Senator Rand Paul promised to be a different kind of Republican on Tuesday, launching a 2016 White House bid that he said would highlight the conservative principles of reduced government and spending as he vowed to break up “the Washington machine.”
The senator from Kentucky, a libertarian who has built a national reputation for challenging party orthodoxy, criticized Republicans in Congress and recent Republican presidents for helping to drive up the federal debt and reducing personal liberties.
“We have come to take our country back,” he told cheering supporters on a flag-draped stage in Louisville, Kentucky, promising to break up “the Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives.”
With his announcement, Paul becomes the second major Republican to announce presidential ambitions for 2016, after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. A crowded field is expected, with candidates competing hard for constituencies ranging from the Christian right to traditional Wall Street Republicans.
Paul starts the campaign in the second tier of Republican candidates, drawing the support of 8.4 percent of Republicans, according to a March Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll.
That puts him behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is considered a top contender among Republicans although he has not declared himself a presidential candidate; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
He is in a statistical tie with four other candidates – Cruz, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Paul, who entered Congress on the Tea Party wave of 2010, has been reaching out in recent months to attract more mainstream voters.
The anti-war agitator who mounted a 13-hour filibuster to call attention to the United States’ use of drones recently proposed a boost to military spending. The firebrand who wants to scale back the authority of the Federal Reserve has been quietly courting Wall Street donors.
And the 52-year-old former eye surgeon who harnessed the anti-establishment energy of the Tea Party movement, has been raising money for fellow Republicans, at times upsetting the grassroots activists who have made him a national figure.
Paul told the Louisville crowd he would campaign with “the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.”
Paul’s father, Ron Paul, the libertarian former congressman and failed presidential candidate, attended the announcement but did not speak at the rally.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Leslie Adler)