SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Sen. Rand Paul put a palatable price tag on federal spending Friday night — precisely.
The Kentucky Republican said Uncle Sam’s acceptable payout peg is is “actually for $2.6 trillion dollars’ worth of government.”
The rising libertarian star and potential 2016 presidential candidate laid down the spending marker during a defining policy speech on the home turf of a Republican icon, former President Ronald Reagan.
“Sometimes conservatives get tagged as being against all government,” Mr. Paul told an audience packed with supporters as well as skeptics at the Reagan Library here, an hour northeast of Los Angeles.
“I’m not against all government. I’m actually for $2.6 trillion dollars worth,” he said. “I’m for spending what comes in, but nothing in excess of what comes in.”
Most conservative Republicans tell conservative audiences what they want to hear, however improbable the goal of actually shrinking government.
But Mr. Paul wanted to define himself for those skeptics as not being an “all government is bad” libertarian –- an image his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, had among some of his fellow Republicans.
It is an image that the younger Mr. Paul knows makes him scary to some fellow Republicans.
Nonetheless, he did not shy away from identifying himself with his philosophical heritage and his basic worldview.
“I am a libertarian-conservative who spends most of my free time outdoors,” he said at one point, seeking to make the case that conservatives are not indifferent about preserving the environment.
“I bike and hike and kayak., I compost, I plant trees,” he said. “In fact, I have a giant Sequoia I’m trying to grow in Kentucky.”
Mr. Paul argued that Republicans “care just as deeply about the environment as Democrats, but we also care about jobs. We want common sense regulations to be balanced with economic growth and jobs.”
Then Mr. Paul addressed what he considers one of the GOP’s biggest problems – being defined negatively by the top opinion-makers of American cultural tastes and standards.
“To win in California and other bluish states, Republicans will have to change current perceptions,” he said.