Rand Paul blasted President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton for their security failures in Benghazi in a Herald interview ahead of
the U.S. senator from Kentucky's keynote speech to New Hampshire Republicans
tomorrow that's further fueling talk he is eyeing a 2016 White House bid.
"The one thing that still bothers me the most is, I think our embassy in Libya is still in danger. The vital mistake that both the president and Hillary Clinton made is putting an embassy in Libya without having military support," Paul said.
Rand told the Herald there was "a very good chance" the trio of scandals swirling around the Obama administration would make it into his speech as he headlines a sold-out New Hampshire Republican Party fundraising dinner tomorrow night -- his first Granite State appearance as a potential 2016 candidate.
And while the rising Republican political star said it's too early to say whether he'll run for president, Rand is certainly playing the part of an Oval Office candidate -- his trip to New Hampshire, with its first-in-the-nation primary, comes hard on the heels of a swing through Iowa, home of the nation's first caucuses.
"We're excited to come up to New Hampshire, and we hear it's going to be a big crowd," said Paul, who demurred when asked if he was planning a presidential run and instead spoke about expanding his party's outreach. "Maybe we need both some issues and candidates that resonate beyond what we've been doing."
While Clinton leads the pack of likely candidates on the Democratic side in recent University of New Hampshire polls, there's no clear favorite among GOP candidates, which leaves the field wide open, said Andy Smith, director of the Survey Center at UNH.
Paul's favorability rating jumped from 19 percent in February to 35 percent in April among New Hampshire voters after his marathon filibuster to push the Obama administration for answers about drones, but Smith said it's still too early to tell how he will rank in the long run among other rumored GOP presidential contenders, including former vice presidential nominee and Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"He's been a strong voice for the principles of limited government and limited spending. I think mainly people will be looking for his ideas for the future," said Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, who expects a packed house tomorrow.
Former state party chairman Fergus Cullen, who plans to attend the dinner, said the strong interest in Paul is not surprising.
"I'm interested in sizing up Sen. Paul, as a lot of people will be," Cullen said.
While Rand Paul is much more of a mainstream candidate than his father, Ron Paul, the former congressman and presidential candidate, Rand Paul could pull votes from some of the same libertarian voters that embraced the elder Paul, said Cullen.
"He's not a fringe candidate. I take Rand Paul very seriously," Cullen said. "He's rapidly going from someone no one heard of to someone in the top tier of the Republican Party. I would be shocked if Rand Paul doesn't run for president."
(c)2013 the Boston Herald
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