Rand Paul’s Heading Deep Into Democratic Terrain

The conservative 2016 contender wants to lure young and black voters to the GOP, so he’s taking his message to them.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord International Hotel and Conference Center March 7, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
March 19, 2014, 1:25 p.m.

BERKE­LEY, Cal­if. — Rand Paul’s swing through Berke­ley is just the be­gin­ning of his for­ay in­to tra­di­tion­ally Demo­crat­ic ter­rit­ory.

After his vis­it to this lib­er­al strong­hold, where he’s speak­ing to stu­dents about the NSA and pri­vacy, the Ken­tucky sen­at­or will make stops at the Na­tion­al Urb­an League in Ju­ly and at the NAACP in the com­ing months, if an in­form­al in­vit­a­tion from the group is made of­fi­cial. He’s also plot­ting a trip to Chica­go and Mil­wau­kee, Paul said in an in­ter­view this week, where he plans to speak about edu­ca­tion and “school choice.”

It’s all part of his ef­fort to cast him­self as the man who can broaden the ap­peal of the Re­pub­lic­an Party ahead of a widely ex­pec­ted 2016 pres­id­en­tial run. Among the demo­graph­ic groups that Paul is most furi­ously tar­get­ing are young voters and Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans.

“For the Re­pub­lic­an Party to win again we need to go places we haven’t been go­ing, and we need to at­tract people we haven’t been at­tract­ing. Part of that is the mes­sage, but part of that is also show­ing up,” Paul told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “I think we need to show up in chal­len­ging cir­cum­stances, so you don’t think of Berke­ley as be­ing a bas­tion of Re­pub­lic­an polit­ics and so I think it’s a good place to go.”

Paul, a fierce crit­ic of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s tac­tics, be­lieves the is­sue of sur­veil­lance can — and has already star­ted to — peel young voters away from Pres­id­ent Obama and the Demo­crat­ic Party.

“The youth vote went 3-to-1 for Pres­id­ent Obama but re­cent polls, in the last six months, have shown his sup­port drop­ping be­cause, mostly be­cause of the NSA scan­dal, I think,” Paul said.

Paul said he also wants to make a push in­to big cit­ies where Re­pub­lic­ans have been swamped in re­cent elec­tions. “We have a trip planned to Chica­go and Mil­wau­kee to talk about school choice and to talk about edu­ca­tion in the large cit­ies and how we can do a bet­ter job than what we’re do­ing,” he said.

The sen­at­or has made a con­cer­ted ef­fort to broaden his ap­peal to black voters, ap­pear­ing at Howard Uni­versity last year and an­oth­er his­tor­ic­ally black col­lege earli­er this year.

He said he planned to speak to the Na­tion­al Urb­an League in Ju­ly and that he would like to speak with the NAACP, whose pres­id­ent in­vited him via the me­dia last month, as well. “I don’t know if we ac­tu­ally have an in­vit­a­tion but we’ll do that if we’re in­vited,” Paul said.

Paul’s polit­ic­al man­euv­er­ings are gar­ner­ing in­creased at­ten­tion as he has ris­en in the na­tion­al polling for 2016. His ap­pear­ance in Berke­ley is ex­pec­ted to draw a full house and a bevy of both loc­al and na­tion­al re­port­ers.

“If we’re just try­ing to get the mes­sage out about how we grow the Re­pub­lic­an Party, I have a big­ger mi­cro­phone be­cause people are see­ing me as a con­tender,” he said.

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