Rand Paul Courts Evangelicals in Bid to Rebrand

Monday, 13 May 2013 01:06 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Sen. Rand Paul has spent months courting evangelicals in an attempt to rebrand himself as a social conservative ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The tea party darling appears to be distancing himself from his father's strictly libertarian approach to politics in an effort to establish credibility among mainstream Republicans, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Among his efforts was an invitation to the Christian Broadcasting Network to film at his Kentucky home, during which he talked about his personal life and emphasized his beliefs about traditional marriage.

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He also took a trip to Israel to tour Christian holy sites and has hosted numerous events with pastors where he's talked about his faith. And last weekend, he was in Iowa wooing the Republican faithful.

The visits, along with recent moves to shore up his campaign operations, have been seen as a signal that he's gearing up for a 2016 White House bid.

In an interview before his trip to Iowa to speak at a sold-out GOP dinner, Paul said, "To some, 'libertarian' scares people. Some of them come up to me and they say, 'I kind of like you, but I don't like legalizing heroin,'" referring to his father's position on the matter. "And I say, 'Well, that's not my position.'"

He added, "I'm not advocating everyone go out and run around with no clothes on and smoke pot. I'm not a libertarian. I'm a libertarian Republican. I'm a constitutional conservative."

Paul also plans to visit two other crucial primary states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to the Post, and he's scheduled to deliver a formal address outlining his vision for the future of the party in a visit later in May to the Ronald Reagan Library in California.

David Lane, an organizer of evangelical pastors and voters who orchestrated the Israel trip, said Paul is trying to show he fits in with Christian conservatives, in spite of the libertarian views of many of his supporters.

"He's closer to our philosophy than he is to what I would define as the hyper-libertarian position," Lane told the Post.

But Paul may have some way to go before Republicans are convinced of his conservative credentials.

Brad Sherman of the Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville, Iowa, and a participant in the Israel trip, said, "Straight libertarianism has nothing Christian about it. I know a lot of people attribute him to be a libertarian. My impression so far is that he's not as libertarian as possibly his father was, but I'd like to explore that more."

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