Des Moines

Rand Paul indicated today that he believes it would be bad for the Tea Party if his father, Ron Paul, decides to run as a third-party presidential candidate. But the younger Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, declined to say if he would support his father if Ron Paul does end up running on a third-party ticket.

Following an interview at a Des Moines radio station, I asked Rand Paul if he has encouraged his father to stay in the Republican party if he doesn't win the GOP nomination. "I'm encouraging him to try to win the Iowa primary. It's kind of hard to think about leaving your party when you might be the nominee," he said.

Asked if he would support his father as a third-party candidate, Paul replied: "I've always said I think the Tea Party movement is best and most effective within the Republican party. The Tea Party movement as a separate movement would divide some of the Republican vote."

"I have not been publicly in favor of a third party candidate and I have not been in favor of the Tea Party splitting off," Paul said. "But I think people really need to rethink that question when a guy's leading the polls in Iowa--to be asking about running as a third party when we're still talking about winning the Republican nomination."

But has Rand Paul decided whether he definitely would or would not support his father as a third-party candidate? "Right now, we're concentrating on winning the Republican nomination," he said.

Ron Paul has repeatedly refused to rule out running as a third-party candidate, but one big factor weighing against such a decision is concern for the political future of his son, a Tea Party star in his own right and potential presidential candidate in 2016 or 2020.

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