Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday said President Obama lost the "respect" of Americans by overstating the impact of the across-the-board sequestration budget cuts.
Speaking at a South Carolina Republican dinner, Paul noted that many of the catastrophic outcomes of the sequester that the president had warned against prior to the cuts going into effect had not taken effect.
Paul also suggested that Republicans are "actually winning the battle on this, the public relations battle."
The Kentucky senator's broad Friday speech laid out his positions on issues ranging from foreign aid to seeking out terrorists, a clear introduction to Republican officials and voters in the all-important early primary state.
Paul is widely believed to be preparing a presidential run, and met with local Tea Party groups and activists, as well as prominent Republican donors, during his visit to South Carolina.
But he hasn't yet committed to a run, telling local paper The State that he'll decide in 2014 and will “continue to travel to early primary states with the understanding that I’m interested,” because in those states “people pay attention.
Though he hasn't jumped fully into the 2016 race yet, he did deliver a jab at a potential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, widely considered to be the top contender for the Democratic nomination for president.
Speaking about her testimony during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on the attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Paul suggested she had lied to the Senate.
"I've had a few questions for Hillary Clinton," he said to applause. "She hasn't really answered them to my satisfaction. I frankly think she isn't telling the truth."
Paul received a warm reception from the crowd, opening with a handful of timely jokes about the recent Congressional baseball game, where Democrats slaughtered Republicans, and the National Security Agency spying.
But some comments seemed less polished, reflecting the young senator's relatively short political career and one of the main challenges many advisers agree he faces going forward — staying on message.
Speaking of detaining citizens thought to be terrorists without trial, Paul compared the practice to lynching and Japanese internment.
"There's been a time in our history when we did stuff like this. When a black man in 1910 would be strung up from the nearest tree if someone accused him of rape, there was no trial. It was an awful time in our history," he said.
Prior to his visit, Paul told the Associated Press that his hope for the trip was to "grow the Republican Party," and he offered a prescription for doing so at the close of his speech.
"I think when we become the party that stands up and proclaims our message like a man coming over the hill singing, then I think we'll become the dominant party again," he said.