WINDHAM, N.H. — Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) acknowledged in an interview today that foreign policy and national defense issues have dampened voter support for the presidential campaign of his father, Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Paul, who filled in for his father during an afternoon town hall meeting here that lasted 90 minutes, spent much of the event attempting to explain the elder Paul's views on foreign policy and national defense. The Senator lamented to a mostly friendly crowd that the Congressman's libertarian-leaning opinions have been mischaracterized in the media, arguing that they are more mainstream than his opponents in the race for the GOP nomination have claimed.
In an brief interview with Roll Call following the town hall in this southeastern New Hampshire community, Paul answered "I think so" when asked if he felt his father would receive more voter support if his views on foreign policy and national defense were more accurately understood — particularly because of how well Congressman Paul's opinions on fiscal matters have been received.
"It's sort of an interesting issue," Kentucky's junior Senator said. "I think he attracts a lot of people, actually, with the non-interventionist foreign policy. And then there are some who like it, but feel like, 'Well gosh, I still want somebody who cares that Iran might get nuclear weapons.' And I think he does — well I know he does — but I think it sometimes doesn't come off as well in the debates how much he thinks it would be a bad idea for Iran to have nuclear weapons."
"His position is not anti-Israel," Paul continued. "It's not too dissimilar from the three previous heads of the U.S. Central Command. ... In reality, if you read through a lot of foreign policy literature, three generals believe fairly similar things, and even the head of Israel's Mossad is saying something similar to Ron Paul now, and you don't quite get that."
Paul finished a close but disappointing third in the Iowa caucuses. He has been running second in New Hampshire, according to most polls, ahead of Tuesday's primary vote.
The Republican candidates were set to debate Saturday night and again Sunday morning, and Congressman Paul was preparing for those events, leaving his son to serve as the featured guest at this afternoon's town hall meeting. The event's host, the Southern New Hampshire 9-12 Project, said 489 people attended, and Paul was well received by the audience.
The Senator discussed his first year on Capitol Hill in addition to fielding questions about his father's positions on the issues and what he would do as president. Some have speculated that the Kentucky Republican, who shares many of his father's views but is more nuanced in how he presents them, might seek the White House in 2016 or 2020.
Larry Major, a 76-year-old from Pelham, N.H., who attended the town hall meeting, said Paul was as presidential as any candidate he's seen come through the Granite State over the years looking for votes. Major has narrowed his choices in the race down to Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
"I think [Sen. Paul] is doing the footwork now for something in the future," Major said. "But having said that, I also believe that's the way [President Barack] Obama started out. He really wasn't expecting to get that position in 2008. He was ahead of his time."