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U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky makes a point at the New Hampshire Union Leader offices in Manchester on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/ Union Leader)

Rand Paul urges Libertarians to vote Republican


MANCHESTER — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul may not be running as an independent or Libertarian candidate, but he sure sounded like one on a three-day campaign swing through New Hampshire, in which he repeatedly attacked what he called the “unholy alliance” between the dominant political parties.

In a meeting on Wednesday with Union Leader editors and reporters, he had as much fury for fellow Republicans as he did for Democrats, but said a third-party or independent campaign for President is not realistic.


 

“I’ve been there. I’ve seen what it’s like in the third-party world,” he said. “Our system is directed to the two parties and I made the decision when I started running for political office that I am a constitutional conservative and Libertarian-leaning Republican. My best influence is to bring the Republican Party to the Libertarian side of the issues.”

Paul pointed out that GOP candidates for New Hampshire’s two congressional seats lost to Democrats by 4-percent margins in 2010. “And the Libertarian candidates in those two races got 4 percent of the vote,” he said. “So we need to get Libertarians to vote Republican.”

His father, Ron Paul, ran for President three times — as the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988 and as a candidate in the Republican primaries of 2008 and 2012. He placed second to Mitt Romney in the 2012 New Hampshire GOP primary.

A practicing ophthalmologist until he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, Rand Paul shares many of the same principles that guided his father’s Libertarian and Republican campaigns, including an affinity for the Tea Party and New Hampshire’s own Free State movement, which has been attracting Libertarian-minded individuals to New Hampshire for more than 10 years.

“We’ve met with some of the Free State folks, and the difficulty with Libertarians is that some want to stay in the Libertarian Party, some don’t want to vote at all, and some will vote in the GOP primary if they are convinced to,” said Paul. “There are a lot of issues that we share, and we want them to come over and vote in the GOP and make the GOP bigger.”

Is Trump just acting?

Paul’s credentials, voting record, policy positions — even his family background — should have positioned him to be the candidate that taps into the anger and disenchantment with both political parties evident in every national poll, if not for Donald Trump.

By his own account, Paul is the biggest loser to Trump’s surging popularity, which explains his laser-like focus on the flamboyant, often bellicose businessman and TV personality.

Paul jumped right on Trump’s refusal to pledge party loyalty at the outset of the Fox debate last week and dedicates much of his stump speech to the New York developer. On Wednesday, in what CNN called “the next round of Rand Paul vs. Donald Trump,” Paul released a digital ad highlighting the frontrunner’s past support of Democratic candidates and policies.

“He’s tapping into the same vein of anger and anti-establishment feeling,” said Paul. “My job is to point out that I am not happy with what’s happening in Washington either. This is a guy who comes from a liberal Democratic background who just recently switched to Republican. We have to remember that he is a reality TV actor, and ask, ‘Is he just acting here?’ ”

Flat tax, less government

While there are many similarities on policy positions within the crowded Republican field, Paul has staked out some unique territory. His call for a 14.5 percent flat income tax, with deductions only for charitable contributions and mortgage interest, harkens back to the GOP presidential campaigns of publishing executive Steve Forbes in 1996 and 2000. Such a move would significantly reduce tax revenues and force the shrinkage of government.

“In Washington, there is no support for really cutting taxes in either party,” he said. “Everyone wants revenue-neutral tax reform, and I tell people if that’s what they want, then I am going home. Who cares about shifting the burden from here to there, and having the net result be neutral?”

Paul has no trouble remembering the long list of federal agencies or Cabinet-level departments he would eliminate, including but not limited to Education, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Housing and most of the IRS.

“Government is a necessary evil,” he said, “so we should have it as small as we possibly can have it.”

In a consistent effort to cast himself as the change agent, Paul manages to get a dig in on other Republican candidates with almost every observation, and usually adds Trump for good measure.

“Does anyone expect that Jeb Bush is going to make government smaller?” he said. “He is going to be good at governance, but it’s going to be the same-sized government, or will grow. It will take someone pushing back — someone who truly believes in limited government. That’s what disappoints me about any Tea Party conservative who thinks Trump is the man. Just because he can call someone fat and stupid, is that what makes us think he is a real conservative?”

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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