When Trey Grayson thinks about the Republican politician most likely to captivate young people, he laughs.
"Sure, I love the irony of me answering this, but the first is Rand Paul," Grayson, the former Kentucky Secretary of State and current director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, said. "For those of you who don't know, I ran against him and did not win," Grayson told a crowd at the National Press Club Wednesday.
Grayson was Paul's Senate primary opponent back in 2010 and was considered the more mainstream Republican candidate of the two, having had Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-Ky., blessing. Paul trounced Grayson, with 59 percent of the vote, compared to Grayson's 35 percent. "So that's me, it's OK," Grayson shrugged. "But going back to that campaign and continuing, [Paul] does a great job – some of it's issue based, the younger Republicans tend to be more libertarian and he tends to be a little bit more on the libertarian side of the party and he speaks to them on issues – but he also, I think, speaks to them."
Paul and Grayson were never buddies back in Kentucky, but since their Senate race they've exchanged pleasantries and Grayson has invited Paul to speak at Harvard.
"I have respect for him, I'm a Republican, he's a Republican, he's a Kentuckian, I'm a Kentuckian," Grayson told Whispers. "And I do appreciate in this current crisis that he's been pretty – he's been among the more reasonable voices in the party on trying to get some resolution and I appreciate that."
Grayson was in Washington Wednesday to discuss the findings of a new report from CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Education, an organization out of Tufts University that studies young voters. And now, even with his Harvard credentials, he seemed miffed at being considered an expert. "To be called a scholar," Grayson laughed. "I'm a politician, or actually, I guess, a failed politician – I lost my last race pretty bad."
That being said, there may still be a U.S. Senate seat in his future. "Maybe, sure, someday," he said about running for office again. "I'm 41, so I have plenty of time."