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Rand Paul for president? Why else is he in Iowa? (+video)

US Sen. Rand Paul is making a splash in Iowa this weekend, and he'll soon visit New Hampshire and South Carolina. Can the libertarian-tinged maverick Republican successfully run for president?

By Staff writer / May 11, 2013

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., greats supporters after speaking at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner event Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sen. Paul opened his presidential exploration tour with a splashy set of speaking engagements in Iowa designed to broaden his tea party brand.

Matthew Holst/AP

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He hasn’t announced it as such, but Sen. Rand Paul is taking major steps to launch a 2016 presidential bid.

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This weekend he’s in Iowa, to be followed by trips to New Hampshire and South Carolina – early and important states in the Republican race to choose a nominee.

Like his father before him – retired US Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas, who ran for the White House three times – Sen. Paul of Kentucky leans libertarian, which raises two important questions about his future:

Can he generate the enthusiastic, loyal following his father did over the years – mostly younger idealists geared to flood the primary/caucus season?

And will more traditional Republicans – however you want to define a “traditional” GOP these days – come to accept his position on things like immigration, gay marriage, and national security?

“He’s the most fascinating guy in politics today in America,” David Carney, a New Hampshire-based Republican strategist, told nky.com, a Gannett online news site for northern Kentucky. “But on widespread appeal, I think the jury’s out.”

The way Paul sees it, "People are looking for something different.”

“You might accuse me of being not exactly the traditional cookie-cutter Republican," he told reporters Friday during a string of political events in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "I do know the GOP needs to grow and I want to be part of growing the GOP."

"We need to have a Republican Party that looks like the rest of America. We need a more inclusive, diverse party," he said. "We cannot compete unless we are going to go out and say to African-Americans, we want you in our party."

For instance, Paul favors relaxing federal sentencing laws for drug crimes, which disproportionately penalize racial minorities.

He’s also against a federal ban on same-sex marriage. Personally, he thinks “marriage” means one man and one woman. But he’d leave it up to the states to set their own laws and regulations – which does not sit well with many social conservatives in the Republican Party.

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