Sen. Paul says he's focused on making GOP bigger, not taking Cruz's approach

MGN Online
Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 12:35pm

Fresh off his Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll win, Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday he's still contemplating a potential 2016 presidential run, but for now is focused on other issues, like suing President Obama.

The Kentucky Republican pledged not to attack others within his own party - an approach fellow Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to take - as he embarks on his mission to broaden the GOP.

Stage getting set for 2016?

Paul won 31% of the CPAC straw poll vote. His closest competitor, Cruz, garnered just 11%.

It's Paul's second win in a row at the annual conference and sets the stage for a potential 2016 presidential campaign.

"My family's talking about it," Paul said on "Fox News Sunday."

"But I truly haven't made my mind up, and won't make my mind up until after the 2014 midterm elections. But I haven't been shy in saying that I've been thinking about it."

Broadening the GOP

In the meantime, Paul said, he's focused on growing the GOP brand and not creating division within the party.

Cruz took a different tactic last week at CPAC, pointing to recent unsuccessful Republican presidential nominees.

"Of course, all of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney. Now look, those are good men, they're decent men. But when you don't stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don't stand for principle, Democrats celebrate," Cruz said.

When asked by moderator Chris Wallace what he thought of those remarks, Paul said dragging people down just isn't his style.

"Can we do things different to get the party bigger? There's always ways we can get bigger, particularly when we don't win. But I don't spend any time sort of trying to criticize others in the party, because I realize the party has to be bigger, not smaller," Paul said.

It would be interesting to see if Paul's nonconfrontational strategy would be effective in a primary setting. If nothing else, it'd certainly be different.

As for his straw poll victory, Paul theorizes he won the CPAC poll in part because the event is typically full of young, tech-savvy conservatives, and the issues of government surveillance resonate with them as they do with him.

Lawsuits and lunch

Paul is suing the Obama administration over the National Security Agency's collection of phone metadata, a surveillance program brought to light last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

But at the same time he's filing a lawsuit, Paul is working with Attorney General Eric Holder. The two recently had lunch to discuss mandatory jail sentences for nonviolent drug offenders--a meal which brought Paul some criticism from the right.

But to those critics, Paul said they shouldn't worry he's getting too cozy with Holder.

When he left the meeting, Paul said, he told Holder, "I'll see you in court." 

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