Kentucky's Rand Paul: 'I am running for president'

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Rand Paul Announces 2016 Presidential Run on Website

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Sen. Rand Paul launched his 2016 presidential campaign Tuesday with a combative challenge both to Washington and his fellow Republicans, cataloguing a lengthy list of what ails America and pledging to "take our country back."

Paul's fiery message, delivered in his home state of Kentucky before he flew to four early-nominating states, was designed to broaden his appeal outside of the typical GOP coalition as well as motivate supporters of his father's two unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination.

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Rand Paul
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Kentucky's Rand Paul: 'I am running for president'
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, Saturday, May 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., signs an autograph for a supporter after speaking at Arizona State University Friday, May 8, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. departs in an elevator after speaking at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, calling for the 28 classified pages of the 9-11 report to be declassified. Paul has been voicing his dissent in the Senate against a House bill backed by the president that would end the National Security Agency's collection of American calling records while preserving other surveillance authorities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. smiles before speaking at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, to call for the 28 classified pages of the 9-11 report to be declassified. Paul has been voicing his dissent in the Senate against a House bill backed by the president that would end the National Security Agency's collection of American calling records while preserving other surveillance authorities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at a rally Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sits in the audience prior to testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine the need to reform asset forfeiture. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., takes questions during a meet and greet at the Epoch Restaurant in Exeter, N.H., Saturday, March 21, 2015. Paul is traveling through New Hampshire this weekend, hosting several events with local leaders, business owners and activists. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., listens to a question at the Epoch Restaurant in Exeter, N.H., Saturday, March 21, 2015. Paul is traveling through New Hampshire this weekend, hosting several events with local leaders, business owners and activists. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
In this March 21, 2015 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. participates in a meet and greet at the Epoch Restaurant in Exeter, N.H. Few states have shaped presidential politics like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. By hosting the nation’s first presidential primary contests, the states have reaped political and financial rewards for decades on successful candidates and hastened the end for underachievers. Yet their clout may be declining in 2016. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter, File)
FILE - In this March 20, 2015, file photo, Sen., Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks in Manchester, N.H. Ready to enter the Republican chase for the party’s presidential nomination this week, the first-term Kentucky senator has designs on changing how Republicans go about getting elected to the White House and how they govern once there. Paul will do so with an approach to politics that is often downbeat and usually dour, which just might work in a nation deeply frustrated with Washington. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
Sen., Rand Paul, R-Ky. shakes hands with Darryl Miedico during a visit to Dyn, an internet performance company, Friday, March 20, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
FILE - In this March 7, 2013 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican Party’s search for a way back to presidential success in 2016 is drawing a striking array of personalities and policy options. It’s shaping up as a wide-open self-reassessment by the GOP. Some factions are trying to tug the party left or right. Others argue over pragmatism versus defiance. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and wife Kelley Ashby Paul arrive at the 2014 TIME 100 Gala held at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the Maine Republican Convention, Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Bangor, Maine. Paul said the Republican Party must become a bigger coalition that's accepting of diverse ideas to win national elections. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul rubs the head of his 11-year-old son Robert after filling out his ballot in Bowling Green, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. The debate about whether to continue the dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone records is highlighting divisions within the Democratic and Republican parties that could transform the politics of national security. While some leading Democrats have been reluctant to condemn the National Security Agency’s tactics, the GOP has begun to embrace a libertarian shift opposing the spy agency’s broad surveillance powers _ a striking departure from the aggressive national security policies that have defined the Republican Party for generations. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom 15th Annual Spring Kick Off, in Waukee, Iowa, Saturday, April 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Republican Presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at a rally at the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Thursday, April 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., center, is seen through a window as he speaks to supporters during a reception hosted by Liberty Iowa, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, at the Jasper Winery in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. listens he is introduced to speak by Iowa Republican congressional candidate Rod Blum, left, during a meeting with local Republicans, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Hiawatha, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., visits the Peppermill restaurant Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in Las Vegas. Paul is a possible Republican presidential candidate. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul waves as he walks on state to speak at the Americans for Prosperity gathering Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, in Dallas. Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are bashing what they call the president's lack of leadership in response to the violent militant group attacking cities in Iraq. Both are among four top Republicans considering 2016 White House bids addressing the conservative summit in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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In a 26-minute speech that eviscerated "the Washington machine," he spared neither Republican nor Democrat as he attempted to tap into Americans' deep frustrations with their government.

"I worry that the opportunity and hope are slipping away for our sons and daughters," the tea party favorite said. "As I watch our once-great economy collapse under mounting spending and debt, I think, `What kind of America will our grandchildren see?'"

He added: "It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame."

By criticizing fellow Republicans, Paul showed he was ready to run a tough-talking campaign equally at ease criticizing both major parties.

"Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration," Paul said in a swipe at former President George W. Bush, whose brother, Jeb, is expected to be a Paul rival for the GOP nomination.

He immediately followed up: "And it's now tripling under Barack Obama's watch."

In what well might have been a jab at Jeb Bush and other rivals considered more mainstream, he added: "If we nominate a candidate who is simply Democrat Lite, what's the point?"

At a splashy kickoff rally, Paul promised a government restrained by the Constitution and beholden no more to special interests.

"I have a message, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our country back," he told cheering supporters.

Paul is a fierce critic of Washington, where he is in his first term as a senator but often not in line with his party's leadership. A banner over the stage in Louisville proclaimed: "Defeat the Washington machine. Unleash the American dream."

Paul was clearly most passionate about upending the way Washington works.

"I propose we do something extraordinary," he said. "Let's just spend what comes in."

Cheers erupted when he decried government searches of phones and computer records as a threat to civil liberties. Most Republicans defend the practice as a necessary defense against terrorism.

"I say the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business," Paul said of government officials.

Tom Stewart, a 58-year-old resident of London, Kentucky, joined Paul's rally and counted himself a backer.

"I like that he wants less government," Stewart said. "Less spending. Less intrusion. Maybe less intrusion into everybody's rights around the world."

Paul's challenge now is to convince other Republican voters that his is a vision worthy of the GOP presidential nomination, a prize twice denied his father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. The elder Paul joined his son at Tuesday's announcement and got a raucous cheer when he was introduced.

Paul begins the 2016 race as the second fully declared candidate, behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. They could face as many as 20 rivals before the lead-off Iowa caucuses in February.

Paul is a frequent contrarian against his party's orthodoxy, questioning the size of the U.S. military and proposing relaxation of some drug laws that imprison offenders at a high cost to taxpayers. He also challenges the GOP's support for surveillance programs, drone policies and sanctions on Iran and Cuba.

But as the presidential campaign has come closer, Paul has shifted his approach somewhat on the question of how much government the country actually needs.

He recently proposed a 16 percent increase in the Pentagon's budget, a switch from his earlier call for military and troop cuts.

Tech savvy and youth focused, Paul is expected to be an Internet pacesetter whom his competitors will have to chase.

Paul's digital advisers, for example, kept track of who asked questions in a Facebook exchange after the speech, harvesting data to reach prospective voters.

It's unclear how much support Paul can muster in the Republican mainstream.

In one sign of his uphill climb, an outside group not connected to any candidate planned to spend more than $1 million on ads criticizing Paul's positions on Iran sanctions. And Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued the pile-on, telling reporters, "Rand Paul's policies are way outside the mainstream."

Paul is leaving open the door to a second term in the Senate. With the backing of his state's senior senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he is likely to seek the White House and the Senate seat at the same time.

McConnell, who backs Paul's presidential bid, appeared Tuesday at a business event in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

"I think we take it one step at a time," McConnell said. "I'm confident if Rand is running for the Senate, he'll be re-elected."

One of Paul's likely rivals, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, is expected to announce next week that he will skip a Senate re-election bid in 2016 in favor of putting everything into a presidential campaign.

---

Associated Press writer Bruce Schreiner in Nicholasville, Kentucky, contributed reporting. Elliott reported and Calvin Woodward contributed from Washington.

23 PHOTOS
Rand Paul
See Gallery
Kentucky's Rand Paul: 'I am running for president'
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, Saturday, May 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., signs an autograph for a supporter after speaking at Arizona State University Friday, May 8, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. departs in an elevator after speaking at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, calling for the 28 classified pages of the 9-11 report to be declassified. Paul has been voicing his dissent in the Senate against a House bill backed by the president that would end the National Security Agency's collection of American calling records while preserving other surveillance authorities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. smiles before speaking at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, to call for the 28 classified pages of the 9-11 report to be declassified. Paul has been voicing his dissent in the Senate against a House bill backed by the president that would end the National Security Agency's collection of American calling records while preserving other surveillance authorities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at a rally Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sits in the audience prior to testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine the need to reform asset forfeiture. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., takes questions during a meet and greet at the Epoch Restaurant in Exeter, N.H., Saturday, March 21, 2015. Paul is traveling through New Hampshire this weekend, hosting several events with local leaders, business owners and activists. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., listens to a question at the Epoch Restaurant in Exeter, N.H., Saturday, March 21, 2015. Paul is traveling through New Hampshire this weekend, hosting several events with local leaders, business owners and activists. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
In this March 21, 2015 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. participates in a meet and greet at the Epoch Restaurant in Exeter, N.H. Few states have shaped presidential politics like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. By hosting the nation’s first presidential primary contests, the states have reaped political and financial rewards for decades on successful candidates and hastened the end for underachievers. Yet their clout may be declining in 2016. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter, File)
FILE - In this March 20, 2015, file photo, Sen., Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks in Manchester, N.H. Ready to enter the Republican chase for the party’s presidential nomination this week, the first-term Kentucky senator has designs on changing how Republicans go about getting elected to the White House and how they govern once there. Paul will do so with an approach to politics that is often downbeat and usually dour, which just might work in a nation deeply frustrated with Washington. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
Sen., Rand Paul, R-Ky. shakes hands with Darryl Miedico during a visit to Dyn, an internet performance company, Friday, March 20, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
FILE - In this March 7, 2013 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican Party’s search for a way back to presidential success in 2016 is drawing a striking array of personalities and policy options. It’s shaping up as a wide-open self-reassessment by the GOP. Some factions are trying to tug the party left or right. Others argue over pragmatism versus defiance. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and wife Kelley Ashby Paul arrive at the 2014 TIME 100 Gala held at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the Maine Republican Convention, Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Bangor, Maine. Paul said the Republican Party must become a bigger coalition that's accepting of diverse ideas to win national elections. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul rubs the head of his 11-year-old son Robert after filling out his ballot in Bowling Green, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. The debate about whether to continue the dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone records is highlighting divisions within the Democratic and Republican parties that could transform the politics of national security. While some leading Democrats have been reluctant to condemn the National Security Agency’s tactics, the GOP has begun to embrace a libertarian shift opposing the spy agency’s broad surveillance powers _ a striking departure from the aggressive national security policies that have defined the Republican Party for generations. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom 15th Annual Spring Kick Off, in Waukee, Iowa, Saturday, April 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Republican Presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at a rally at the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Thursday, April 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., center, is seen through a window as he speaks to supporters during a reception hosted by Liberty Iowa, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, at the Jasper Winery in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. listens he is introduced to speak by Iowa Republican congressional candidate Rod Blum, left, during a meeting with local Republicans, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Hiawatha, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., visits the Peppermill restaurant Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in Las Vegas. Paul is a possible Republican presidential candidate. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul waves as he walks on state to speak at the Americans for Prosperity gathering Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, in Dallas. Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are bashing what they call the president's lack of leadership in response to the violent militant group attacking cities in Iraq. Both are among four top Republicans considering 2016 White House bids addressing the conservative summit in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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More on the potential 2016 Republican candidates:

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Potential Republican Presidential Candidates
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Kentucky's Rand Paul: 'I am running for president'

Rand Paul

Unfavorable Opinion: 15%

Familiarity: 64%

Favorable Opinion: 49%

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Marco Rubio

Unfavorable Opinion: 8%

Familiarity: 55%

Favorable Opinion: 47%

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ted Cruz

Unfavorable Opinion: 13%

Familiarity: 57%

Favorable Opinion: 44%

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Chris Christie

Unfavorable Opinion: 31%

Familiarity: 71%

Favorable Opinion: 40%

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Rick Santorum

Unfavorable Opinion: 21%

Familiarity: 56%

Favorable Opinion: 35%

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Jeb Bush

Unfavorable Opinion: 20%

Familiarity: 76%

Favorable Opinion: 56%

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Rick Perry

Unfavorable Opinion: 18%

Familiarity: 66%

Favorable Opinion: 48%

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Mike Huckabee

Unfavorable Opinion: 16%

Familiarity: 72%

Favorable Opinion: 56%

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee waves while taking the stage during the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC, which is scheduled to conclude August 30. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Bobby Jindal

Unfavorable Opinion: 7%

Familiarity: 40%

Favorable Opinion: 33%

Photo Credit: Tom Williams/Getty Images

Scott Walker

Unfavorable Opinion: 5%

Familiarity: 46%

Favorable Opinion: 41%

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/Getty Images

Ben Carson

Unfavorable Opinion: 3%

Familiarity: 39%

Favorable Opinion: 36%

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

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