even admit to voting for him," Paul added, not specifically mentioning McConnell while assessing the race.
While Paul has been active in a series of races across the country, especially in states that play a big role in the presidential nominating process, others have parachuted into Kentucky.
Grimes' campaign, for example, was given a boost by likely Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night at a large rally in Louisville.
"Let's put another crack in that glass ceiling," Clinton said of sending another woman to the Senate.
But Paul, who was in the strategically important state of New Hampshire on Thursday and is due in Iowa, the other most influential state, next week, brushed off the notion that Clinton could significantly help Grimes.
"People mistake thinking the Clintons are popular in Kentucky," Paul said.
(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti and Jeff Mason; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)