URBANDALE, Iowa – Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s three-day visit to Iowa wrapped up at the Iowa GOP Des Moines Victory Office Wednesday morning, where he endorsed “the entire Republican ticket” of candidates in the state. But when a national name like Paul’s comes to the “First in the Nation” caucus state – especially ahead of a tight midterm election like 2014’s – the real question for many is if he’s considering a bid for the presidency in 2016.
“I’m excited about what’s going to happen in November,” Paul said. “I think the governor agrees with me, we feel something big happening. We feel the country is going to send a message to the president, ‘We are unhappy with what you’re doing to the country’.”
Paul balanced his criticism of President Obama with praise for the Iowa Republican candidates running for seats in Congress this November. Especially the Senate race, where a recent poll projected Republican Joni Ernst to be neck-and-neck with Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley.
“I heard someone say on the trip over here that if Joni Ernst wins, that means we’ve taken over the Senate,” he said. “That’s absolutely true, because Iowa is not an easy state.”
President Obama won Iowa’s electoral votes in both 2008 and 2012, and Paul preached a message of winning the state back in the GOP’s hands.
“My point across the country that I’ve been trying to make is, how do we make purple states red again,” he said. “How do we truly make Iowa a red state?”
Experts say if Paul does intend to run in 2016, building a base in Iowa now is key. Other big names, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, have made campaign stops in Iowa recently. It seems Paul is casting his net farther out for support than some of his GOP colleagues.
“Let’s take that message to people who live in poverty, people who are unemployed, and say, It isn’t that one party cares more about you. We all care about trying to correct poverty and long-term unemployment, but our policies are different,” Paul said. “Listen to our policies.”
Paul concluded his speech with criticisms of President Obama, including what he described as “over-reaching” actions.
“We cannot have a president who acts outside the law,” he said. “We’re having this debate over immigration reform and I tell people, It’s not just about immigration reform, it’s about the president acting in a lawless way. He says, “I have no choice, so I will act.’ What does that mean? He’s just declared himself emperor? You can’t act without Congress acting, you have to persuade people. In America we persuade people, the democracy is trying to convince people of your opinion. Trying to win. He can’t just do things. And so this is really what this election is about.”
While he painted 2014’s midterm election as one about what Americans want in their president, he hinted he may hope to be what they want in 2016.
“It’s going to be about whether we want an imperial presidency, or whether we believe in a democratic republic that we’ve always had,” he said. “It’s about the checks-and-balances of government. And I’m going to try and be a part of that.”
If Paul does choose to run for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, experts say he will likely announce it in early 2015.