- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

FREEPORT, Maine (AP) - Hoping for a boost in a state where his father found strong support, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul took a break from campaigning in New Hampshire to bring his message of smaller government, lower taxes and less intrusion in people’s lives to a receptive audience of several hundred boisterous supporters on Tuesday.

The Kentucky senator warned of free-spending lawmakers from both parties, along with a loss of checks and balances in government and loss of personal freedoms, thanks to government wire-tapping.

“There’s an unholy alliance in Washington between the right and the left. The right believes in unlimited spending for the military, and the left believes in unlimited spending for welfare,” he said.

The rally and fundraiser were held at a restaurant where his father drew a large crowd in January 2012, underscoring the depth of his support before his strong showing in Maine’s presidential caucuses. Ron Paul’s libertarian message resonated with residents in Maine, a state with a strong independent streak, and he came in second behind Mitt Romney in Maine’s Republican presidential caucuses.

Later, the elder Paul’s energized supporters took over the state GOP convention and sent a slate of supporters to the national GOP convention in Florida.

The younger Paul is looking for a similar spark.

He told supporters that the office of presidency has become too powerful.

“I’m not going to go there to accumulate power. I’m going to give it back to you - the state and the people,” he said.

Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey, who worked on the elder Paul’s campaign and introduced the younger Paul on Tuesday, said Mainers remain receptive to Paul’s message of making government smaller and reducing its intrusion into people’s lives.

“We’re a state with a strong libertarian streak, and people want government to leave them alone, to get out of their lives,” Brakey said.

But Rand Paul has broader appeal than his father, Brakey said, and stands to benefit from a GOP that’s more united than it was in 2012 when tea party activists and libertarians clashed with the party’s establishment.

The rally drew many who already believe in Rand Paul, just as they believed in his father’s candidacy. There were also some who hadn’t made up their minds.

“We’re on the precipice of either going socialist or bringing back good, Christian conservative values,” said Joe Scanlon, a Navy veteran from Topsham who described himself as an “extreme right wing conservative” and said it’s time for “strong leadership.” He said afterward that he liked what Paul had to say but was still undecided.

Paul, who addressed the Maine GOP Convention in 2014, completed a five-day swing through Western states over the weekend. On Monday and Tuesday, he made stops in Vermont and then New Hampshire before heading to Maine.

Mark Brewer, a University of Maine political science professor, said it made sense for Paul to come to Maine to generate some enthusiasm needed to avoid “sliding into irrelevance.”

“He’s making a visit to the state where his father did very, very well. He’s going to try to recreate some of that magic on his own,” Brewer said from Orono.

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Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP


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