Sen. Rand Paul didn’t even get to finish chewing.
Within moments of Erika Andiola introducing herself as a “Dreamer” immigration activist to Paul and Rep. Steve King at an Iowa fundraiser on Monday, the Kentucky senator and likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate made a hasty exit.
Andiola first approached the table where Paul and King were seated, shaking hands with each and introducing herself. “My name is Erika,” she said. As Paul leaned in to take a bite of his hamburger, Andiola added, “I’m actually a Dreamer myself.”
With a head nod from aide Sergio Gor, Paul wiped his mouth and departed while still visibly chewing, leaving behind his half-eaten hamburger. (Paul did grab his beverage on the way out.)
The awkward scene was a visual reminder of the political tightrope Paul is trying to walk as he woos the tea-party base of the GOP, raising money for a conservative firebrand like King, at the same time he pitches an inclusionary message of a Republican Party that he says must expand its appeal to win future national elections.
“Instead of actually staying there and talking to us about it, he just decided to run away,” Andiola said in an interview Monday night.
Gor said in an email, “Senator Paul had a media avail after the event and that’s where we had to be. CNN, Buzzfeed, Wall Street Journal and several local outlets attended the media avail.”
The fast exit may have been for the best politically. One minute into a video, which was posted online Monday, King cuts Andiola off and grabs her hand. “Stop a minute,” King tells her. “You’re very good at English. You know what I’m saying.”
Andiola had referenced King’s controversial remark last year that some undocumented immigrations have “calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling drugs across the border.
Andiola objected to that as an insult. King objected to her objection. “I spoke of drug smugglers. Now, you’re not going to tell me you’re one of them are you?” he asked her.
“Do I look like a drug smuggler to you?” she replied.
The King fundraiser came on the first day of a multiday swing Paul is making across Iowa, the state that will kick off the 2016 presidential primary campaign.