Paul says he would grow GOP in 2016

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the winner of the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll, said he would expand the Republican Party’s appeal as a presidential candidate in 2016.

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Paul has not made a final decision on running for president, but he is in active discussions with his family and pursuing legislation that would let him run for both the White House and the Senate in two years.

“The message that I’m trying to promote, whether I do it or not, of bringing our message to minority voters, to people who have been persecuted throughout history, to young people who feel like the government has grown too big. I think it’s a message that can grow the party,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The party’s got to grow bigger, or we’re not going to win again,” he added.

Paul contrasted himself with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the runner-up in the CPAC straw poll, by painting his rival as a divisive figure who would not likely expand GOP ranks.

“My style is that I stand for things — people don’t question whether I stand for principle — but I don’t spend a lot of time trying to drag people down,” he said when asked about Cruz.

“I don’t spend any time trying to criticize others in the party because I realize the party needs to be bigger, not smaller,” he added.

Paul made his comments in response to Cruz’s critical comments about former Sen. Bob Dole (Kan.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominees in 1996, 2008 and 2012.

Cruz called them “good men” but criticized them for not standing for principle.

“I’ve been very complimentary of Mitt Romney. I’ve met him; I think he’s a great guy,” Paul told Fox’s Chris Wallace.

Paul believes his lawsuit against the National Security Agency over its surveillance program will appeal to young voters, who flocked to President Obama in the last two elections.

Paul plans to speak in about a week at the University of California at Berkeley, historically a liberal bastion, about the Fourth Amendment and its protection against government intrusion.

“It’s also something that attracts new people to our cause, I think,” he said. “The president won the youth vote 3-to-1, but his numbers have dropped 20, 30 percent among the youth.

“I think there’s a real opportunity for Republicans who do believe in the Fourth Amendment to grow our party by attracting young people and bring that energy into our party,” he said.

Paul noted that the lives of many young people revolve around their cellphones.

“Everything goes out through their cellphone, and they’re very aware of their privacy,” he said.

Paul said young voters don’t accept arguments that the Fourth Amendment does not protect their cellphones.

The NSA’s surveillance program collects metadata, the records of calls made in the United States, but does not monitor the substance of the calls.

— This post was updated at 10:17 a.m.