The next Republican presidential primary debate is still four days away, but Donald Trump and Rand Paul are eager to get the brawling off to an early start.
Following an interview Saturday in which Paul said the media’s obsession with the billionaire front-runner is threatening the national discourse, Trump took to his favorite digital megaphone to blast his former golfing buddy as a “lightweight” senator who is an embarrassment to his constituency.
“Lightweight Senator @RandPaul should focus on trying to get elected in Kentucky--- a great state which is embarrassed by him,” Trump tweeted.
He added an afterthought a few minutes later, paying a compliment to Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, but insulting the younger Paul yet again: “I truly understood the appeal of Ron Paul, but his son, @RandPaul, didn't get the right gene.”
Trump’s comments followed an interview with Politico in which Paul lamented the media’s fixation on a candidate who has no political experience and, in Paul’s words, “would alarm me if he were in charge of our nuclear weapons.”
“There is a danger that if we continue to laud so much attention on basically someone whose level of discourse is that of junior high, I think there’s a problem, there’s a great risk for the country,” Paul said.
The 17 GOP candidates have been jostling for attention as the Sept. 16 debate approaches. CNN, which is televising the debate, announced the full slate of participants Friday, extending the field to 11 candidates to include Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, who has been polling well since her strong showing during the Fox News' “happy hour” debate last month.
The latest Quinnipiac University Poll has Trump with a commanding lead over his many GOP rivals. Among likely Republican Caucus voters in Iowa, 27 percent say they supported the former reality TV star, compared with 21 percent for neuroscientist Ben Carson, the No. 2 candidate. The poll shows Paul trailing with just 4 percent.
Paul and Trump had moments of notable sparring during the first Fox News debate, with Paul coming out swinging early in the telecast and accusing the billionaire of buying and selling politicians.
In a subsequent tweet late Saturday, Trump said he thinks the debate stage next week will be too crowded, and singled out Paul as someone who should be disqualified from the event.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2015
More evidence that the gloves are off -- not that they were ever on.