Rand Paul plans heavy summer travel, foreign-policy speech
By: Mike Allen
June 7, 2014 01:57 PM EDT
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.”
Paul said his message to the Urban League will be “the libertarian message that we must defend every individual’s rights …. that individual rights need to be protected against majoritarian rule.” He said that notion is “incredibly important if you’ve been part of any group that’s ever been persecuted in history, and that can be African American, that can be Jewish American, that can be Japanese American.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of people who are open to the message — who are conservative black leaders, conservative black businessmen and [business]women,” Paul continued. “They often say they haven’t seen anyone come to their neighborhood or make a real direct appeal to people involved from the minority community.”
Paul said he’ll give the foreign-policy speech to help “people understand where I’m coming from … that probably the most important thing that we do at the federal government level is to defend the country — and that that is a priority in my thinking, both for spending as well as for the priorities of what the federal government does.”
“I think it’s important to keep elucidating where I’m coming from on foreign policy so basically it isn’t characterized by — or mischaracterized by – enemies,” he added.
In Louisville’s West End, the new Jefferson County Republican Party office will be named for the late William Warley, who crusaded against the city’s segregated schools and street cars in the Louisville News, which he founded in 1913. Warley helped bring the case that resulted in a 1917 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the city’s segregated housing.
Paul said: “Louisville was one of those cities [where], once upon a time, the African American population was predominantly Republican, and a driving force in us winning elections in Louisville. We used to win the mayorship of Louisville … because of a strong Republican vote among the African-American community. … “[W]e want to try to get to those days. We have a long way to go, and the vote has slipped gradually decade after decade. And we think we can’t get engaged African-American voters unless we show up and live and work in the community, and try to talk to them about what’s going on and see if we have some issues and ideas for how to make their community better.”
Paul admitted that “there have been very few times in history when … an ethnic vote changed dramatically. … It takes, I think, a transformational person and/or a transformational message that all of a sudden people start to question and say, you know, … ‘Why am I a Democrat when my schools for my kids are not adequate?’”