Is Rand Paul the Republican Future?

Republicans need a 2016 presidential candidate who can appeal to voters “across the right-left paradigm,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday, neither confirming nor denying that he is planning a bid for the White House.

“Someone like myself could appeal to young people, moderates and independents,” Paul told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

Paul placed first in the presidential preference straw poll at the 40th Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) a week ago. The Republican senator’s father, Texas Rep.  Ron Paul, built a devoted following with his anti-war presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2002. The younger Paul drew widespread praise for his 17-hour March 6 filibuster against the Obama administration’s policy on drone attacks.

Asked about his views on decriminalizing marijuana possession, Paul said that both President Obama and former President George W. Bush could have “conceivably been put in jail” for using illegal drugs during their youth.

Defending his own deficit-reduction plan against budget proposals offered by Senate Democrats and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the Kentucky senator said: “I think the legislature is about 10 years behind the public. I would argue the Senate is not up to date with what the people really want.”

The GOP has spent the months since the 2012 election in a mood of soul-searching and finger-pointing over the factors that led to Mitt Romney’s defeat. Former Bush strategist Karl Rove appeared on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday to discuss the Republican Party future, and was interrogated by Democrats George Stephanopoulos, Jim Messina, Donna Brazile and Terry Moran.

When former Clinton campaign strategist Stephanopoulos attacked Republicans in Congress for opposing new gun-control legislation, Rove countered: “Let’s be clear about this, this was prompted by the Sandy Hook murders. Those guns were legally purchased with a background check. This would not have solved something like that. Let’s be very careful about quickly trampling on the rights of people who — and look, you want to get something done? Then stop scaring people. Don’t say we’re going to keep a registry of all of these guns.”

Moran accused conservatives of stirring “paranoia,” telling Rove that Republicans “are scaring people with this Orwellian sense that black helicopters and the government, if we register guns, they’re going to confiscate Americans guns.”

Discussing the Republican National Committee’s recent report on the 2012 election, Rove said the GOP faces both tactical and strategic challenges.

“One of the interesting things that’s happened is if you look in recent months, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, a number of other party leaders have come forward with very interesting speeches talking about the future of the party,” Rove said. “And this is the process that each party goes through after having lost a presidential election.”

Criticizing a “green eye-shades” focus on fiscal issues, Rove said the Republican Party must be “a party that stands for the right of every American to rise … a party that emphasizes economic growth and prosperity. … And coming from voices like Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez and Marco Rubio gives us some greater credibility in those [Hispanic and other minority] communities.”

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