A candidate for office is having a very bad day when the campaign has to issue a statement, days after a big primary victory, denying that he has any interest in repealing the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
That's what happened to 47-year-old ophthalmologist Rand Paul last week after winning the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. Mr. Paul, the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, beat Trey Grayson, the GOP establishment's candidate by double digits.
Instead of it being one of the best weeks of the younger Paul's life, it was one in which the newly minted hero of the tea party movement shuffled defensively from one television interview to another, explaining his peculiar views on the limited role of government.
The firestorm from Mr. Paul's initial refusal to endorse the Civil Rights Act without equivocation was intense. Though generally supportive of government's right to end discrimination in public accommodations, Mr. Paul expressed some discomfort with the legislation's impact on private businesses.
The next day, Mr. Paul said what he wouldn't say the day before: he would have voted for the 1964 legislation despite his philosophical misgivings about aspects of the bill. Though a welcome change of heart, it also sounded like a politician parsing his words for political expediency.
Polls taken before the controversy had Mr. Paul ahead of his Democratic opponent in the contest for retiring Sen. Jim Bunning's seat. That may not last as the public learns more of Mr. Paul's views.
With a Senate seat in play, Republicans are nervous about Mr. Paul's penchant for weird political abstractions. His recent denunciation of President Barack Obama as "un-American" for criticizing BP's handling of the oil spill reveals a tin ear for where the sympathies of the American people are at the moment. Perhaps the tea party has embraced someone capable of giving it a bad name.