Concord, New Hampshire (CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul used humor to accompany biting criticism of President Barack Obama Monday on issues ranging from the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative organizations to the president’s health care law, as the Kentucky Republican made his formal introduction to influential New Hampshire voters.
Paul was well received by the 500 GOP activists at this sold out fundraiser for the state party, where he repeated his criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
While Paul, using a folksy tone, did not break any new ground, he connected with these Republican primary voters who applauded him at times and gave a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks.
Paul’s appearance in New Hampshire has stoked speculation about his desire to run for president, a path blazed by his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, most recently in 2012. And Rand Paul, unlike many other Republicans being mentioned as potential White House contenders, openly acknowledges that he is looking at a White House run. His $10,000 donation to the New Hampshire Republican Party Monday is the latest move by Paul that demonstrates he is more than serious about a presidential campaign – the contribution follows a recent trip to Iowa, a visit to South Carolina and a return to Iowa.
But before his speech, Paul chose to publicly dial back his presidential ambitions and deflected a question about his visit to New Hampshire, only saying that “we are getting good outpour” of support.
“We’ve had a lot of friends up here for years, but the main thing right now is to not talk about me so much, but rather how to grow the party,” he said.
The friends he is referring to are likely the libertarian minded activists who backed his father’s campaign for president – many of whom attended the fundraiser. While Paul holds similar views to his father, he has also aligned himself closer to the GOP establishment and has endorsed his Kentucky colleague, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for re-election.
Earlier in the afternoon, Paul joined Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for a private listening session with GOP activists. After the meeting, and before his speech, Paul said that for the Republican Party to grow, it needs “to look like the rest of America.”
“We need to have black people, brown people, white people, we need to have people with tattoos, without tattoos, with long hair, with short hair, with beards, without beards,” he said. “We need to look more like America. We need to appeal to the working class; we need to appeal to all segments of the country. And I don’t think we have done a good enough job yet and that’s why I want to be saying this is how we become competitive again.”
Paul made similar remarks during his speech to the 500 activists.
The Kentucky Republican is the second Republican potentially looking at a White House bid to visit New Hampshire. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal recently headlined a fundraiser for state Senate Republicans.