Matt Bevin, the Tea Party-backed Republican nominee for governor of Kentucky, said at a debate this morning that he personally supported Ben Carson for president over Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky).

"He's intelligent, he's articulate, he's respected," said Bevin of Carson, after admitting that he'd supported Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) before that candidate quit the race. "At this point, I'm looking at people who would have the best chance of uniting all the pieces. I think the world of Rand -- he's been very gracious to me."

More than gracious, Paul will be stumping this Saturday at a Frankfort, Ky. rally for Bevin. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee, gleefully point that out when 630 WLAP debate moderators asked for his answer.

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"Wow," said Conway. "That's going to make for an awkward campaign event!"

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Conway dodged the question "out of respect" for the late Beau Biden, son of the vice president and former attorney general of Delaware. That was significant in itself, as Kentucky, won overwhelmingly by Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, has been seen as a place where the Clinton brand can rescue Democrats who suffered from ties to President Obama.

But Bevin's answer managed to be even more tortured, and had a longer history. In 2014, when Bevin challenged Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the Republican primary, Paul made peace with his party's establishment by endorsing the Senate leader and loaning out family friend and strategist Jesse Benton as McConnell's campaign manager.

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That led to unwanted drama for McConnell, starting when a disgruntled ex-Ron Paul strategist leaked a phone call in which Benton admitted he was "holding his nose," ending when Benton was ensnared in the scandal over a 2011 bribe paid to a Paul supporter in Iowa. And it let to bitterness from Bevin, who saw his insurgent bid undercut by a candidate who was readily endorsing libertarian-leaning outsiders in other Republican primaries. Like other Republican candidates for governor, Bevin appeared at the April launch of Paul's presidential campaign. Yet even after Bevin won this year's gubernatorial primary, and Paul endorsed him, Bevin refused to support Paul.

UPDATE: After the debate, Bevin's Twitter account clarified (albeit confusingly) that he was not actually endorsing Carson.

In real time, the answer was clear -- and debate moderators pressed Bevin, to make sure that he did not support Kentucky's own candidate in Rand Paul.

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