Published March 24, 2013
Sen. Rand Paul strongly signaled Sunday that he's interested in running for president in 2016, saying the Republican Party needs something different than "cookie-cutter conservatives."
The Kentucky senator, who has been watching his star rise in the party and last weekend won the annual straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, stressed in an interview with "Fox News Sunday" that he doesn't know yet whether he will run for president.
But asked about his plans, he said he's already talked with Republican National Committee leaders about the "things I think we need to do" to be competitive across the country. He said the party needs more libertarian policies -- which Paul is known to stand for -- in order to attract younger voters. Paul said it's important to have a candidate who "would appeal across the left-right paradigms."
"I've always said I wanted to be part of the national debate. I think the Republican Party needs to figure out how to be bigger, and I think I do bring some ideas to that," Paul said, adding: "We do need something new. The party needs something new to grow, and I want to be part of that."
The senator said he wants to be involved in helping the country recover economically.
Paul is among the crop of fresh Republican voices considered competitive in 2016, a group that includes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- who also received an enthusiastic response more than a week ago at CPAC. Paul, the son of former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, earlier this month drew national attention for his 13-hour filibuster in which he pressed the Obama administration for clarification on its authority to use drones to kill Americans.
Paul, while right of his party on some issues, also strays left on many other topics. Earlier this week, he gave a major speech in which he endorsed a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Paul clarified Sunday that conservatives still need to be reassured that the border is controlled.
"No immigration reform's going to happen unless Republicans in the House sign onto it," Paul said. A group of eight senators, four from each party, is trying to finalize the details of an immigration reform plan, with hopes of pushing legislation in the coming months.
Paul, who describes himself as a supporter of traditional marriage, also reiterated that he believes the states should have the right to decide the legality of gay marriage. This comes ahead of key Supreme Court cases that are being argued this week, one of which concerns the controversial Prop 8 measure which banned gay marriage in California.
Paul defended his stance on marijuana and other drugs as well, which is seen to be more lenient than the party's overall position. "The main thing I've said is not to legalize them but not to incarcerate people for an extended period of time," he said.
Paul said the prisons are full of "non-violent criminals" and that while he doesn't want to "encourage" marijuana use, that is something many young people do before abandoning it later in life.
"The last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use," Paul said. "They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don't get lucky."