Yes, Rand Paul is very different than your mainstream political candidate. That's why he's in line to be the next senator from Kentucky. What better way to send a message to Washington than to send a guy who hates Washington to Washington?
But why is Democrat Jack Conway, the state's attorney general, in that same line? Is it because Paul is kooky? Or because voters suspect his ideology? A late September CNN poll offers some clues. Conway is holding his own among white voters without college degrees, although Paul leads Conway narrowly among all white voters. Conway is winning among voters ages 50 to 64 -- those who are expecting to get Social Security and Medicare benefits -- among moderates, and among low-wage earners.
It's that first category that's so important. They are sensitive to both government spending AND to charges that Republicans will take away their social safety net. They don't like deficits, and they don't want less from the government. The more downscale they tend to be, the better Conway does with them. He has been able to hover well above President Obama's approval rating in the state, having differentiated himself quite early.
This is anecdotal evidence that Conway's progress is among voters who worry that Paul is too extreme for the state. Generally, Republican Senate candidates get more than 75 percent of self-identified conservatives. Paul's getting 68 percent. These voters might think he's too kooky.