DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was hailed Saturday in Iowa as an emerging party player for his government-shrinking, deficit-cutting message — nearly four years after his father championed similar themes but was excluded from a Republican presidential forum in Des Moines because of his poor showing in the polls.
The Kentucky senator's message sounded much like the one delivered his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, whose low-budget presidential campaign ended with a fifth place showing in the 2008 caucuses. Now, the younger Paul is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at an Iowa Republican Party event dubbed "Night of the Rising Stars."
The change speaks volumes about the respect now given to the Pauls and the Republican Party's acceptance of much of the father and son's message.
"It is a message that the father started out with some years ago and I think it is resonating more today than it did four years ago," said former Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Stewart Iverson. "People are understanding the spending side of it better than they did four years ago."
Rand Paul, a leader of the national Tea Party movement, was elected to the Senate in November.
The younger Paul focused on government regulation and presidential power in his weekend remarks to the college Republicans. He blasted President Obama for overseeing "the most anti-business administration we've ever had," and warned that government-sponsored clean energy programs would only ship jobs to China, which manufactures parts for many of the of the industry's wind turbines.
"We have an administration full of people who have not been involved in business, who really don't understand what it takes to run a business," he said. "They want there to be green energy, and they don't care if it was made in China."
Ed Failor Jr., president of Iowans for Tax Relief, said his group excluded Ron Paul from the June 2007 forum because of his status in national polls rather than his political beliefs. Other candidates who finished far behind Paul in the caucuses, including Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, were included in the event, along with better known politicians such as Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
Failor, whose group is among the most powerful in Iowa Republican politics, said he sees difference between the Pauls.
"Rand Paul is a little bit more mainstream than what Ron Paul was perceived," Failor said.
Failor said Rand Paul is smart to attend the Iowa events and immerse himself in Republican politics as caucus campaigning begins in earnest. Paul hasn't ruled out running for president, saying he thinks either he or his father will seek the GOP nomination.
Failor discounted the possibility that Rand Paul would run for president just five months after winning election to the Senate, but he thinks Paul might be looking ahead to 2016.
"I don't think there's any chance he could find himself a candidate in this election cycle, but it's sure not a bad strategy to be a part of the discussion in the 2012 cycle if it's something you might pursue down the road," Failor said. "A lot of people come to Iowa who don't intend to run in this cycle."
Republican party spokesman Casey Mills said Rand Paul was invited because he's seen as a rising voice in the party. Mills acknowledged some Iowa Republicans have been skeptical about Ron Paul's views, especially his opposition to the Iraq War and most foreign military engagements. But he noted that the Texas congressman was the keynote speaker at the state Republican convention last summer.
Veteran Republican strategist Bob Haus said both Pauls offer a message that resonates with an increasingly conservative party.
"The Pauls, father and son, have contributed to the infusion of new blood into the Republican Party," Haus said.
On Saturday, Paul said the Obama administration's airstrikes on Libya without Congressional approval "sets a dangerous precedent" for future chief executives. He drew a line between Obama and former President George W. Bush, who sent troops into Afghanistan with Congressional backing.
"You don't want to have one person have the ultimate person to power to commit a national to war," Paul said. "It's important. This is a significant precedent, and a bad one, that says a president can just go to war without any vote from Congress."
Ryan Rhodes, a founder of the tea party movement in Iowa, said he appreciated the state party's willingness to bring a star of the tea party to the state. He hopes Paul's visit is an indication that party leaders who keep the focus on budget cutting and smaller government initiatives.
Matt Strawn, the Iowa GOP chairman, seemed to embrace that idea, saying Paul "represents the new energy of Republicans in Washington."
"His dedication to the cause of limited government not only resonated with the voters of Kentucky, but catapulted him onto the national stage," said Strawn. "Iowa Republicans will be interested to hear his solutions to seriously address the national debt and stop the growth of government."
Associated Press writer Mike Glover contributed to this report.
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