(CNN) - Speaking to a gathering of Iowa Republicans Friday, Sen. Rand Paul seemed to set his sights beyond the state's 2016 caucus - in which he could very well be a contender - and instead zeroed on a potential general election rival: Hillary Clinton.
Using this week's renewed uproar over last September's Benghazi attack, Paul hammered Clinton for what he described as a woeful response to the siege of a diplomatic post that left four Americans dead. He was speaking at the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner in Cedar Rapids, his first stop in a tour of early voting states.
"It was inexcusable, it was a dereliction of duty, and it should preclude her from holding higher office," Paul said, recycling a line he's used frequently to describe Clinton's actions on Benghazi, including in an editorial in Friday's Washington Times.
He gave CNN's Erin Burnett a similar assessment of Clinton's response on Thursday.
"The person who made that decision should never be in place or a position to make that decision again," he told Burnett. "I stand by that."
Paul also told Clinton herself during a Senate hearing he would have "relieved you of your post" had he been president at the time of the attack.
The Kentucky Republican, who has not denied having aspirations of higher office, took particular offense at Clinton's admission that she had not read every diplomatic cable that came from the American embassy in Libya.
"She was asked repeatedly whether she read the cables, whether she read the requests for help. And she said no, I'm busy, had lots of cables," Paul said. "And I say I don't expect you to read every cable from Estonia or Bulgaria. But I do expect you, from one of the five most dangerous countries in the world, to be reading the cables."
His well received speech to the Iowa Republicans also delved into comprehensive immigration reform, which Paul said he supported. He does not, however, endorse the current legislation in Congress, saying its cap on work visas was problematic.
"We're going in wrong direction instead of the right direction," he said of the current bill, which was crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight."
"I am going to try and fix it," he added.
Republicans as a whole need to embrace fixing immigration, Paul said, not only because the current system is broken but because potential voters support a change.
"I think as a party we need to grow bigger. We need to attract the Latino vote. We have to attract the African American vote," he said, encouraging Republicans to "treat immigrants with dignity and respect."
"We need to reach out to other people who don't look like us, don't wear the same clothes, that aren't exactly who we are," he told the mostly white crowd.