A week after about 150 tea party activists staged a rally opposing U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election, tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said here Monday that he hopes Alexander doesn’t get an opponent next year and hopes he wins re-election.

Alexander, R-Tenn., has aroused tea party ire for his votes for the immigration reform bill and other legislation opposed by the GOP’s hard right. And tea party activists criticized Alexander for a TV ad his campaign ran statewide this month that prominently featured an appearance by Paul, R-Kentucky, at a Nashville event that Alexander staged to celebrate passage of a bill the two co-sponsored to override a ban on fishing immediately below Corps of Engineers dams on the Cumberland River.

On July 20, about 150 tea partiers carried protest signs and wore red anti-Alexander t-shirts outside of a rally Alexander hosted in Smyrna, Tenn. Tea party leaders spoke vehemently against Alexander’s re-election to a third term and called for a more conservative opponent to challenge him in next year’s Republican primary. However, no opponent has publicly surfaced — either in the GOP primary or among Democrats.

Paul came to Nashville Monday to tour a KIPP Academy charter school with Alexander, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and a Kentucky state representative who is working to pass charter school legislation in the Kentucky legislature. Reporters asked Paul whether he plans on endorsing his Republican colleague from Tennessee.

With Alexander standing at his side, Paul said the tour was about education, not endorsements but said:

“I think it’s a sort of a fun parlor game that the media gets involved with. I’m very supportive of Sen. Alexander. He and I have worked together on a lot of issues. I’m very complimentary of how he’s been a great senator from Tennessee. I hate to be trapped into, 'oh I’m down here endorsing Sen. Alexander.’ I’m here for education. I’m here to learn from Sen. Alexander’s expertise and Tennessee’s.

“I’d rather not go there but I hate to be painted as, 'oh I’ve come here and I’m not endorsing him,’ okay, because I think that’s the wrong message to send. I’m very supportive of Sen. Alexander and I hope he doesn’t get an opponent. I really do. I hope he wins re-election and I’m very supportive of him, but I just don’t want to get trapped into all these political games because that’s really not why I’m here. I hope he accepts that,” Paul said.

Alexander took the microphone and said he accepted Paul’s remarks “very well indeed. Sen. Paul is one of 98 United States senators who hasn’t endorsed me, the other two being me and Sen. Corker. We’re not here to endorse each other. What I try to do is earn the respect of my colleagues, and Rand Paul’s certainly earned my respect for the way he speaks out and works on education.”