Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, running for president as a Republican, says he is supportive of the effort by some of the more conservative House members to use their leverage “to get a conservative in the speakership.”
In a Wednesday interview with The Daily Caller, Paul made it clear he would like to see House Republicans support someone other than House majority leader Kevin McCarthy.
“They need new blood outside of leadership,” Paul said. “And I think it would be great if they nominate somebody that’s just been elected three times or less. Because I think really the longer people are part of the system, the less likely they are to really change the system. I think the system really needs to be shaken up.”
House Republicans are set to meet Thursday for a closed-door meeting to elect a nominee to replace outgoing speaker John Boehner. McCarthy is believed to have enough support to win that vote.
But if enough Republicans vote for someone else during the official public vote for speaker with the entire House of Representatives on Oct. 29, they could deny McCarthy the speakership since he needs a majority to win. In that scenario, some conservatives hope an alternative to McCarthy who could win the support of all Republicans would rise.
“Their power is in whether or not they will vote on the floor for the nominee,” Paul said of the conservative Republicans who have clashed with Boehner and are reluctant to support his number two for speaker.
“They may not have the votes right now to determine who the caucus nominee is, but if 30 or 40 of them say they’re not voting on the floor for that person, than they do control who will be acceptable to them. And I’d love to see them insert that influence to try to get a conservative in the speakership,” Paul said.
The Kentuckian declined to say if he favors a specific candidate for speaker. The two other candidates running are Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Florida Rep. Daniel Webster. Of the candidates, only Webster — elected to Congress in 2010 like Paul — has been elected three times or less.
“I think they should unify those who want to use the power of the purse behind a candidate,” Paul said. “But I don’t want to tell them what to do.”
Referencing the recent debate of defunding Planned Parenthood, Paul criticized Republicans for not “adequately exerting the power of the purse.”
“We control the House and Senate,” he said. “And as I travel across the country, Republicans are unhappy, saying, ‘what the hell are you guys doing, why aren’t you controlling any spending, why aren’t you confronting the president.’”
Woo-ing College Students In Iowa
The libertarian-leaning Republican is about to embark on a tour of college campuses in the first in the nation caucus state, hoping to revive his campaign in a state where his polling position has fallen from first place to ninth.
Paul is skeptical of the recent polling showing him down. “I’m not so sure the polls accurately reflect our strength,” he said. “We have chairmen now in all 99 counties. We have several hundred precinct chairmen. We’re organized in 15 colleges in Iowa.”
Pollsters, he pointed out, don’t always reach college students, who use cell phones instead of landlines.
“I can’t imagine any student ever participating in a poll, to tell you the truth,” Paul said. “They say they have young people in the polls, but the pollsters are saying there’s an extraordinary effort to get anybody to answer a phone. And so basically, you’ve excluded a whole section of the public who has cell phones.”
“I no longer have a landline and haven’t had a landline for a while,” he said.
Starting next week, Paul will travel to 11 colleges and universities for rallies in Iowa. His campaign is using the event to recruit what they hope will be more than 10,000 Iowa students committed to caucusing for Paul in February.
“There are several issues that I talk about that I think resonate on college campuses: the right to privacy, the right to be left alone, the right not to have your government collecting your phone records, the hypocrisy of many of the other candidates to want to put people in jail for marijuana even though they often smoked marijuana when they were kids,” he said.
Paul also referenced his opposition to being “involved in every civil war around the world.”
“Young people fight the wars and they’re not excited about being involved in various different foreign civil wars as many of the other Republicans are,” he said.
Paul’s father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a popular figure among college students, came in third place in Iowa’s 2012 caucuses. But Paul suggested he had no plans to use his father on the trail this time.
“I think the election ends up being about the candidate who is running,” he said. “In all likelihood, it’ll be me presenting the message since I’m running. What you will find is already we’re getting probably larger turnouts than anybody else on college campuses.”
The next Republican debate, hosted by CNBC, is set for Oct. 28. To participate in the top tier debate, candidates must have an average of three percent in the polls used by the network. Despite his falling national numbers, Paul says he’s confident he will make the cut.
“We don’t think there’s any question that we will be on the main stage,” he said. “When you look at the polling criteria that they’re using, it looks as if we will.”