LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday with a vow to run as the enemy of “the Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives.”
Paul’s appearance in Louisville was to be quickly followed by stops in the major early voting states. He is headed to New Hampshire next for campaign events Wednesday.
Roughly 1,500 people attended Paul’s speech. His wife, Kelley, sat in a riser along with other family members, including Paul’s father, the libertarian icon and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul. The elder Paul, whose fiercely loyal fans are expected to form the base of Rand Paul’s candidacy, did not speak at the event.
Paul, a freshman senator, only briefly mentioned his experience on Capitol Hill. He focused his remarks primarily on the dysfunction in the nation’s capitol and his pledge to fix it. He also signaled outreach to many voters not typically allied with the Republican Party, including African-Americans and young people.
“The message of liberty, opportunity and justice is for all Americans, whether you wear a suit, a uniform or overalls, whether you’re white or black, rich or poor,” Paul said.
Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, who is Hispanic, followed by a young woman, and a black pastor welcomed the Kentucky senator to the stage, previewing videos that signaled a strong reach to minority and young voters, building up Paul as compassionate.
Paul’s wife was the last to introduce her husband, the first white male to take the stage.
campaign website a few hours earlier, writing, Paul broke the news on his “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.”
The video Paul’s campaign unveiled Sunday night that branded the candidate as “a different kind of Republican” also aired at the event; Paul has tried to keep the support his father garnered as a libertarian candidate, while also drawing in more traditional Republicans.
An eye surgeon who studied at Duke before opening a private practice and who still does medical missions abroad, Paul often appears at events tieless, in jeans and his trademark turtlenecks with a blazer — a dress code much less formal than many of his would-be rivals. However, at the event here Paul was buttoned-up in suit and tie.
Paul became the second Republican to announce a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination; freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas made it official last month at Liberty University. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are expected to announce their runs in the coming weeks.
Cruz, following the news of Paul’s candidacy, said in a statement that he’s “glad to welcome my friend Rand Paul into the 2016 GOP primary,” adding that “his entry into the race will no doubt raise the bar of competition, help make us all stronger, and ultimately ensure that the GOP nominee is equipped to beat Hillary Clinton and to take back the White House for Republicans in 2016.”
With a crowd at its feet in Louisville, Paul sealed his candidacy.
“Today begins the journey to take America back, to rescue a great country, now adrift,” he said to cheers. Today, I announce with God’s health, and the health of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for the United States of America.”
MSNBC producer Anthony Terrell contributed to this report.