Sen. Rand Paul, a favorite of the ultraconservative tea party movement and frequent antagonist of Republican Party leaders, is ready to declare his candidacy for U.S. president.
Paul, a first-term senator for Kentucky, is set to begin his White House campaign on Tuesday, kicking off the presidential run with a rally in his home state. Paul begins the 2016 race as the second fully declared candidate, behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but he could face as many as 20 rivals for the Republican nomination before the primary process starts in January.
Two other Republicans considered early front-runners, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are expected to soon enter the race. Whoever becomes the Republican nominee is widely expected to face Hillary Rodham Clinton, the heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination, in the general election. The former secretary of state is expected to announce her candidacy in the next two weeks.
It's unclear how much support Paul can muster in the Republican mainstream. His father, former U.S. Rep. RonPaul of Texas, unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination several times, appealing to libertarians who favor limited government and oppose tax increases.
Paul is a frequent contrarian against his party's orthodoxy, questioning the size of the U.S. military and proposing relaxation of some drug laws that imprison offenders at a high cost to taxpayers. He also challenges Republicans' support for surveillance programs, drone policies and sanctions on Iran and Cuba.
Tech savvy and youth-focused, Paul is expected to be an Internet juggernaut his competitors will be forced to chase.
After his speech, Paul was set to answer questions from voters on his Facebook page.
On the eve of his launch, Paul was a frequent poster on Twitter.
"On April 7, one leader will stand up to defeat the Washington machine and unleash the American dream," Paul'spolitical committee announced in a Web video before Tuesday's event.
Embedded in the video: an opportunity for supporters to donate.
Perhaps reflecting the challenges he faces in convincing his critics he deserves the nomination, Paul is also leaving open the door to a second term in the Senate.
Elliott reported from Washington.