WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has spelled out his strategy for the GOP to retake the White House.
If Paul runs for president, as is widely expected, he will likely try to attract new voters to the GOP side – particularly young voters – with his libertarian values.
"You can see the whole, entire youth vote could switch, if we know what we're doing," the senator confided to a gathering of the Liberty Political Action Conference. He then proceeded to explain how the GOP could capture the prized demographic.
Paul acknowledged Obama had the youth vote. But he said the president is losing it, and one big reason is the issue of privacy.
"If we want to get the youth vote, it's not like we have to change our message. They don't care so much about taxes or regulations – they don't have much money to care about – but they've all got a cell phone. They're all on the Internet, and they do care about whether the government should be looking at their every search on the Internet or listening to their phone calls or recording their phone records."
The senator seemed convinced, given the NSA scandal and increasing concerns over privacy in the digital age, promoting just this one issue could lead to game-changing results for the GOP.
"If we want a transformational election where the Republicans become the dominant party, we could become the right to privacy party, the party that doesn't believe in big government surveillance."
He also portrayed Democrats as particularly vulnerable on the privacy issue.
"You can see the Democrats nominating somebody ... who's probably the least likely to protect your privacy among Democrats? Hillary Clinton," he drily observed.
Paul said he believes the time is right for the GOP to embrace libertarianism.
"I think there are all kinds of ways we can grow the party, and instead of the libertarian element being an impediment, it has come full circle and it really is the way the Republican party will grow," he told the audience in Chantilly, Va.
The Kentuckian spelled out other issues, arguing a libertarian perspective could be used to attract voters, including a focus on civil liberties, mandatory-minimum sentencing laws and what he called unconstitutional wars.
Referring the current troubles of the black community, Paul said, "You can see how this cycle of poverty and the cycle caused by war on drugs is hurting a certain group in our society more than others."
The senator said that's why he has testified against mandatory minimum sentencing laws and was especially critical of sentences for minor drug possession offenses, telling the crowd how one person he know of received 10 years in prison for a nonviolent first possession of marijuana.
"It's ruining people's lives, and it's unjust and unfair. If we become the party of justice, the party that believes criminal laws should be just, that penalties should be proportionate to the crime, I think we can get people to come to our party, because I don't think the Democrats have done anything on these issues for years."
Paul explained why he is against what he called the "indefinite detention" of enemy combatants. He described a debate he had with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"You can send an American citizen to Guantanamo Bay without a trial?" he asked. "Without a jury, without a lawyer, without anything? He says, 'Yeah, if they're dangerous.' It begs the question, who gets to decide who's dangerous and who's not?"