In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that the Republican Party’s main mistake over the last generation has been its failure to reach out to African-American voters.
Paul was the first of the people named as possible 2016 presidential front-runners — Democrat or Republican — to visit the town of Ferguson, Missouri, where teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson earlier this year.
Paul — the Libertarian-leaning son of former Republican Rep. Ron Paul (TX) — met with leaders of the NAACP in Ferguson and said that in his estimation, the meeting went very well.
“I don’t want to characterize how everybody else feels about what I said, but I think it was a good opening to the conversation,” Paul told Blitzer.
“I think in the Republican Party, the biggest mistake we’ve made in the last several decades is we haven’t gone into the African American community, into the NAACP and say you know what, we are concerned about what’s going on in your cities and we have plans,” he continued. “They may be different than the Democrats, but we do have plans and we do want to help.”
When Blitzer asked him why the GOP hasn’t made more inroads, Paul said “I don’t think they’ve tried hard enough.”
He said that he hoped his efforts would serve as an example to other Republicans about how to reach out to minorities.
Paul has had mixed results reaching out to traditionally Democratic voting blocks in the past.
Critics slashed his appearance at historically black Howard University in 2013, calling it arrogant and tone-deaf that the southern senator would attempt to lecture African-American students on their interpretation of black U.S. history.
In another painfully awkward moment, Paul read an English translation of a love poem by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to a group of Latino business leaders, telling them how much he admired their fiery, passionate culture.
John Gaskin III, spokesman for St. Louis County NAACP, released a statement that said, in part, “We were honored to have an informative discussion with the Senator regarding ways that he can help to assist our civil rights agenda in Washington and help to end police militarization.”
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