OKOBOJI, Iowa (CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul brought his recent crusade for a more compassionate Republican Party to the northwest part of Iowa on Monday, appealing to a crowd of social conservatives at a fundraiser for Rep. Steve King.
The Kentucky Republican made his push for sentencing reform in the criminal justice system, the laws of which "disproportionately affect African Americans and Hispanics," Paul said.
"Until you show that you care about them and that you want to do something about them, you're not going to win," he told the audience. "So if we want to win, we're going to have to change."
Paul is on a three-day swing across the state, stopping in eight cities and appearing at multiple events for local politicians as he prepares for a potential presidential run. Iowa traditionally holds the first caucuses in presidential election years.
The fundraiser Monday took place at the Barefoot Bar near Okoboji Lake, an island-themed enclave among the green cornfields of northern Iowa. Dressed in a multi-colored striped shirt - "This is the best party shirt I've got," he said - Paul delivered a lengthy address, tackling a laundry list of issues that he frequently talks about. He delivered familiar lines on wasteful government spending, Benghazi, the IRS and the NSA's domestic phone surveillance program.
While he didn't go into detail about his recent criminal justice proposals, the senator has been teaming up with Democrats to introduce legislation that reduces penalties for nonviolent drug offenders and helps restores voting rights to felons who've completed their sentences.
Paul tried to frame his reform agenda in a narrative familiar to evangelical voters.
"Many of us are Christians, we believe in a second chance in our religion. Anybody here who's not a sinner, raise their hand," he said. "We believe in redemption should the law allow people a second chance. I think if we'll be more of a compassionate party who believes in that and believes that people in poverty needs a second chance, maybe we can do something for Detroit."
He stressed that "it doesn't have to be a bailout or a handout," but encouraged Republicans to preach the economic benefits of reducing taxes in broke places like Detroit and "show that we do care about people who are poor, who live in bad circumstances."
King, who's popular among social conservatives, described Paul as someone with promise. But he also sought to contrast the senator from his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who garnered a significant following in Iowa during his 2008 and 2012 presidential runs.
"(Rand) is his own man, and I want him to have the room to lay out his own platform and agenda, and I don't want to say the Ron Paul agenda is the Rand Paul agenda. I've heard him say enough times he is different from his father," King told reporters, but he added that he likes how they both share a "foundational respect for the Constitution."
While Ron Paul was popular among the libertarian-leaning faction of Iowa's Republican Party - and helped grow that part of the party - he still failed to win the state's caucuses. If Rand Paul runs for President, he'll need to win support from the party's mainstream Republicans and social conservatives, as well.
"Ron Paul's been very, very successful in Iowa," King said. "And that may translate into more success for Rand, and it may translate into something less."
Paul's fundraiser with King has come under fire, as Democrats point to King's recent push in favor of impeaching President Obama.
"Rand Paul may like to say he's a new type of Republican, but today he's proving he's not," Michael Czin, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.
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