Kentucky senator and Tea Party favorite kicks off with anti-establishment pitch
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
LOUISVILLE (CFP) — Vowing “to rescue a great country now adrift,” U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky kicked off his campaign for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination with a call for Republicans not to settle for a nominee who is a “Democrat light.”
“We cannot, we must not, dilute our message or give up on our principles,” Paul said at an April 7 kickoff rally at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville. “We need to go boldly forth under the banner of liberty that clutches the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.”
The crowd at the rally hoisted signs with twin slogans capturing the outside, anti-establishment tenor of Paul’s campaign — “Defeat the Washington Machine” and “Unleash the American Dream.”
Paul, 52, an opthtamologist, was elected to the Senate in the Republican sweep of 2010 with support from Tea Party groups and the GOP’s libertarian wing. Playing to those libertarian voters, Paul said he would end government surveillance programs of phone and computer records that began during the Bush administration and were continued under President Obama.
“Warrantless searches of Americans’ phones and computer records are un-American and a threat to our civil liberties,” he said. “I say that your phone records are yours. I say the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business.”
Paul also brought up his skepticism of U.S. intervention overseas — a position that has put him at sharp odds with the defense and foreign policy establishment within the Republican Party.
“I see an America strong enough to deter foreign aggression, yet wise enough to avoid unnecessary intervention,” he said. However, Paul also said American interests are under assault from “radical Islam.”
“Not only will I name the enemy, I will do whatever it takes to defend American from these haters of mankind.”
Paul also made a populist pitch for support on the issue of income inequality, saying “under the watch of both parties, the poor seem to get poorer and the right get richer.”
In addition to seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Paul is also simultaneously seeking re-election to his Senate seat in Kentucky.
Paul is now the second announced GOP presidential candidate, joining U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his candidacy March 24. A third candidate, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, is expected to announce next week.
The trio are among nine Southerners — eight Republicans and one Democrat — considering a White House bid in 2016.
Among the other potential Southern GOP candidates are former governors Jeb Bush of Florida, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rick Perry of Texas; U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas.
View Paul’s announcement speech: