Republican Rand Paul cast the tea party as mainstream Saturday evening, pointing to his improbable rise to Senate nominee as proof that the limited government movement is not on the political fringe.
Speaking before several hundred people at a tea party rally outside the state Capitol, Paul said the movement's emphasis on balanced budgets and term limits is popular with Republicans and Democrats alike. It was an open overture to conservative Democrats who could tip the balance in Paul's race against Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway.
To those who want to paint us as extremists, I defy them go out and poll those questions," said Paul, referring to term limits and balanced budgets. "Find out what the American public wants. Find out why we won an enormous victory in the primary when no one expected it. Because the message resonates that people are sick and tired of an overreaching government, of a deficit out of control. They want their government back."
The libertarian-leaning Paul, a tea party favorite who defeated an establishment Republican in the May primary, followed a parade of speakers who drew cheers by denouncing what they see as an intrusive federal government run amok with deficit spending.
Paul, who portrays himself as a political outsider, tried to put the heat on Conway by linking his opponent to President Barack Obama on health care, taxes, energy and economic policies.
"Jack Conway will have to run hard and fast away from the policies of President Obama," Paul said. "I don't think he can run fast enough."