February 10th, 2013
09:59 AM ET
5 years ago

Tea party address won't divide Republicans, Rand Paul says

(CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul's tea party response to Tuesday's State of the Union address isn't intended to drive a wedge through the Republican Party, the Kentucky senator said Sunday.

Paul was tapped by the Tea Party Express to deliver Tuesday's response to President Barack Obama's speech. It's the third year the group has sponsored its own rebuttal to Obama's speech. The official Republican response will be delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who like Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010 with support from the tea party.

Watch CNN's comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV and follow online at CNN.com or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Follow our real-time State of the Union live blog at cnn.com/conversation.

"I see it as an extra response. I don't see it as necessarily divisive," Paul told chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on the CNN program "State of the Union."

"I won't say anything on there that necessarily is like, 'Marco Rubio is wrong,'" Paul continued. "He and I don't always agree, but this isn't about he and I. This is about the tea party, which is a grass-roots movement, a real movement, with millions of Americans that still are concerned about some of the deal-making that goes on in Washington."

Both Paul and Rubio are considered potential candidates for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, and both their speeches come at a time when national Republicans are debating the best path forward after an electoral trouncing in 2012.

A new group co-founded by veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove will seek to propel the most electable GOP candidates through the primary process in upcoming contests, which some grass-roots Republicans have blasted as a move to make the party more moderate.

Republicans are seeking ways to make themselves more appealing to a wider array of voters after losing among all demographics except white males in November. Rubio, featured on the cover of Time magazine this week as "The Republican Savior," has been a leading voice for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, which some Republicans have favored after losing big among Latinos.

Paul pushed back Sunday on the notion that Rubio, or any other Republican, has been anointed as the "face" of the Republican Party, making the case that Republican lawmakers sometimes have different priorities.

"I don't think anybody gets to choose who the face is, or say you or someone else is the face. I think we do the best to promote what we believe in," Paul said, pointing to his own vocal opposition to sending U.S. foreign aid money to certain countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

"There are things that distinguish a lot of different Republicans. It doesn't make them bad or me right or them wrong. What it means there is a tea party wing that's interested in not sending money to people who are not acting like our allies," Paul said.

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