Latest Ky. Sen. Polls Show Rand Paul Up More Since 'Aqua Buddha' and Hippie Head-Stomping

Rand Paul participates in a debate at the University of Louisville. Jamie Rhodes / Getty Images

National Democrats and liberals have not wanted to give up on the Senate race in Kentucky. A conservative state in a Republican-wave year would seem an odd focus for them, but when Rand Paul won the GOP nomination they thought they had their shot.

Paul has a lot of apparent weaknesses: he has never held elected office; his views are unusual and, in some cases, quite extreme. Perhaps liberals simply cannot accept the idea that an ophthalmologist who says things like "[If] you think you have the right to health care, you are saying basically that I am your slave" and "The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed" could actually be elected to the U.S. Senate.

List: Candidates Use Weaponry in Photo Ops, Ads Gene J. Puskar / AP

Liberals have been focused relentlessly on Paul's flaws, both political and personal, and yet, while the race has polled closer than you might have expected if the Republican candidate were less controversial, the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jack Conway, has been unable to catch Paul. Indeed, after a week of steady liberal drumbeating over every minor detail in the fallout from an incident in which Paul supporters attacked a liberal protester and stomped on her head while she was held to the ground, the latest Public Policy poll shows Paul's lead widening. This comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding Conway's ad, which apparently backfired, attacking Paul's alleged college high jinks with marijuana and idol worship. With Paul enjoying a 55–40 lead going into Election Day, liberals had better get used to the phrase "Senator Paul."

Perhaps the lesson for liberals here, which may also apply to the gaffe-prone Sharron Angle's likely success in Nevada, is that pointing out your opponents' flaws is insufficient in a time of economic woe, no matter how big those flaws may be. A more effective approach, per James Carville and Stan Greenberg, might be making a compelling case that you have a viable plan to improve the economy and your opponent does not. Republican neophytes with far-right-wing views and high negative ratings are poised to win across the country. (Joe Miller in Alaska is another example.) President Obama's team would be wise to consider which strategies worked, and which didn't, if he faces Sarah Palin in two years.