Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who was elected in 2010 with surging support from the tea party, announced his candidacy for president on Tuesday, vowing to disrupt Washington’s status quo. Paul is likely to be among nearly a dozen Republicans vying for the party’s 2016 nomination.
Here are some things to know about Paul as he hits the campaign trail in early primary and caucus states.
How is Paul looking to portray himself as a 'different kind of Republican'?
For Paul it’s about courting voters who traditionally don’t vote Republican -- specifically minorities and college students. He’s traveled extensively to inner cities, spoken at black churches, and called for reforms that would specifically benefit minorities. Those reforms include allying with Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, which have disproportionately affected minorities. During unrest last year in Ferguson, Mo., Paul was the lone Republican among likely presidential candidates to publicly call for the demilitarization of police.
Paul gave a speech last year at UC Berkeley – a rare move for a Republican politician – in which he assailed the U.S. intelligence community for using questionable spying techniques revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Will this help Paul in the primary? That remains to be seen, but his polls have been promising. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, he has more support among those under age 50 than those over age 50.
What has Paul done in Washington?
A libertarian-conservative, Paul gained national attention for his 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA, in which he also criticized President Obama’s drone policy. Paul has long been a critic of big defense spending, which has put him at odds with more hawkish members of his party, such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) the party’s 2008 presidential nominee. But as Paul has inched closer to his presidential run he has sought to mend relationships. In March, he proposed increasing the defense budget to nearly $190 billion over the next two years. Paul’s sponsored more than 300 bills in his first term – among the most of his Republican colleagues.
His first term has also seen controversies, such as allegations of plagiarism. MSNBC pointed out in 2013 that parts of Paul’s speech endorsing Ken Cuccinelli for governor of Virginia resembled text on a Wikipedia page for the dystopian sci-fi film “Gattaca.”
What did Paul do before he got to Washington?
Paul's father, former Rep. Ron Paul, represented a Houston-area congressional district for nearly three decades. In that time Ron Paul also ran for president three times, with Rand Paul working – in some capacity – on each campaign. During his undergraduate years at Baylor University, Paul took a semester off to work on his father’s campaign for Senate in 1984. Rand Paul hopes to bank on the widespread libertarian following his father captured while in Congress. Before being elected to the Senate in 2010, Rand Paul was an ophthalmologist serving low-income communities and had never held public office.
Who does Paul need support from in the Republican primary?
His base supporters will definitely be libertarian conservatives, whom Paul is courting with calls to close the Department of Education, end foreign aid and implementing a flat tax rate. These are some areas that appeal specifically to libertarians, though these voters make up a small portion of Republican primary voters. For Paul, boosting his name recognition will be a huge hurdle. He and fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his presidential candidacy last month, face being overshadowed in a crowded GOP field. In recent polls, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were favorites in early voting states.
Is he running for the presidency and reelection to his Senate seat?
He hopes so. Most states don’t allow a candidate to run for both president and a House or Senate seat. In Kentucky, a candidate's name cannot appear twice on the same ballot. But for several months, Paul has been working to change that rule. He’s called on GOP leaders in Kentucky to hold a presidential caucus, which would give Paul the ability to run for both offices. The plan recently got initial approval from leaders of the state’s GOP and final approval could come in August.