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"If I do a campaign, I'm going to do it my way": Richard Painter on his possible Senate bid

Richard Painter on possible Senate run

Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush and outspoken critic of President Trump, announced Wednesday he is forming an exploratory committee as he considers a U.S. Senate bid in Minnesota -- but he hasn't yet decided what party he would attach his name to if he runs. Speaking with CBSN Thursday night on "Red & Blue," Painter said the Republican Party has changed in the three decades he has been a part of it, and shifted toward almost unrecognizable positions on social issues. The Democratic Party, he said, has also shifted to the left.

"I have seen the Republican Party turn sharply to the right on social issues ranging from abortion to guns to gay rights," he told CBSN. "A lot of traditionally Republican voters have been alienated by that."

Painter is debating whether to run as a Republican or an Independent for the seat this fall. The seat was vacated by former Sen. Al Franken and is filled until November by former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. Minnesota has a filing deadline in May, so Painter has the rest of March and April to decide.

"I think the Republican Party has moved substantially to the right, particularly on social issues," Painter said in a separate interview with CBS News.  "... And the Democratic Party has moved to the left over the past decades. So we've got a lot more room in the middle."

If he does run as a Republican, Painter says he wants to bring the GOP back to basic principles of small, limited government. Painter lamented what President Trump has done to an already damaged party and government, but, despite his intense criticism of the president, said his campaign wouldn't be about him. 

"My campaign is not going to focus on the president," Painter told CBSN. "I'd want to focus on what got us into this situation to begin with."

Mr. Trump was elected, Painter said, because people were "fed up" with the role of money in politics, in both parties. Voters, he said, wanted a change -- but Mr. Trump has let them down. 

"I think I would have a lot of appeal to those people who chose President Trump in the election because they wanted change," he added. 

If he does choose to run, Painter said he wouldn't use political action committee (PAC) funding, and wouldn't run negative ads. But he won't run just to be an issue candidate -- he'll run if he thinks he has a good shot at winning.

"I don't want to do something that doesn't have a good chance of succeeding," Painter said, dismissing the idea that he would run simply to raise issues. 

"If I do a campaign, I'm going to do it my way," Painter said.

Watch Richard Painter's full interview in the video player at the very top of this page. CBSN's "Red & Blue" streams Monday through Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.

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