- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2013

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Sen. Rand Paul introduced himself to Silicon Valley’s richest technology giants, met with top-tier members of the Republican intellectual establishment, addressed 1,000 invited guests at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Sunday wound up a seven-day trip to California by winning warm reviews for his sermons at three evangelical church services.

Judging by comments from the people he met here, the freshman senator from Kentucky accomplished his goals of reassuring the skeptical and the curious but uncommitted that he would make an acceptable — some said “ideal” — presidential standard-bearer for the GOP in 2016.

Many had known Mr. Paul only as what the press called a “darling of the tea party” and a rigid libertarian like his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican.

After meeting the senator, however, they generally pronounced him to be a man of religious faith, constitutional commitment, traditional social views and practical foreign policy prescriptions — in effect, their kind of guy, many said afterward.

“All he had to do was show these folks he doesn’t have two heads and to let his brilliance come through,” said Hoover Institution resident scholar Jeremy Carl. “He did that.”

Among his primary themes in California was his argument that the U.S. getting involved in Syria’s conflict would be as foolhardy as the country’s recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Paul said he was for a strong military for national defense, and noted that President Reagan had preached “peace through strength, not war through strength.”

Repeatedly defining himself as a “conservative libertarian,” the senator said that the American republic could not survive unless its citizens and the culture in general were guided by a moral compass.

Varied agenda

With his wife, Kelley, a deacon in the family’s Presbyterian church in Bowling Green, Ky., and one of his three sons accompanying him, Mr. Paul started out last week in Northern California, where he sat down with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, visited the executives at Google and eBay, attended a few $1,000-a-plate Silicon Valley fundraisers, and talked privately with 20 scholars at the Hoover Institute on the campus of Stanford University.

Next he headed to Southern California, where he addressed the large gathering at the Reagan Library, attended a dinner with major donors and received a warm welcome from born-again Christians at three services at the Godspeak Calvary Chapel on Sunday.

“He struck me as mindful of his faith — at times sounded like a born-again,” said Aaron White, 31, an attorney who heard Mr. Paul speak at the 8 a.m. service.

Sam Sorbo, a radio talk-show host, said she found no surprises in Mr. Paul’s talk at the 9:30 a.m. service.

“After I saw him on television doing that filibuster against our government’s drone killing of American citizens, I expected to see and hear a man of undying convictions and that’s what I got,” she said. “I had heard he is a faithful Christian, and that’s what I saw.”

Mr. White said he saw no conflict between his own evangelical faith and Mr. Paul’s socially conservative brand of Republican libertarianism.

“I like that he talked about countries that persecute Christians and how we should stop giving those countries foreign aid,” said Mr. White, a Pepperdine University law graduate who earlier had attended Hillsdale College, a conservative school he said had many libertarians, “many of them very religious, others ambivalent about religion.”

Winning the West

Mr. Paul, like Godspeak Calvary Chapel senior pastor Rob McCoy, who introduced him to the members, was gently humorous in making his points about the importance of Christian values in a free society.

In the biggest, bluest state of all — California hasn’t bestowed its 55 Electoral College votes on a Republican in 25 years, and Democrats dominate every branch of the state government — Mr. Paul called the state winnable in 2016 only if Republicans get serious about welcoming new members into their ranks.

“The Republican Party is losing the West Coast — all of it, completely, every time now. We’re losing all of New England, every time. We can’t win Illinois, so I think we do need people talking about how the party has to change to become a bigger, more inclusive party,” the senator said.

He added that some Californians might be drawn to his brand of libertarian politics even though he may be more conservative than they are on social issues.

“I think the party can be big enough to allow people who don’t all agree on every issue,” he told the Reagan Library audience.

He talked often in California about “politics being downstream from culture.”

Mr. Paul said people often think “Democrats are cooler than Republicans, who need to do better with the taste-maker class — to begin to change the broader culture.”

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