Kelley Paul spotlights key to campaign trail survival: Friends

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kelley paul dana bash interview_00013926


    Kelley Paul on her most important female friendships


Kelley Paul on her most important female friendships 04:11
Watch the full interview on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" at 5 p.m. EDT.

Bowling Green, Kentucky (CNN)The minute Kelley Paul greeted us at her home, it was clear why even Democrats call her Rand Paul's secret weapon.

She's warm and funny -- a true extrovert, a sharp contrast to her husband's introverted personality.
Her charm is already being harnessed by Paul's presidential campaign. She was chosen to introduce him at his big announcement last week -- and gave a testimonial in one of his videos.
But Kelley Paul says she is very much a reluctant political spouse.
    When she began dating Rand some 25 years ago, she didn't have a clue he came from a political family -- that his father had been in Congress.
    "When I met him, I never heard of Ron Paul -- so I didn't really -- I think people think I knew I was marrying into this big political family -- and when I met Rand in 1989, Ron was out of office," Kelley said.
    Though she did some perfunctory family events later around her father-in-law's presidential campaigns, Paul said she was largely shielded from the rough and tumble political world.
    Fast forward to 2009, when her ophthalmologist husband came to her and said he was considering running for political office for the first time -- the U.S. Senate. She says it took a lot of convincing.
    "He saw the opportunity and he'd been doing a lot of speeches for his Dad and gotten a lot of attention for that and enjoyed it and came home one day and said I have this idea and of course I said you're crazy. But it took a little arm twisting but he can be very persuasive," she said with a chuckle.
    She says she has gotten through the change from private to public life with the help of a core group of girlfriends she's had since college -- and writes about in her new book, "True and Constant Friends."
    "I have certain friends that I call to make me laugh and look at the absurd side of all of this. I have friends that I will call if I need to cry and say 'oh my gosh, I can't stand this life,'" she tells me.
    The seven women, who attended Rhodes College In Tennessee, go away together every year -- everywhere from Lake Tahoe, to Wyoming to New York and use the trip as a touchstone.
    "It's such a wonderful thing to make friends with someone at 17 or 18 and still be friends at 51 because you truly have seen each other through your teens, your 20s and 30s, your 40s -- all stages of our lives.," she said.
    Paul got the idea for the book after giving several speeches about her idol -- her grandmother, Julia -- whom she says was the life of every party.
    She was an Irish immigrant full of optimism who worked as a maid in New York. Paul cherishes a white beaded purse her grandmother got from a rich boss, and even took it to the White House.
    She gets emotional talking about it.
    "I just remember looking down at my arm and that little beaded purse just shined and I could hear her voice saying you'll take it lots of wonderful places," she recalls.
    Though it is clear this book was a labor of love for Paul, there is little question the topic -- influential and strong women -- has a potential upside for her husband politically.
    That is especially true on the heels of his announcement media tour when he raised questions about how he interacts with women, after clashing with NBC's Savannah Guthrie,
    Long before that, Rand Paul wrote the introduction to his wife's book -- listing strong women he says influenced him -- like his own grandmother.
    They display a picture in their front hall of her as a young woman, looking like a flapper, but pointing a shotgun -- not someone to be messed with.
    "No, she was not," Kelley Paul said.
    Paul talked about this grandmother in his announcement speech as the reason he became an ophthalmologist. When she started to lose her vision, he took her to the doctor.
    Rand Paul's run for president was also a tough sell for Kelley. She was reluctant for a long time.
    "I do have trepidation. I think anyone does as a spouse," admits Paul, as she talks openly about the opposition research done on candidates and their family by their opponents.
    "Most people will come up to me and say, 'wow, I wouldn't do it.' You know that's probably the thing I hear more than anything else, is you couldn't pay me to do that. And, so I'm certainly not unusual in having a lot of trepidation about it," she said.
    But she says she's found the more involved she is, the less anxiety she feels.
    "There is nothing more stressful than sitting home and watching things unfold in Washington or the media about someone you love and you feel sort of out of control or out of the realm of it," Paul said.
    "I didn't like that feeling of just sort of passively watching so I did start giving some more speeches and traveling with him. When you're out there you realize how quickly things are moving and how you can impact them so I did," she added.
    For that reason, she says, expect her to be a presence on the presidential trail -- trepidation be damned.
    After all, that's why women have girlfriends to rely on -- or in her case, "True and Constant Friends."