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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?

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“He’s tried too hard to please too many people on too many issues,” Cary Gordon, an evangelical conservative minister in Sioux City, Iowa, told the Gannett online news site. “I can’t support him. He’s got too many contradictions for me.”

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One way to judge a potential candidate’s seriousness is to look at who he attacks – in this case the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

At the Iowa GOP’s annual Lincoln dinner Friday night, Paul continued his theme that then-Secretary of State Clinton was “absolutely responsible” for not preventing or at least adequately responding to last year’s terrorist attack on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“It was inexcusable, it was a dereliction of duty, and it should preclude her from holding higher office,” he told a crowd of about 500 prominent Republicans.

It may be 1,276 days until the 2016 election, but at some point Paul – if he’s to make a serious run for the White House – will have to put together a professional campaign organization.

“For all Paul’s success as a media brand and a mobilizer of the conservative grassroots, the Kentucky senator has done relatively little since 2010 [when he won his first Senate primary] to assemble a political machine around his own personality,” notes Politico’s Alexander Burns. “For now, the Rand Paul project is a high-wire act that works largely without a net.”
 
In a recent survey of registered Republican voters in Iowa, Paul won 39 percent of the vote with Marco Rubio next in line at just 20 percent. (Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton won 43 percent with Vice President Joe Biden winning 27 percent.) Earlier this year, Paul won a straw poll vote at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

At a Monitor-sponsored press gathering last month, Paul said he would not decide whether to run before 2014. Meanwhile, he’s just unique enough among the GOP field – and just different enough from his father – to keep drawing attention.

“Rand is going to try to thread that needle between social conservatives and the liberty grassroots part of the party,” Bob Vander Plaats, a former candidate for Iowa governor and the president of the Family Leader, an Iowa-based coalition that opposes abortion rights and gay marriage, told Bloomberg News. “If he’s able to do that, he’ll be very formidable. There’s a lot of intrigue about him right now.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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