Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is garnering attention as an unconventional contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He now faces the challenge of translating curiosity into support, The New York Times reported
Paul was campaigning at the Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, while several other GOP presidential hopefuls were in New Hampshire. He is gaining awareness among such audiences that usually lean Democratic for his efforts to rebrand the Republican Party and for his style of libertarian conservatism.
"It's not always easy," Paul told the Times.
"Unless you are somehow this miraculous faith healer," the senator said, "it's going to be a gradual thing in the sense that people will open up to considering you. But most of them are saying things like: 'We're happy that you're competing for our vote. We're happy to see you coming where Republicans haven't come before.'"
He added: "If we don't let it happen, I think we're not going to win national elections again."
Non-Republican voters often find his message "interesting" after listening to him talk.
"The other word that many people often use after hearing him speak is 'but' —
as in they were happy to listen to him, but they were not yet convinced that they could vote for him," the Times reported.
Republican political strategist Matthew Dowd, who worked for George W. Bush, said "it's one thing to be interesting; it's another thing to be compelling. They've got to see him sitting in the Oval Office. And I do not think Rand has crossed that threshold yet."
Paul combines a commitment to the conservatism he will need to win the GOP nomination along with a desire to reach out to African-Americans and other constituencies that are associated with the Democrats.
He is against same-sex marriage, but said he is no crusader on social issues. He supports legalization of medical marijuana. He deplores the criminal justice system which he said does not treat blacks fairly.
He knows he will have to tread "very carefully" in trying to win over such different types of voters, according to the Times.
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