Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a star among Tea Party voters, said Wednesday he is considering running for president in 2016 in part because a White House bid would give him a "larger microphone" for his ideas.
"I want to be part of the national debate. Being considered [as a potential White House candidate] is something that allows me to have a larger microphone," Paul said of speculation that he will run to succeed President Obama.
Paul said he would continue to visit early Republican primary states. He traveled to South Carolina in January and is scheduled to speak to Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire in May.
"We're considering it and won't make a decision before 2014," he said.
Paul made his comments at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, where he said Obama has "not shown much leadership" on deficit reduction or curbing the growing costs of Social Security and Medicare. He'd made similar comments about his presidential decision timetable to Kentucky reporters last month.
Paul raised his national profile last month when he staged a 13-hour talking filibuster of the president's CIA director nominee, John Brennan, over the administration's drone policy. He also won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R).
Earlier this month, he received a mixed reception in a speech to students at historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C. — part of an attempt to broaden his appeal among young, minority voters.
At Wednesday's event, Paul said he would prolong the solvency of Social Security by raising the retirement age and means-testing benefits.
The senator added that he would reduce federal healthcare costs by putting Medicare patients in a program similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Paul also accused Obama of using the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings "as props" to push his gun control agenda.
"In some cases the president had used them as props and that disappoints me," he said.
On immigration, Paul said he supports reform but warned that Congress should not create a "new pathway to citizenship" that could allow illegal immigrants to jump ahead of legal applicants for permanent residency and citizenship.
He also voiced skepticism of lawmakers trying to overhaul the nation's immigration laws in one bill, noting the House will address immigration reform in a series of bills.