Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Tuesday officially launched his 2016 presidential bid, casting himself as a different kind of Republican, while vowing to stand for liberty in what is shaping up to be a wide-open GOP nomination race.
“Today begins the journey to take America back,” Mr. Paul said, sparking applause from the crowd. “To rescue a great country now adrift, join me as together we seek a new vision for America. Today, I announce, with God’s help and the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America.”
Mr. Paul is following in the footsteps of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the libertarian icon who sat in the audience and whose three presidential bids helped pave the way for his son’s campaign.
The younger Mr. Paul, an eye doctor turned politician, climbed onto the national stage in 2010 after winning a seat in the Senate with the support of tea partyers. He has since cemented his status as a favorite of party activists around the country.
Speaking at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Mr. Paul said the nation’s best days are ahead. He blamed both parties for the mounting national debt, railed against “special interest” in Washington and vowed to end “unconstitutional” federal surveillance programs.
“I believe that we can have liberty and security, and I will not compromise your liberty for a false sense of security — not now, not ever,” Mr. Paul said.
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“We must defend ourselves, but we must never give up who we are as a people,” he said. “We must never diminish the Bill or Rights as we fight this long war against evil. We must believe in our founding documents.”
The message harkened back to Mr. Paul’s nearly 13-hour Senate filibuster in 2013, where he threatened to block the nomination of John O. Brennen to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency until the Obama administration assured him it would not use drones to kill American citizens on U.S. soil.
Before the announcement, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, attacked Mr. Paul, labeling him as an extremist and warning that he embraces policies that will “turn back the clock on the progress we have made.”
“He says he’s something different, but when you take a look, he’s the same as any other Republican presidential hopeful: good for the wealthiest few and bad for the middle class, and taking positions that are way outside the mainstream on issue after issue, ” Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said.
The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls show that Mr. Paul and Mr. Cruz are running neck-and-neck nationally. Mr. Paul is running third in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two stops on the nomination calendar.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are leading in the Iowa polls, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Mr. Walker are leading the pack in New Hampshire, as well as nationally.
The Kentucky Republican is the second high-profile Republican to jump into the race, following in the footsteps of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another tea party favorite, and likely ahead of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is expected to announce he is running next week.
Mr. Cruz issued a press release ahead of the announcement, saying, “I am glad to welcome my friend Rand Paul into the 2016 GOP primary.”
“His entry into the race will no doubt raise the bar of competition, help make us all stronger, and ultimately ensure that the GOP nominee is equipped to beat Hillary Clinton and to take back the White House for Republicans in 2016,” Mr. Cruz said.
Mr. Paul, meanwhile, also launched “money bomb” fundraising email, outlining his plans to push for less spending and lower taxes, as well as to stop Common Core K-12 education standards, repeal Obamcare and audit the Federal Reserve. He promised to protect civil liberties and the 10th Amendment.
“I believe the Big Government status quo, under either party, will not fix our problems,” Mr. Paul said in the fundraising email. “And I believe our country needs a President who is serious about pursuing bold solutions, renewing liberty and restoring the Founders’ vision of constitutional government in America.”