Washington (CNN)Sen. Rand Paul on Monday moved to cement his role as Donald Trump's detractor-in-chief.
Paul wants to be king of the Trump critics
Hours after publishing an opinion piece slamming Trump as a "fake conservative," Paul, the Kentucky senator running for president, held a conference call with reporters to push his line of attack further.
"If no one stands up to a bully, a bully will just keep doing what they are doing," Paul said. "It really is time that someone challenges him, I'm happy to do it."
As he first suggested during the debate last week, Paul hit Trump for his flip flops on issues at the heart of conservatism -- from abortion and bank bailouts to gun control and healthcare - and insisted that Trump's message at its core lacks both "substance" and "logic."
"The truth-telling is bluster, the truth-telling is non-sequitur, it's self-aggrandizement," Paul told reporters. "Are we going to fix the country simply through bombast and empty blather?"
Paul's criticism comes as Trump faces heavy fire from most corners of the political world for his comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, when he suggested that she had "blood coming out of her eyes...blood coming out of her wherever," a comment many interpreted to suggest Trump was referring to menstruation. Trump has fiercely denied that interpretation, saying he meant to add "ears and/or nose."
But Paul focused on the substance of Trump's candidacy, and Trump's support from much of the party's conservative base.
As he lobbed his volley of attacks at Trump, the libertarian-leaning senator played up his involvement in the tea party movement, whose support helped propel him to the Senate in 2010.
One of the group's main concerns, Paul said, was the faux-conservatism of Republicans who campaigned as hard-nosed conservatives but governed differently.
And with a campaign slogan that calls to "Defeat the Washington Machine," Paul also emphasized that the tea party has been focused on rooting out corruption and "the idea that politicians are bought and sold."
Trump struck back at Paul last night on Twitter:
But Paul insists that Trump is just as much a part of the problem as the politicians to whom Trump has given millions of dollars.
"The despicable nature of selling access is equal whether you're selling it or buying it," Paul said.
Other candidates - from former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - have tried to establish themselves as the top attack dog going after Trump.
But Paul, who hopes the intersection fo his tea party and libertarian credentials can carry him to victory, is looking to take up that mantle.
"I think it's high time someone stands up and really calls nonsense, nonsense," Paul said.