CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is spending a 10-day visit to Iowa campaigning for a larger, more diverse Republican Party.
Paul acknowledges he also might be laying the groundwork for a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Those activities aren’t mutually exclusive, he told audiences in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Tuesday.
“Just the people in this room can’t do it,” he told about 100 people at an Iowa City University Club fundraiser for 2nd District GOP challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks. “There aren’t enough of us.”
Republicans, he said, must expand the party nationally as well as in Iowa.
“I don’t have to remind you who won in Iowa for the presidency last time … and the time before,” he said. “I’m not casting blame on any individual, but Iowa didn’t do their part. You all gave us the president who is messing up the country.”
Paul, the son of former Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who sought the GOP presidential nomination, hasn’t said whether he’ll run in 2016. He’s putting together an organization that includes Steve Grubbs, a top Iowa GOP strategist, and A.J. Spiker, former state party chairman.
Although he won’t make a decision whether to run until early 2015, Paul has raised nearly $8 million in the past 18 months through three accounts, including a super PAC run by his supporters.
Until then, he’s endorsing candidates — Miller-Meeks and 1st District Republican Rod Blum — and championing the idea of a “big tent” Republican Party without mentioned that term.
He rejects the idea that by diluting what the party stands for so it is more like the Democratic Party will make it more appealing to voters.
“I couldn’t disagree more,” Paul said. “We should maintain what we believe in. In fact, I think we should be bigger, better and bolder on all the things we believe in: balanced budget; not revenue neutral, but lower taxes; less regulation; leaving more money in Iowa and sending less money to Washington. Let’s be for all that.”
And, Republicans “need to be not only the party of the 2nd Amendment, we need to be the party of the Bill of Rights,” he said to applause from more than 50 people at the Linn County Republican Victory Office in Hiawatha.
He wants to see more African Americans, Hispanic and younger voters, Paul said.
We need to take our message to the workers, the young people to help them understand that big government isn’t helping you.”
Asking Iowans to send U.S. Senate candidates State Sen. Joni Ernst to Washington as part of a GOP Senate majority, Paul joked her rival, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley doesn’t seem to be helping himself.
“I don’t know much about campaigning in Iowa,” he said, “but I do know Chuck Grassley and I think it’s probably not good advice to criticize Chuck Grassley or farmers.”
He was referring to Braley’s comment to trial attorneys that if Ernst is elected. Grassley, a farmer who never went to law school, could be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Paul thinks Iowans will say, “You know what, we better have a farmer and Chuck Grassley as chairman of the Judiciary than a lawyer any day.
As a physician, he added, it doesn’t take much to “convince me too much that there are other people besides lawyers who can have ideas,” he added.