Kentucky's Rand Paul hints at presidential bid in 2016

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comNovember 20, 2012 

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says he is interested in running for president in 2016.

"I'm not going to deny that I'm interested," Paul told ABC's Jonathan Karl in a segment called "Spinners and Winners."

Paul, who was first elected to the Senate in 2010 and has been frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, said he hasn't made a final decision yet on whether to run in 2016.

"I think it's a little too early," he said. "We'll see what happens."

After a bruising Nov. 6 election, Paul told ABC the Republican Party needs to change some of its stances, although not what he called the party's core message of encouraging economic growth to generate government revenue.

"I think we have to go in a different direction because we're just not winning and we have to think about some different ideas," Paul told ABC.

Some of those different ideas include allowing states to make decisions on the legalization of marijuana and taking a more moderate approach on immigration. Paul said he still favors border security but would be open to looking at paths to citizenship for people who have been in the country illegally for decades.

"We have to let people know, Hispanics in particular, we're not putting you on a bus and shipping you home," Paul said.

The Republican Party, Paul noted, is losing the Hispanic vote, a growing segment of the voting population.

With the retirement of his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, many are looking to Rand Paul to take up his his father's Libertarian-leaning agenda. The elder Paul ran for president three times, most recently in the 2012 Republican primary.

Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor for the Rothenberg Political Report in Washington D.C., said Paul would probably be one of many candidates if he decides to run.

"He's not going to be alone," Gonzales said. Other possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 include U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. On the heels of the Nov. 6 election, both men have said the Republican Party needs to be more inclusive.

Rand Paul, an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, would likely face some of the same challenges that his father encountered when seeking a national office, Gonzales said. If he wants to win, Paul would have to embrace more moderate Republican views.

"You can't get the Republican nomination with just libertarian support," Gonzales said.

In the ABC News interview, Rand Paul said his father has helped the Republican Party by bringing new ideas and new people into the political process.

"He's grown the party in a tremendous way," Paul said.

Scott Lasley, an associate professor of political science at Western Kentucky University, said Rand Paul should not be confused with his father.

"I think he's much better positioned than his father," Lasley said.

Rand Paul has been more measured in his speech and political stances than the elder Paul, he said. For example, Rand Paul endorsed and actively campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. His father did not.

Through his political action committee, Rand Paul has given generously to Republican candidates in state and federal elections. He also has headlined various fundraisers for candidates, solidifying his relationships with the Republican Party establishment.

Rand Paul, who traveled the country on the campaign trail with his father, also would likely benefit from his father's supporters and contributors, Lasley said.

"There is a base foundation there that really no other candidate has right now," Lasley said.

Beth Musgrave: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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