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Rand Paul testing 2016 waters during SC visit

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 08:29 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul hopes a visit Friday to South Carolina, home to the South’s first presidential primary balloting, can show voters that he can appeal to a broad audience, including some who haven’t traditionally supported Republicans.

“We come with the hope of trying to grow the Republican Party, bringing the message to people who haven’t been hearing it ... to try to broaden our message,” Paul told The Associated Press prior to a Friday trip to the state. “I think we’ll get a good reception.”

The Kentucky Republican and tea party favorite is spending time in South Carolina meeting with tea party-leaning groups and headlining a state GOP fundraiser.

South Carolina primary voters won’t cast their ballots for more than two years. But in the state, like others with early primaries and caucuses, Paul’s name is frequently mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential contender. He’s also made recent trips to other early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

South Carolina voters are eager to hear Paul’s conservative message, said state GOP chairman Matt Moore, adding that South Carolina will host other potential 2016 White House hopefuls in the coming months.

Paul first stepped onto the national stage in 2010 when he vanquished Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s chosen Kentucky candidate in a GOP primary. Since then, he’s embraced the popularity he has in the tea party and has inherited the libertarian-leaning political network of his father, three-time presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Ron Paul.