FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul said Saturday that his home state of Kentucky needs a governor willing to stand up to the federal government he aspires to lead from the White House.

Paul, a first-term U.S. senator, also acknowledged his poll numbers in the crowded GOP presidential field "haven't all been good," but added: "We're in it for the long haul, and we'll be in it through the primaries."

Paul is running dual candidacies in 2016: for president and for re-election to his Senate seat. On Saturday, he promoted his home state's GOP ticket in next month's election, highlighted by a close race for governor.

The libertarian-leaning Paul told a Republican audience in Frankfort that too much power has been consolidated in the presidency, and that states should play a role in curbing that power.

"We need a governor who will resist the federal encroachment," Paul said. "We need a governor who will stand up and say 'no' to the federal government. But it's going to take courage."

Paul has been a strong opponent of President Barack Obama's health care and environmental policies, and has staked out a libertarian position on civil liberties.

Paul said Kentucky GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin would take on the fight against an intrusive federal government. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate is Jack Conway, the state's attorney general.

"Does anybody think that Jack Conway, who has been part of the machine for his entire life, is going to stand up to anything?" said Paul, who defeated Conway in the 2010 U.S. Senate election in Kentucky.

Conway, however, has joined lawsuits seeking to block Obama administration environment rules that critics say have harmed the state's coal industry. Conway is part of a lawsuit on another Obama administration rule that opponents say gives the federal government much more power to regulate farms and streams.

The joint appearance by Paul and Bevin came a few days after Bevin snubbed his home-state senator by saying during a radio debate that he would vote for Ben Carson for president. Bevin quickly backed away from the remark, and on Saturday he said Paul would make an "extraordinary" president.

Paul shrugged off Bevin's pro-Carson remark as "a minor thing" and said he wholeheartedly backs Bevin.

"We all have different opinions on who we will vote for, who we'll support, and if you can't take that, you might as well not run for office," Paul told reporters Saturday.

Democrats say it's the latest example of flip-flopping by Bevin, a businessman who unsuccessfully challenged now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in last year's GOP Senate primary. In the race for governor, Democrats accuse Bevin of inconsistencies on issues including health care and early childhood education.

"No matter what the subject is, Bevin looks Kentuckians in the eyes and lies about where he stands — and then he tries to deny what he said," said state Democratic Party spokesman David Bergstein. "It's another example of why Kentuckians cannot trust Bevin to serve as governor."