Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says he’s doesn’t have a “definite plan” to run for president in 2016, but his border-to-border, barnstorming tour of Iowa this week is a big hint.
Paul has hired an Iowa-based consultant. Two Iowans who worked on his dad’s 2012 Iowa Caucus campaign are working for Rand Paul’s political action committee. And as Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry introduced Paul to a crowd in Council Bluffs Monday afternoon, Terry made it clear that Paul’s sights are set on a race for the White House.
“A great principled conservative with great ideas and maybe a future outside of the Senate,” Terry said.
Paul, who is an eye doctor, is helping two of Iowa’s Republican congressional candidates raise money this week, plus he’s appearing at half a dozen county offices around the state where local party activists are running phone banks, handing out yard signs and staging neighborhood canvassing. Paul said there’s “pent up enthusiasm” in the country, but he cautioned Republicans not to be over-confident.
AUDIO of event at Pottawattamie County GOP headquarters, 17:00
“They out-hustled us last time,” Paul said, reminding the crowd in Council Bluffs that Obama won Iowa in both 2008 and 2012. “So I hope you’re motivated because you believe strongly in our country, you want to see a recovery again and I’m going to do everything I can to help.”
Paul described himself as a “cheerleader” for expanding the Republican tent. He said, in Iowa, the party’s 2016 nominee has to be able to appeal beyond the “business class” and sell the party’s economic growth message to those who work for an hourly wage.
“Some people think of Iowa, ‘Oh, it’s a great place to come to talk about presidential primaries,’ but really the problem is not so much the primary, it’s the General Election,” Paul said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “You know we need to think about not only how we win a primary, but you’ve got to think how you win General Elections in Iowa, because Iowa is one of those 10 or 15 states that are sort of purplish states.”
Mark Hansen of Council Bluffs was a Ron Paul supporter in 2012 who is ready to back Rand Paul in 2016.
“His biggest path to success is going after the independent voters,” Hansen said. “…It’s all about winning the General Election.”
Steve Meidlinger of Council Bluffs was among those who crowded into the GOP headquarters in Pottawattamie County on Monday afternoon to hear Paul speak.
“I like him because he’s a conservative and he’s got some of the same ideas that I think are important in a candidate,” Meidlinger said.
Paul was asked during a stop in Sioux City if he is going to run for president and he replied: “Maybe.”
Rand Paul is one of half a dozen potential 2016 presidential candidates who are making trips to Iowa this week. The parade of possibles includes Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who are past Iowa Caucus victors, as well as Governors Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was in Iowa last weekend, will return this weekend.
(This story was updated at 1:19 p.m. with audio from the event in Council Bluffs.)