Republicans pressed on reactions to Rand Paul

REPUBLICANS PRESSED ON REACTIONS TO RAND PAUL…. When a Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate publicly announces his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it’s not unreasonable to think news outlets might ask other Republicans for their thoughts on the matter.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who played a prominent role in boosting Rand Paul’s (R) candidacy in Kentucky, was initially reluctant to talk about the matter this morning. But pressed by ThinkProgress, DeMint said he supports the Civil Rights Act, adding, “I’m going to talk to Rand about his positions.”

That’s not exactly a bold denunciation, but other GOP leaders preferred an even vaguer approach.

Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he’s “really not in a position to comment.” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said, “Not being familiar with the context of his response or his questions, I really can’t opine as to his position.”

Aside from the obvious — no Profile In Courage Award nominations for these two — it’s worth emphasizing that avoiding comment won’t do as a political strategy. Rand Paul was some oddball Kentucky ophthalmologist, but he’s now the Republican Party’s nominee for a U.S. Senate seat. At some point, the party will need a response to Paul’s extreme ideology.

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), who endorsed Paul’s primary opponent in his home state, issue a statement that was fairly characterized as “frosty.”

Among Senator McConnell’s most vivid memories and most formative events in his career was watching his boss Sen. John Sherman Cooper help pull together the votes to break the filibuster and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He has always considered the law a monumental achievement for the country and is glad to hear Dr. Paul supports it as well.

The two probably won’t be campaigning together much.

As for the NRSC, Cornyn had no comment, but the campaign committee nevertheless issued a statement attacking Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) for having been on the wrong side of the civil rights debate in the 1960s.

Note to the NRSC: if you really want to debate right now which party is stronger on civil rights, I have a hunch the DSCC would gladly engage.