Kentucky Senator Rand Paul — son of two-time presidential candidate Ron Paul — made his first trip to Iowa this past weekend, suggesting either he or his father will run for president in 2012. 

“I’ve told people that the only decision I’ve made is I wouldn’t run against him,” Rand Paul said during an interview with Radio Iowa on Saturday morning. “…Even if he does, I want to be part of the process, someway, in deciding who the candidate is.”

Rand Paul, an optometrist, points to his father’s travel schedule — which includes recent visits to key states like Iowa — as evidence his father is seriously pondering another presidential campaign. But Rand Paul is ready to jump in if his dad doesn’t.

“I feel the passion to fix the problems in our country before it’s too late,” Paul told Radio Iowa.  “And so, many who say, ‘Why don’t you just sit on the back bench and when your time has come in 12 or 15 or 20 years, then you come forward?’ — I see a shorter timeline not just for me, but I see a shorter time line for the country.”

According to Paul, the nation is imperiled by its spiraling debt and the lack of will among both Democrats and Republicans to deal with it. Paul, a Tea Party Republican, was elected to the U.S. Senate in last year’s election and, if he does launch a presidential campaign of his own, Paul dismisses the idea he’d be criticized for being inexperienced, just as Republicans criticized Barack Obama for being a first-term senator. 

“Didn’t seem to hurt him, did it?” Paul said, with a laugh. “I think it’s interesting people want to complain about it, but, you know, Lincoln was elected with two years of experience as a congressman 15 years before he ran for president.” 

Paul signed copies of his book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington, at bookstores in Ames and West Des Moines on Saturday.  He also spoke to a gathering of Iowa College Republicans and Paul was the keynote speaker at an Iowa Republican Party fundraiser Saturday night in Des Moines.