Rand Paul 'proclaims' his arrival to Iowa Republican voters

05/11/2013 10:53 AM

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA — Packaging up his prescription for the Republican Party and for Washington, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul this weekend opened what could be a three-year relationship with Iowa Republicans in the run-up to the 2016 presidential race.

Paul gave the keynote address at the sold-out Iowa Lincoln Day Dinner Friday night at the Kirkwood Center. It’s the same building in which Paul spoke at a rally in December 2011 to introduce his father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, in the homestretch of the 2012 presidential Iowa caucuses.

Paul stuck to familiar themes. He criticized the Affordable Care Act for adding new codes for treatment, including “walking into a lamppost.” He chastised Congress for spending money on grants for “turtle tunnels.” And he slammed the Obama administration and specifically former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.

But he also made an appeal to the more than 500 Iowa Republicans who paid at least $50 for the fundraising dinner that the Republican Party must widen its reach, especially with the growing Latino community. And immigration reform is part of that, he said.

His emotional appeal to the party faithful, though, was to channel the passion behind the lyrics to the lone hit of the 1990s Scottish pop band the Proclaimers.

“We need this kind of passion. We need the passion of Patrick Henry — ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ We also need the passion that young people who are in love,” he said before quoting the lyrics from the Proclaimers’ 1993 song “500 Miles.”

On the immigration issue, Paul said Congress needs to act by strengthening border security, but perhaps more importantly, by focusing on worker visas to allow more immigrants to come into the U.S. to work legally.

“You have to fix the work visas,” he said, adding that he’s concerned the current version of the immigration bill being considered in the U.S. Senate will cap work visas.

The part of Paul’s speech that got the loudest reaction from the crowd — and a standing ovation at one point — was Paul’s sharp criticism of the state department’s handling of the Benghazi attacks.

The most egregious error was the administration’s failure in the six months before the attack to strengthen security of the diplomats’ presence in Libya. And he repeated his rebuke of Clinton. He said her failure to heed warnings in state department cables was “inexcusable … a dereliction of duty and should preclude her from holding higher office.”

(Watch Pure Politics on Monday for our special coverage of Paul’s trip to Iowa, including how Republican voters perceive him as a 2016 presidential contender and whether Paul is prepared to spend the next three years on the presidential campaign trail.)


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