Rand Paul has been applauded for courting African-Americans and other minority groups, an effort that is well-known, but the Kentucky senator is engaging in a less obvious strategy as he eyes a 2016 campaign —
outreach to Senate Democrats.
"Paul wants to appeal to people who have low party identification. A lot of voters like candidates who think outside the box and kind of cross party lines and get something done," Kentucky columnist Al Cross told The Hill
"It's more of a New Hampshire strategy than anything else," he said.
On a variety of issues from criminal justice reform to climate change, Paul has partnered with Senate Democrats on legislation in an effort to cast himself as a different kind of Republican.
Since the Senate returned to business, Paul has held a joint press conference on legislation to tighten civil forfeiture laws with Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat and co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, and is even working with liberal Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer on legislation that would fund infrastructure projects by permitting companies to bring overseas earnings back to the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal
In addition, Paul is working with Boxer on a "moderate" Iran sanctions bill, reports the National Journal
. The bill would impose new economic sanctions if an agreement on Iran's nuclear program is not reached by the July deadline.
Paul may also find himself more closely aligned with Democrats than Republicans in the upcoming debate on President Barack Obama's Authorization for Military Force (AUMF), according to The National Journal
Paul is in favor of a more restrictive measure, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential 2016 candidate, backs an AUMF that does not place time constraints on the authority to use force to combat the Islamic State.
Paul believes that his embrace of constituencies outside of the traditional GOP primary voting bloc is what is needed to win the presidency.
"I don't think we will get there [to a Republican winning the presidency] if we nominate the same old, same old," Paul said recently in an interview on "Kennedy," the Fox Business Network's new program.
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Paul told host Lisa Kennedy that Republicans "have not been able to win elections because we are not broadening the party" to independent and minority voters.
"I also think I bring something unique to the table," said Paul, who said his advocacy of privacy and criticism of the National Security Agency's surveillance tactics "will attract a lot of young people to our movement."
Another issue on which Paul has taken an alternative approach is climate change. In a November interview, Paul told HBO's Bill Maher that "there is abundant evidence that carbon is increasing" and that he is not universally opposed to environmental regulations.
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"There is abundant evidence that carbon is increasing and has been increasing since the industrial age. All I ask for is that the solution has to be a balanced solution and you have to account for jobs and jobs lost by regulation.
"And I am not against regulation; I think the environment has been cleaned up dramatically through regulations on emissions as well as clean water over the last 40 to 50 years. But I don't want to shut down all forms of energy so that thousands and thousands of people lose jobs," he told Maher.
More recently, Paul was one of 15 Republican senators to vote in favor of an amendment, offered during the January debate on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, acknowledging that humans have some impact on climate change.
The vote, however, did not represent a flip on the issue of climate change, but a recognition of the changing attitudes of voters in some early primary states, contends Democrat political consultant David DiMartino.
"Being a denier isn't politically viable anymore. Rand must be seeing the same numbers Mitt [Romney] is seeing," DiMartino told Politico
, noting polls reflecting the fact that a sizable number of Iowa and New Hampshire voters have moderate views on global warming.
Paul's spokesman, Brian Darling, declined to comment to the paper on the vote.
In a February NBC News/Marist Poll
, Paul comes in third in New Hampshire with 14 percent of the vote, behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (18 percent) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (15 percent).
Among New Hampshire Republicans, the poll found 48 percent agreed with the statement that climate change is real and action should be taken to prevent it.
But some believe that Paul, who hails from the coal-rich state of Kentucky, faces a challenge in trying to find a middle-of-the-road position on climate change.
"Trying to stake out a middle ground on this issue is like trying to thread a needle. It's not going to do him any favors in the Republican primary, and it could put a target on his back," GOP strategist Ron Bonjean told the National Journal
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