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

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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Kentucky's Rand Paul: 'I am running for president'
DES MOINES, IA - FEBRUARY 1: Senator Rand Paul (R-TX) speaks during a caucus day rally at his Des Moines headquarters on February 1, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Presidential hopeful was accompanied by his wife, Kelly, mother, Carol Wells and his father, former Congressman Ron Paul. Pauls were there to thank all the staff and volunteers for all their hard work in Iowa. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump, right, acknowledges US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), left, prior to signing H.J. Res. 38, disapproving the rule submitted by the US Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Department of Interior's Stream Protection Rule, which was signed during the final month of the Obama administration, 'addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites,' according to the Congress.gov summary of the resolution. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives for a classified briefing on the airstrikes launched against the Syrian military, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Rand Paul speaks at a campaign rally in the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/File Photo
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and wife, Kelly, arrive on the red carpet for the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner in Washington, U.S., April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul talks to supporters at a campaign stop at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to the media about repealing Obamacare after playing golf with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Governor Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, former Governor Jeb Bush and Governor John Kasich pose together onstage at the start of the debate held by Fox News for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Des Moines, Iowa January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rand Paul speaks at the New Hampshire GOP's FITN Presidential town hall in Nashua, New Hampshire January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mary Schwalm
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul takes a photo with Scott Blum of Monroe, Iowa, after speaking at a campaign stop at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (C) speaks about Obamacare repeal and replacement while flanked by members of the House Freedom Caucus, during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is currently working on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-TX) fires an AR-15 rifle at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, January 17, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 16: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., attends a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Dirksen Building featuring testimony by David Friedman, nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel, February 16, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Rand Paul and Kelley Paul attend the Capitol File 58th Presidential Inauguration Reception at Fiola Mare on January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol File Magazine)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 15: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during the House Freedom Caucus news conference on Affordable Care Act replacement legislation on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Behind Sen. Paul from left are Rep. Tom, Garrett, R-Va., Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Kelley Paul and her husband, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, at the National Gallery of Art on September 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 6: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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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.

18 PHOTOS
Rand Paul
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Kentucky's Rand Paul: 'I am running for president'
DES MOINES, IA - FEBRUARY 1: Senator Rand Paul (R-TX) speaks during a caucus day rally at his Des Moines headquarters on February 1, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The Presidential hopeful was accompanied by his wife, Kelly, mother, Carol Wells and his father, former Congressman Ron Paul. Pauls were there to thank all the staff and volunteers for all their hard work in Iowa. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump, right, acknowledges US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), left, prior to signing H.J. Res. 38, disapproving the rule submitted by the US Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Department of Interior's Stream Protection Rule, which was signed during the final month of the Obama administration, 'addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites,' according to the Congress.gov summary of the resolution. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives for a classified briefing on the airstrikes launched against the Syrian military, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Rand Paul speaks at a campaign rally in the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/File Photo
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and wife, Kelly, arrive on the red carpet for the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner in Washington, U.S., April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul talks to supporters at a campaign stop at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to the media about repealing Obamacare after playing golf with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Governor Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, former Governor Jeb Bush and Governor John Kasich pose together onstage at the start of the debate held by Fox News for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Des Moines, Iowa January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rand Paul speaks at the New Hampshire GOP's FITN Presidential town hall in Nashua, New Hampshire January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mary Schwalm
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul takes a photo with Scott Blum of Monroe, Iowa, after speaking at a campaign stop at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (C) speaks about Obamacare repeal and replacement while flanked by members of the House Freedom Caucus, during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is currently working on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-TX) fires an AR-15 rifle at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston, Iowa, January 17, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 16: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., attends a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Dirksen Building featuring testimony by David Friedman, nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel, February 16, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Sen. Rand Paul and Kelley Paul attend the Capitol File 58th Presidential Inauguration Reception at Fiola Mare on January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Capitol File Magazine)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 15: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during the House Freedom Caucus news conference on Affordable Care Act replacement legislation on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Behind Sen. Paul from left are Rep. Tom, Garrett, R-Va., Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Kelley Paul and her husband, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, at the National Gallery of Art on September 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 6: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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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%

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Unfavorable Opinion: 18%

Familiarity: 66%

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Unfavorable Opinion: 16%

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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

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Scott Walker

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Ben Carson

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