At a Students for Rand rally at the University of Minnesota, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul led with the one-two punch of his appeal for younger voters.
The U.S. senator from Kentucky began his speech to about 200 people, mostly students, by stoking concerns about privacy. “I don’t want a government that’s looking at all my phone records. I don’t want a government that has the ability to collect them all and send them to some billion-dollar underground facility in Utah,” he said.
“They’re also collecting your credit card confirmation,” he said. “The government —it’s none of their damn business what you do with your credit card.”
Next up was reducing criminal penalties for marijuana. “I’m not here to advocate for marijuana, I’m here to advocate for freedom,” he said.
Paul made sure to differentiate himself from that other candidate reaching out to young voters. “If you think, wow, Bernie’s great, Bernie [Sanders] wants to give me free stuff … there is no free lunch. Bernie can only pay for your college by taking it from somebody else,” he said.
Paul’s remarks appeared to resonate with the crowd that responded with subdued applause but stayed in their chairs for the duration of his 30-minute speech.
U of M student Spencer Gressen, of White Bear Lake, typified the audience. “I’m interested in anything political,” Gressen said. “He’s a libertarian and I myself am a libertarian.”
Paul is only the second presidential candidate to visit the state. The other was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who ended his candidacy last month. Like Walker, Paul has an affinity for Minnesota. The state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention in 2012 backed his father, Ron Paul.
For Rand Paul to get to that point, he needs to persuade the elusive young voter and other supporters to go to precinct caucuses on March 1. He says he’s relying on the intangible – “We have more committed voters” – and the concrete – “We put people in place on the ground.”
Paul hovers around 4 percent support in most national polls, well behind Ben Carson and Donald Trump. But he said he believes neither Carson nor Trump will be the nominee, citing the same polls that show a majority of Republican voters are uncommitted as the Republican field heads to debate No. 4 tonight in Milwaukee.