Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul knows he must broaden his appeal to become his party’s 2016 presidential nominee. But in New Hampshire on Saturday, Paul largely stuck to his core, libertarian-oriented message about the dangers of an over-reaching government that spies on Americans and gets too involved in far-flung civil wars.
“We've been good at defending the Second Amendment, but I also want to defend the Fourth Amendment,” said Paul, an outspoken critic of the National Security Agency’s program that tracks Americans’ phone and Internet activities, since it was exposed in 2013.
“I believe in the right to privacy,” he continued. “Your phone records are yours and not the government's. It's none of their damn business what you're doing on your phone.”
Paul delivered his remarks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H., where the GOP’s top 2016 presidential candidates and hopefuls have gathered to woo voters.
Because New Hampshire is an early-voting state, winning or finishing a close is critical for any Republican or Democratic candidate trying to capture enough momentum and campaign money to stay on the trail toward winning his or her party’s nomination.
Nearly 20 Republican White House prospects are on the program for this weekend’s conference -- hosted by the state GOP, the year's first gathering of its kind in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
Speakers ranged from the party's elite to its longshots: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday delivered a standing-room-only speech while lesser-known South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced himself to voters one at a time in a hallway.
Paul on Saturday also took aim at the Obama administration for what he considers having gotten too close to the ongoing conflict in Libya, where four Americans were killed in 2013 during terror attacks on a U.S. outpost in the city of Benghazi.
“Why the hell did we ever go in to Libya in the first place?” Paul asked. “I think it was a mistake to be in Libya. It was a disaster. We never should have been there.”
The United States has since pulled all personnel out of Libya, which has now descended into deeper turmoil as rival governments and militias battle for control.
New Hampshire is known for roughly 40 percent of its voters being considered independents, or undecided upon a major political party until perhaps as late as Election Day.
In the 2012 White House race, Paul’s father, then-Texas GOP Rep. Ron Paul, who had a huge libertarian following, finished second in the New Hampshire primary.
Rand Paul, however, prefers to call himself a “constitutional conservative” and “libertarian-ish.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.