Rand Paul: My wife says 'no' to presidential bid

Rand Paul is near the head of the pack of Republicans considering a run for the presidency in 2016. But Senator Paul's wife, Kelley Ashby, is giving that possibility a thumbs down, and she may have the last word.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky and his wife, Kelley Ashby, attend the TIME 100 Gala celebrating the '100 Most Influential People in the World' at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2013, in New York.

Speaking in Detroit the other night, Sen. Rand Paul was asked if he’d run for president in 2016. It’s a question he gets a lot these days.

He’s the maverick Republican/libertarian US senator and son of another maverick Republican/libertarian who ran for the White House three times and shook up the GOP in the process – retired US Rep. Ron Paul. Senator Paul is just a couple of points behind front-runner New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the nomination, according to the RealClearPolitics.com polling average.

Paul has taken a couple of pokes at Mr. Christie recently, accusing the New Jersey governor of “embracing Obamacare, expanding Medicaid in his state [which] is very expensive and not fiscally conservative." He also has suggested that Christie’s recent easy reelection “was, in large form, based on that he got a lot of federal money for his state.”

But back to that question Friday night about whether he’ll enter the 2016 presidential race.

"Where's my cellphone? Can I call my wife?" Paul joked. "There's two votes in my family. My wife has both of them and both of them are 'no' votes right now."

“If I’m a very able politician, I’ll tell you in a year whether I’m able to persuade my wife. Right now, I don’t know yet, but I thank you for your interest,” he said.

Like his father, Paul is a medical doctor (eye specialist). His wife is Kelley Ashby, a former political consultant. The couple has been married for 23 years, and they have three sons.

In a Vogue magazine profile of Paul, Ms. Ashby expressed concern about the effect a presidential race would have on the family.

"In this day and age it's mostly about character assassination," she said. "When I think of the tens of millions of dollars in opposition research that they'd be aiming right at us and our family – that's what it's about."

It’s not an unusual attitude.

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (now the president of Purdue University) declined to seek the 2012 Republican nomination even though he was the favorite of much of the party establishment. That was based largely on concerns expressed by his wife, Cheri, and their daughters. (One story sure to have been covered endlessly was the fact that the couple divorced and then remarried after Mrs. Daniels had left the family to marry another man for a period.)

One reason retired US Army Gen. Colin Powell chose not to run for the presidency in 1996 was Mrs. Powell’s concern for his safety. "A black man running for president is going to be in a dangerous position,” Mrs. Powell said, noting hate mail she had received.

In Paul’s case, any run for higher office would certainly revive charges – which he acknowledges and has expressed regret for – that he and his staff borrowed heavily from other sources without attribution for his speeches and writings, including his book “Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds.”

Whether or not Rand Paul runs for the White House, he is sure to have a strong following among tea partyers and other libertarians, as did his father.

On “Fox News Sunday,” he said he’s opposed to congressional efforts to extend jobless benefits.

“When you allow people to be on unemployment for 99 weeks, you are causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” he said.

He says the answer to Detroit’s bankruptcy is not a government bailout but "Economic Freedom Zones" offering lower taxes – income taxes, the corporate tax rate, payroll taxes, and the capital gains tax – to businesses willing to invest in troubled cities.

"What we hope to do is create taxes so low that you essentially are able to bail yourselves out, by having more money accumulate in the area over time," Paul said in announcing the proposal before speaking to the Detroit Economic Club Friday.

In the Vogue article, Kelley Ashby is described as an "impassioned defender of her husband and his ideas.”

But for now, it seems, that impassioned defense appears not to include any desire to be first lady.

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