CAMPAIGN 2016: Rand Paul Steers Middle Course On Climate Change Amid White House Buzz

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appears to be preparing for a likely White House run by embracing issues that are not traditional conservative priorities -- including man-made climate change.

The libertarian joined 14 other GOP senators last week in voting for an amendment by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) offered to the Keystone XL oil pipeline bill that declared that man-made emissions contribute to warming. But while many of the other Republicans who backed the language were either climate moderates or up for re-election in swing states in 2016 -- or both -- Paul is neither. He is defending his seat next year in deep-red Kentucky, where he can point to a solid history of anti-regulatory rhetoric and bids he led to kill U.S. EPA rules.

Paul declined requests to explain his vote on Hoeven's amendment, but political observers say he seems to be aiming beyond Kentucky.

Political analyst and Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said Republicans would stand firm on policy while trying not to let Democrats nail them down on climate science.

"What Republicans all agree on is that they don't want to see so many job-killing regulations and taxes, and they want to maintain flexibility so that they can come to a consensus [on science] behind the scenes without handcuffing the 2016 nominee," he said.

Read more from Jean Chemnick at E&E

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