(CNN) - Republican Sen. Rand Paul said he needs a heavy dose of political persuasion if he is to run for president in 2016.
Paul was asked about higher political aspirations on Friday. He said his wife owns both available votes in his family. “Both of them are ‘no’ votes right now,” he told the audience.
Paul was speaking at the Detroit Economic Club where he laid out a newly formulated economic plan to revitalize the city that is proceeding through largest municipal bankruptcy in the country's history.
Paul’s staff said he took his message to Detroit because he was in town to open a new Republican Party office there and because he thinks the city could be a model for other struggling areas around the country, including his home state of Kentucky.
But Paul has worked to strategically broaden his message beyond the Senate and his home state, which has added speculation to a possible presidential run.
The Detroit Economic Club is a fitting venue for a potential presidential candidate in the battleground state as it has “hosted every U.S. President since Richard Nixon,” its website says.
Paul proposed “Economic Freedom Zones” to “free up Detroit to bail themselves out.” He plans to introduce a bill on the economic zones in the Senate next week.
In his plan for parts of the country with unemployment at 1.5% higher than the national average, income taxes would be reduced to 5% and capital gains taxes would be eliminated. The payroll tax would also go down for both the employee and the employer, he said.
“The money would simply be left with its rightful owner,” Paul said.
Paul criticized the President Barack Obama for employing “traditional government stimulus” totaling $1 trillion during the recession that he said “hasn’t worked.”
After his speech, Paul was asked by an audience member about the auto bailout, a politically tricky topic for aspiring national Republicans. It is popular in Detroit and largely considered successful there.
While he hedged slightly by saying there are “debatable parts on both sides” of the issue, he said he would “prefer” a market-based approach opposed to “the direct bailout of any industry,” noting that that position “may not be popular in Detroit.”
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had roots in Michigan, was pounded by the Obama campaign for not supporting the government bailout of the American auto industry. Romney lost the state.
Paul expanded beyond his economic plan to discuss the problems facing the Republican Party, saying it’s important to be more inclusive and embrace all types of people. He said the GOP needs more people with “tattoos” and “pony tails.”
He also said the Republican message can appeal to African-Americans, noting that only a small percentage of blacks supported Romney in 2012. According to CNN exit polls, Romney won 6% of the African-American vote last year.
“That’s not very good,” Paul said.
He said he could make inroads with minorities by talking about issues that directly and disproportionately have an impact on minority communities, including what he called the “out of control War on Drugs.”
Minority communities are “easy targets” for bad policies, Paul said, highlighting that Africa-Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for smoking marijuana. It’s not because “white kids in the suburbs” aren’t smoking pot, Paul said.