Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has emerged as a potential 2016 GOP presidential front-runner, inched closer Sunday to a full-fledged contender, outlining a likely platform that would appeal to young voters and knocking back criticism that he’s soft on foreign policy.
The first-term, Tea Party champion told “Fox News Sunday” that he would try to expand the Republican Party to include those long overlooked by government and younger, more libertarian-minded voters.
He even said at one point during the interview, “Were I in charge … .”
Paul laid out his vision one day after winning the Conservative Political Action Conference’s 2016 presidential straw poll and several days after a Washington Post columnist suggested he has emerged as the top choice among the GOP’s conservative wing.
On Sunday, Paul acknowledged that he has tapped into young Americans, including those “fed up” with the National Security Agency tapping into their cellphone records.
“The Fourth Amendment is just as important as the Second Amendment,” said Paul, who has been critical of the scope of the NSA’s domestic spying since those efforts were exposed last year. “That’s what distinguishes me from other Republicans.”
Paul defended his foreign policy views, including his position that the United States should seek “respectful” relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has sent troops into the Crimea region of Ukraine amid the country’s political turmoil.
Paul said he would warn Putin that he’s creating “chaos” and potentially the next Syria-type crisis. He also said he embraces the Reagan maxim of “Don't mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.”
Said Paul: “People still need to know this. Were I in charge, I think they would.”
He also said he has discussed with his family a presidential run and has “done everything that would make it work. But I still haven’t made up my mind.”
Paul finished with 31 percent of the CPAC vote, ahead of Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, considered Paul’s top competition for the Republican Party’s conservative mantle.
However, he declined Sunday to criticize Cruz, who has electrified some while angering others in the party with his firebrand style of politics, including an attempt to shut down the government in an effort to dismantle ObamaCare.
“I don’t spend a lot of time trying to drag people down,” Paul said.
He argued that winning over younger voters is critical to the GOP’s future success, saying Obama won that voting bloc in 2012 by a 3-to-1 margin, but his popularity among such voters has dropped 20 to 30 percentage points.
“It’s a real opportunity for Republicans,” he told Fox News.