Rand Paul tests message in Idaho

Visiting a reliably red state, the Kentuckian discusses presidential aspirations and how the GOP must change.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comJune 14, 2014 

Sen. Rand Paul, a front runner and potential presidential candidate

Sen. Rand Paul, a front runner and potential presidential candidate, makes time for a brief media visit at Jackson's Jet Center in Boise with Rep. Raul Labrador while the two were on their way to the Idaho Republican Convention in Moscow, Idaho Friday June 13, 2014.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

Republican Sen. Rand Paul says his party must broaden its appeal to women, minorities, young voters and the poor or risk conceding the presidency to Democrats.

"I'm trying to bring the message that the Republican Party is big enough that we can attract new people," Paul said Friday during a series of stops in Boise. "Otherwise, we'll never win again."

Paul said the GOP's core values of limited government and lower taxes can appeal to groups currently favoring Democrats.

"We need a message that reaches out to people who live in poverty and live in unemployment, and say, look, Democrats - what have they done for you? Republicans have something that will bring economic opportunity to your neighborhood," Paul said.

Paul noted that he spoke recently at Cal-Berkeley and in Detroit, and is scheduled to address the National Urban League in July. The GOP recently opened a minority outreach office in Cleveland.

"We really are going all-out on this to try to change the vote," Paul said. "If you go from 5 percent of the African-American vote to 20 percent, we win Ohio."

DOES MESSAGE RESONATE?

Paul stopped in Boise on the way to Friday night's keynote speech at the Idaho Republican Convention in Moscow. Accompanied by Rep. Raul Labrador, Paul held an 8-minute airport news conference, met with prospective presidential campaign contributors and appeared on the Nate Shelman Show on 670 KBOI.

Paul, 51, an ophthalmologist, was elected to the Senate in 2010. He is the son of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who sought the presidency more than once.

Tied at the top of the most recent GOP presidential poll with Jeb Bush, Paul says he won't decide on the race until 2015. He is speaking to the Iowa GOP on Saturday.

"What I'm trying to do is figure out if the message resonates," Paul said. "Republicans nationally are smart to come (to Idaho) to find out what you're doing because you're so successful."

Paul was invited by Labrador about a year ago and happened to arrive on a day when Labrador announced a late bid to become House majority leader, a quest Paul endorsed.

ISSUES OF THE DAY

A foe of the war in Iraq from the start, Paul said he would oppose U.S. troops aiding the crumbling Iraqi government, but wouldn't rule out airstrikes. On Wednesday, he said in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting that "it might have been a little more stable when we had that awful guy Hussein, who hated the Iranians."

In Boise, Paul said, "I followed that up by saying that obviously nobody really liked having a dictator in Iraq and I have no sympathy at all for Hussein. However, I would say that when you had Sunnis ruling Iraq and Shiites ruling Iran, you had somewhat of a stalemate. By removing the Sunnis in Iraq, you have now destabilized the situation and you actually have ... more of a Shiite hegemony now."

Paul has called the prisoner swap for Idaho's Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a "huge mistake." He declined a chance to offer a comment to Bergdahl's parents, but said: "I never made this about him. What I was talking about is whether or not it's a good idea to release five Taliban members."

Paul said President Barack Obama had "broken the law" in failing to notify Congress about the swap.

"The question is how do you get a lawless president to obey the law? It's difficult," he said. "If we say we're going to sue him in court, a court says you don't have standing. If people say, 'Well, gosh, why don't you impeach him,' the problem is that the law that we have actually had a waiver that said if national security is affected, he can do what he wants."

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

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