Sen. Rand Paul has become the first potential 2016 presidential candidate to put together a campaign network in all 50 states, a signal that he is working to develop a more formidable coalition than the largely ad hoc organization of his father's two failed presidential bids.
As first out of the gate, the Kentucky Republican is also trying to demonstrate to the party establishment that his candidacy would have wider GOP appeal beyond the party's libertarian wing, according to The Washington Post
Paul's nationwide organization already has more than 200 people, some of whom backed more mainstream Republicans in previous races.
He has also been courting major donors from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, and places in between, who figured prominently in the campaigns of former President George W. Bush and former 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the Post reported.
This year, the team will be focused on planning events in their states and also feeling out the level of support Paul has in different areas so as to give his Washington-based team intelligence that could feed into his early strategy for the primaries.
"A national leadership team is an important step, and it's a critical one from the movement going forward," Fritz Wenzel, Paul's pollster, told the Post. "Rand has tremendous momentum, and the formation of this team will guide him as he gets closer to a decision and [will] serve as a foundation for a campaign."
Early polling indicates that Paul is consistently at or near the top among all potential presidential hopefuls. A CNN/ORC International survey
released earlier this month found that 16 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican said they were likely to support Paul, with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, coming in second at 15 percent.
"There are people in every state who have joined Team Paul, with the money people ready to go," Mallory Factor, a South Carolina Republican consultant who has worked with Paul, told the Post.
David Axelrod, a top former strategist for President Barack Obama, told the Post, "He's certainly creating a buzz, and when I saw him at Romney's donor meeting in Utah, it showed seriousness behind what he's trying to do, beyond all he's done from a message standpoint."
Many Republicans, however, remain skeptical that Paul could mount a campaign capable of capturing the White House.
"I think he's dangerously irresponsible," GOP Rep. Peter King, a vocal critical of the tea party, told the Post. "I can't believe responsible Republicans will support this guy, who's a modern version of Charles Lindbergh."
Paul has said he will not make a final decision about whether to run until the end of the year but has indicated he is leaning toward getting into the race if he can assemble a strong political apparatus, the Post reported.
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