Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul paired populist, anti-establishment themes of small government and individual rights with jabs at fellow Republicans and Democrats alike.
“Sometimes I think we can sum up our political philosophy by saying we want a government that minds its own business,” the Kentucky senator said, following his introduction by Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, his western states campaign head. “There’s a lot of things out here in Idaho that nobody in Washington has a clue about.”
Paul spoke to a crowd of roughly 300 supporters at a late-morning rally at Boise State University, before taking questions from reporters. He covered topics ranging from government surveillance, taxes and federal spending to his lag in the polls, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and, close to home in the west, how best to fight wildfires.
His remarks also included what amounted to a primer on constitutional rights, as he said that advocates for any specific right should be prepared to defend them all.
“You’ve got to defend the Bill of Rights,” he said. “You want to attract new people to our party.
“Let’s become the party of justice again.”
More of what Paul said:
• “We had this debate in the last presidential debate: Should we collect all the phone records of all Americans? I don’t know about you, but I frankly don’t want President Obama to have all my phone records.”
• “Government has become so enormous that it’s gobbling up all the resources. There are socialized countries that have lower taxes than us.”
• “What the Constitution is about is not binding you. It’s about binding and restraining government.”
• “Any of the 55 Republicans running for president can probably win Idaho, and that’s great. We love ya. But we’ve got to figure out how to win Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, the old industrial states.”
• “What (Republicans) need to be is more boldly for what we are for. Let’s be the party again of tax cuts, let’s be the party of wiping out these regulations, let’s be the party of balancing the budget . We’re the party of the balanced budget, but we’re not the party of actually balancing the budget.”
• “I don’t want to be the party of the less bad.”
• On trailing in the polls: “These really aren’t polls on who anybody’s even going to vote for. I think they’re very soft polls and they’re very moveable. The one good news that we think we have from the polling is when you poll me head-to-head to Hillary Clinton, actually I’m ahead of her in five states that were won by President Obama.”
• On fighting wildfires: “I think the decision-making is always done better more locally. I think people who live in an area know more about an area than people who live in a distant part of the country. Forests that are privately owned and logged probably have the best decision-making process. The next best thing would be, if it is owned by the government, that it were local government people. I trust the people in Idaho to make better decisions preventing wildfires than I do those in Washington.”
Many in attendance were students attracted by the candidate’s outspoken criticism of government surveillance and his embrace of smaller government.
“We consistently see that government intervention plainly doesn’t work,” said BSU freshman Shea Golob of Star. “So why do we continue this broken cycle when we’re not getting anything in return?”
Anthony Bean, a Meridian small business owner, said he hoped the substance of Paul’s message would eventually counter the rhetoric of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
“The media’s been outplayed by one candidate and that’s where all the attention goes,” Bean said. “So when people start listening and coming to events like this, then hopefully the message will go out by word of mouth and gain some traction with a national audience.”
State GOP party chairman Steve Yates said Paul’s message would resonate with like-minded libertarians in Idaho as well as the state’s “mainline Republicans that really identify with his limited government message.”
Paul was to appear in Nampa Thursday afternoon before traveling to Idaho Falls for a Republican party event.