CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Sen. Rand Paul brought his national ambitions to Iowa on Friday, ripping potential Democratic rival Hillary Clinton while urging his own Republican Party to broaden its appeal as he campaigned like it was already 2016.
The centerpiece of his visit was a speech before the Republican Lincoln Day dinner, a traditional launch pad for presidential bids. He also visited with local media, pastors from around the state and a group of Republican women in Cedar Rapids on Friday and plans to attend a breakfast Saturday in North Liberty.
The 50-year-old Kentucky Republican is coy about his plans, saying he won't decide on a White House bid until next year at the earliest. And, he said, "In all likelihood I will be on the ballot in Kentucky," where he would be up for re-election next year. "We haven't looked beyond that."
Lynn Zellen, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky secretary of state's office, said Kentucky law says no candidate's name can appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once in an election.
Paul sure had the look and sound of someone trying to make a national name for himself. He got a standing ovation when he said Clinton isn't fit for higher office. He said he came to Iowa, the site of the nation's first presidential nominating caucus, because "it's the place where political leaders come to talk about issues that resonate nationally." He plans to visit two other key early presidential primary states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, in the next few weeks.
Paul told Radio Iowa that it was coincidental that he's going to those states, and he insisted his chief message was "how to make the Republican Party bigger." It's a theme he's been stressing repeatedly in recent months. He's willing to discuss an immigration overhaul, and recently he spoke at Howard University, a historically black college.