Rand Paul stumps in Iowa City


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If he can step out of his father’s deep political shadow while still igniting the same passion of Iowa’s college students through the notion of a smaller government, Rand Paul could snag the support of one of the Iowa’s most historically liberal pockets, supporters and political experts say.

In front of a nearly packed ballroom on the University of Iowa campus Tuesday, the Kentucky senator said a bipartisan approach is a necessary piece to heal the nation’s financial woes.

“You know your government is dysfunctional when it costs more money to close it than to keep it open,” Paul, who has been targeted in a group of front-runners in the 2016 presidential race, told more than 130 supporters.

Paul’s afternoon stop at the University Club was one leg in a three-day political trail through Iowa’s presidential trial grounds this week. He has said the visit’s purpose is to fuel support for state Republican leaders.

In an address that included an endorsement of Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, he opposed current government spending, college debt, and Big Brother-like surveillance, which he said, infringe on the rights of the nation’s young people.

Paul, the 51-year-old son of former GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul, also advocated for the party to increase the protection of the Bill of Rights and hinted of antiwar sentiments.

Mack Shelley, the chairman of the Iowa State University Political Science Department, said while it’s not a new string in American political thought, Paul’s libertarian bent will offer strong appeal to younger, first-time participants in the political process.

Because those younger voters tend to be up for grabs by any party, Shelley said, Paul’s Iowa City stump serves as a catalyst against other presidential hopefuls, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Paul trails former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, according to recent average polling results from Real Clear Politics.

But sharing a last name with a two-time presidential candidate will make for a difficult time in distinguishing himself to Iowa voters.

“People will have in their minds images of Ron Paul,” Shelley said.

In-party disappointment, an inherent antiwar stance, and varying viewpoints on isolationism are driving forces that have pushed 50-year-old Carol Ann to look to Rand Paul for potential answers, she said.

“He’s couragous and is not afraid to say things that wouldn’t be popular,” said Iowa City resident Ann. “Unless you have a clear reason to be involved in a war, don’t go there.”

After hearing Ron Paul speak previously, Ann said she will certainly consider Paul should he jump into the 2016 pool.

Despite questions over the younger Paul’s foreign-policy tactics, fellow Iowa City resident Lowell Luhman said Tuesday’s turnout was evidence in itself of local Republican strength that the senator could benefit from in a future presidential bid.

“Iowa City’s a difficult place for him to be, but this turnout shows positivity,” said Luhman, 79.

Pleased with the limited student turnout, Miller-Meeks campaign manager Matt Sauvage said he believes both leaders are in a strong position to grab youthful attention through their stances on national health care and governmental surveillance.

Paul’s stop Tuesday offered no additional information about his White House aspirations.

After appearances in the Des Moines area today, he will have spent six days in Iowa during his third stop in the last year.

“I don’t know much about campaigning in Iowa,” Paul said. “But I do know Chuck Grassley.”

Paul will return to Iowa in the fall, after having been pleased with the turnouts during the most recent trip to the state, Steve Grubbs, one of Paul’s strategists, said on Tuesday.

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