Rand Paul to steer clear of Mississippi runoff

Sen. Rand Paul says he’s staying out of the Senate runoff this month in Mississippi, where tea party favorite Chris McDaniel is favored against long-time Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi.

“We’re not going to get involved” in the June 24 election, the Kentucky Republican, a tea party favorite himself who’s likely going to run for president in 2016, told a handful of reporters in the Capitol.

The runoff race puts Republicans like Paul in an awkward spot. While McDaniel’s bid has galvanized the right wing, Cochran is viewed by the party establishment as the GOP’s best shot at keeping the Mississippi Senate seat in Republican hands. Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is headlining a Tuesday fundraiser for Cochran at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington, with donors asked to contribute as much as $5,000 to attend.

So for many conservatives eying higher office, including Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, it makes sense to stay out of the fray entirely.

“I think in that race, I think either of the candidates would be great,” Rubio said in a recent interview.