Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is helping open a “GOP engagement office” on Saturday in an African-American area of Louisville, part of a frenetic summer schedule aimed at reaching beyond the party’s traditional base, with explicit appeals to minorities and young people.
In late summer or early fall, Paul plans a major foreign policy address that will give him a prime chance to close a gap with establishment Republicans that has been perhaps the biggest hurdle to acceptance of Paul by party elites.
The itinerary will bolster the widespread view among Republican leaders that Paul is doing the most visible spadework of the party’s potential presidential candidates. As a sign of his advanced planning, the senator told AP that he would consider running for reelection and president at the same time, and that a Kentucky ballot law against dual candidacies would not be an obstacle.
Paul, who has traveled to 30 states in the past 12 months (including three trips to the early-presidential-voting South Carolina), showed his flair for unlikely venues by drawing a standing ovation in Berkeley in March.
“I think there are a lot of issues,” Paul told POLITICO in an interview, “from economic development to schools, to criminal justice, that there’s a message that a lot of us are talking about that, if people can embrace it with an open mind, will really, frankly, say, ‘What have the Democrats done for me lately?’”
Next weekend, Paul will be one of several 2016 hopefuls who will address a summit organized by Mitt Romney in Park City, Utah. At the end of July, the senator will speak to the annual Urban League National Conference in Cincinnati. From Aug. 16 to 21, he’ll do pro bono eye surgeries in Guatemala.
“The same speech that I delivered at the Conservative Political Action [Conference] is pretty much the same speech I gave at Berkeley and it was received well in both quarters,” Paul said. “I think it shows people that the old politics of everybody fitting neatly in one category, Republican or Democrat, may not be where the country is.
“I think young people fit in that category. While they voted for President Obama, they’re somewhat disillusioned with his collection of their phone records, and I think they are open to somebody [else], regardless of parties. I think young people are up for grabs for either party. They’re not up for grabs if you’re not willing to defend their right to privacy.”