Republican US Senate nominee Rand Paul of Kentucky said Monday night he "admired" outgoing Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), who was hoisted into the national spotlight this year for repeatedly blocking attempts to extend unemployment benefits.

"I got started in this race actually to defend Jim Bunning against attacks," Paul said in a debate with his Democratic rival Jack Conway. "And I know a lot of people have attacked him, but you know, the one thing I really admired about him was that he wasn't afraid to stand on principle."

The remarks came in response to a question from the moderator about which politician in Kentucky's history the two candidates admire most.

Paul specifically invoked Bunning's support for pay-as-you-go, his opposition to the bank bailouts, and said Bunning was willing to be "brave" when few or no other lawmakers were.

"He stood up and, on principle, voted the way he believed was right for Kentucky and I'm proud of him for that," Paul said.

But Bunning's moment of fame came this February, when Congress was debating a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits for 1.2 million US workers struggling from the recession.

The Kentucky Republican, whose state was reeling from over 10 percent unemployment, adamantly objected to the measure despite the urgent requests of Democratic senators, arguing that no more money should be added to the debt.

His efforts led to weeks-long delays in which out-of-work Americans across the country received no compensation in benefits.

"Tough shit," Bunning said on the Senate floor, Politico reported.

Bunning endorsed Rand Paul this April in the midst of a heated Republican primary in which Paul, the underdog, comfortably routed establishment favorite Trey Grayson.

Paul leads Conway by a 47.1 to 42.6 margin, according to Talking Points Memo's poll average. Polling virtuoso Nate Silver of the New York Times gives Paul an 80.3 percent chance of victory.

This video is from C-SPAN, broadcast Oct. 25, 2010.

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--Video by David Edwards