CHARLESTON, S.C. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Monday that it will be at least a year before he decides whether to enter the 2016 presidential race but warned that the party must better reflect the makeup of America for any GOP candidate to succeed.
“We can win South Carolina for the next 50 years probably – Kentucky too – but if you want to win Illinois or you want to win Ohio, or you want to win California or New York we have to be a bigger party,” the Republican told about 75 people at a party fundraiser in early-voting South Carolina.
“We’ve got to look like the rest of America. We’ve got to do it with tattoos, without tattoos, with earrings, with ponytails, everybody,” he said. “We’re going to have some disagreements, but we need more people in the party. And when we do that, we’ll be the dominant party again.”
Paul is visiting South Carolina for the third time this year. He has also made recent trips to other early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina has the first GOP presidential primary in the South in 2016.
On Tuesday, Paul is scheduled to address cadets at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college.
Following the fundraiser, Paul told reporters he will likely stay out of the South Carolina GOP Senate primary in which incumbent U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham faces two GOP challengers.
Paul said he doesn’t think it necessary for a GOP presidential hopeful to appeal to conservative voters to get the nomination and then move back to the middle during the general election.
“If people perceive you as tacking one way or another as a strategy or as something that is not sincere it’s probably not good for you,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone has accused me too much of going to the center yet. I’m still for all the things I’m for on taxes and regulation and a balanced budget … ,” he added.
But Paul said there are other libertarian issues that will appeal to voters beyond the conservative Republican base, suggesting the party can appeal to younger voters upset with National Security Agency surveillance of Americans.
“If you have a Republican who defends the Fourth Amendment like they defend the Second Amendment, I think that changes things,” he said.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures; the Second Amendment protects citizens’ rights to bear arms.