In Concord, Rand Paul raises cash for N.H. GOP and stokes 2016 speculation

Last modified: 7/8/2013 12:18:59 PM
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was in Concord last night, raising money for the New Hampshire Republican Party and talking like a man kicking the tires on a run for president in 2016.

“We need to be that party of opportunity. We need to be that party that can express it in a way that shows that we care about people,” Paul told a crowd of about 500 Republicans. “We need to care about people even if they are on government assistance. People on unemployment aren’t bad people. People who are on welfare aren’t bad people. We need to be able to express that we’re the party that’s going to give them the opportunity to join the rest of us in the middle class.”

Tickets for the GOP’s sold-out Liberty Dinner started at $75, and Paul himself contributed $10,000 to the state party, said Chairwoman Jennifer Horn.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, also spoke at the dinner, blasting President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and “government gone wild.”

But Paul was the star attraction, even if he deflected a reporter’s question about 2016 and his support in the state with the first presidential primary.

“It’s top secret,” Paul said with a laugh. He added that “we’ve had a lot of friends up here for years” but his focus right now is “how we try to grow the party.”

But the first-term senator also suggested his brand of libertarian-minded politics would do well in New Hampshire. His father, former Texas congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, finished second in last year’s primary behind eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

“There’s a great deal of evidence we’re not doing well in New England,

and I think people want more of a ‘leave me alone’ kind of government in New Hampshire,” the younger Paul told reporters. “You know, ‘Live Free or Die.’ ”

Obama, a Democrat, was sworn in for his second term just four months ago. But potential presidential candidates like Paul are already finding reasons to visit Iowa, home of the first presidential caucuses, and New Hampshire, which will hold the first primary in 2016.

Following a “listening session” yesterday afternoon with Priebus and party activists, Paul told reporters the GOP must broaden its appeal to win in the future.

“We need to have black people, brown people, white people. We need to have people with tattoos, without tattoos, with long hair, with short hair, with beards, without beards. We need to look more like America. We need to appeal to the working class, we need to appeal to all segments of the country,” Paul said. “And I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job yet, and that’s why I want to be part of saying, ‘This is how we become competitive again.’ ”

Last night’s dinner drew a big crowd, and that’s good news both for the state GOP and for Paul, said Mike Biundo, the Manchester-based strategist who ran Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign.

“The first-in-the-nation primary is obviously an important piece of the puzzle to anybody who’s thinking about running for president. It’s a long time off, but I think he’s making a lot of the right moves,” Biundo said. “I mean, the senator’s coming up here early. He’s paying attention to the activists. He’s trying to expand his base from what his dad had. And those are all important things you have to do in New Hampshire.”

But Ray Buckley, chairman of the state Democratic Party, issued a statement calling Paul’s appearance proof “that the New Hampshire Republican Party has turned its back on traditional Granite State values, in a desperate attempt to become the face and voice of the irresponsible tea party and radical social conservatives.”


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