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Chuck Todd: Rand Paul a 'Tier 1' 2016 Candidate; Ky. Dems Not Aligned with National Party

John Null/WKMS

NBC News political director and host of "Meet the Press" Chuck Todd says Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul will be a formidable candidate for president should he decide to seek the Republican nomination next year.

Todd spoke Tuesday on the campus of Murray State University before he delivered the school's 2015 presidential lecture. He said he thinks Paul could overcome a deep divide with his own party over issues like foreign policy and prognosticators should underrate Paul’s chances "at their own peril."

“The insider world of the Republican party kind of writes him off,” Todd said. “They know he’s a powerful force, but they don’t think he can win the nomination. And yet I look at our polling and with independent voters, he does better than any other Republican. With young voters, he does better than any other Republican. So, this is a case where this is why we have campaigns.”

Todd said Paul is a “tier 1” prospective candidate alongside former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Paul is expected to announce his intentions for 2016 in the next six weeks.

Todd said he regrets being injected into last fall’s U.S. Senate race between now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes. Todd was used in a McConnell ad stating that the Democrat Grimes “disqualified herself” after refusing to admit whether or not she voted for President Barack Obama. Todd said his remark could have been less blunt, but still thinks Grimes should have answered the question.

“I don’t think she ran a great campaign, but I don’t think she ran a great campaign before that," Todd said. "I think they were so fixated about their own problems, they never ran against him. They never made him own the gridlock.”

On the heels of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and the Democratic National Committee calling for a “national narrative project” in rebranding the Democratic party, Todd said Kentucky’s Democrats need to take a look in the mirror themselves.

“The Democratic party has lost sort of its ideological diversity," Todd said. "No better example than the state of Kentucky, where it feels as if the Kentucky Democratic brand just doesn’t feel like it aligns or even fits inside the Democratic tent right now.”

Beshear is one of 11 members of a task force that is taking on the rebranding effort. Todd said that task force’s recommendations did not go far enough in addressing the party’s problems after a poor showing in 2014’s midterm elections.

Todd was asked about "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams' suspension after he exaggerated or falsified stories about reporting on the Iraq War.

"I take heart in this, in that, I work for an organization that takes this stuff so seriously that the person who means a lot to the network's bottom line is also held accountable for everything that he says," Todd said. "I do think everybody needs to wait for all the facts. I think he's earned that right. He's certainly given a lot. The network has grown a lot with him. Brian is my friend. I felt as if the network found the right balance between accountability, sending the message to everybody that works in the company and to the world that we take our truthfulness seriously."

John Null is the host and creator of Left of the Dial. From 2013-2016, he also served as a reporter in the WKMS newsroom.
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