Washington (CNN) - Rand Paul has long been very open about his ambitions for higher office, telling CNN as early as November 2012, just weeks after the last presidential election, of his interest in running for the White House.
And the Republican senator from Kentucky is on top of the pack in CNN's most recent poll in the hypothetical race for the 2016 GOP nomination.
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Now, Paul's become the first of the potential Republican White House contenders to put together a political organization in all 50 states. It's the latest sign that the senator is working to assemble a much wider network than his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, did when the longtime congressman from Texas made bids for the GOP nomination in 2008 and 2012 with extremely strong but narrow backing from libertarian-leaning voters.
A senior adviser to Paul confirms to CNN that the senator's 50-state network, first reported earlier Thursday by the Washington Post's Robert Costa, includes more than 200 people, including many who in the past have backed more tradition Republicans. The network is set up through Rand Paul Victory, the umbrella organization that includes Rand PAC, which is the senator's political action committee, and Rand Paul 2016, his Senate re-election campaign.
"It's a mix of folks that will help with finance efforts and with grassroots activist outreach. The people are a blend of traditional Republicans, conservative activists, and libertarians," Doug Stafford, Paul's chief political adviser, told CNN.
Another Paul aide said that the evolving organization means that there are "people ready and waiting to help" when Paul travels across the country.
The first-term senator has been making the rounds in the crucial early voting states in the presidential primary and caucus calendar, such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada, and has addressed grassroots conservative audiences across the country.
Paul's efforts in building a network in Iowa, which kicks off the caucus and primary season, are well underway.
"A lot of Iowans are excited about the prospect of Senator Paul running for President. They've seen his ability to unite a broad spectrum of conservatives and attract young people and independents," David Fischer, co-chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 efforts in Iowa and a former co-chairman of the state's Republican party, told CNN.
But Paul has also traveled to spots that GOP lawmakers rarely venture. The most recent example: earlier this month Paul gave a speech at the historically liberal-leaning University of California at Berkeley, where he talked about the National Security Agency's surveillance program and the Republican Party's need for change.
Paul: GOP like bad pizza crust
The trip was part of Paul's effort to appeal to younger voters and minorities, groups that traditionally favor Democrats.
Earlier this month, Paul won the much-watched GOP presidential nomination straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference. It was the second straight victory for Paul at CPAC, where his speech was well received.
A week after this year's CPAC, Paul came out on top at a straw poll at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in New Hampshire.
As Paul works to broaden his base of support, he's done something his father never did - top the list of potential Republican presidential candidates in a national poll.
According to a CNN/ORC International survey conducted earlier this month, 16% of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP said they would be likely to support Paul for the 2016 nomination. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, was one point back, at 15%.
Longtime Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's considering another bid for the White House, was at 11% in the poll, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who's also mulling another campaign, was at 10%.
Rand Paul clearly a 2016 factor
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Well, there's lots of room in the clown car, and getting in early means you get to sit on a real seat, not somebody's lap. Maybe this year they'll use a convertible and let the wind rustle their hair. I understand that car the Bob Hoskins drove in Roger Rabbit is looking for a new gig.
For every good idea Rand Paul has, he has 10 other crazy ones.
Seems preoccupied with positioning himself for the 2016 presidential election. Does not appear to be offering the citizens of Kentucky good representation
When is he really going to be serious and get out of his bubble his wife made for him. Haven't heard much from her when she took a shot at Hillary for maybe using her husband in her campaign. Somebody put a muzzle on her. Rand is going to put an effort forward in the end the voters are going to realize in 2016 this guy knows zero like the rest of the GOP contenders . He can paint anyway he wants he is still a republican and the public knows what he stands for. The best shot the republican party has is Christie. They don't even know it. The rich guys like Cruz, Ryan etc. because they will do anything to get ahead and Christie has a mind of his own. See you in 2024
Has he received the blessing of the Koch Brothers? Otherwise, his is a losing battle.
If this is what the GOP has to offer for 2016, "landslide loss" will be the understatement of the decade.
He would help myself and other sons of confederate veterans keep our heritage alive and not allow another peace of our heritage torn down. He has my vote because he fights for dixie and our heritage
Rand Paul may win the GOP primary but, He simply cant win the general election. He is just too conservative for the main stream. He would have to swing to far right in the primary and would not be able to swing to the center enough to win in 2016.
Another right wing lunatic... far past fringe. go ahead Randy we will laugh at you just as hard as we did Romney who was also out of touch with the 99%
Last thing we need in the Whitehouse is the demon spawn of the lunatic isolationist anti-Semite.
Please run, Rand, PLEASE! Millions of Democrats across land will thank you in 2016
Please America, don't make the mistake the people from the rural part of my state made. Reject this chia-headed nitwit for your own good!
Sounds like the world as pictured in V For Vendetta. Or a true GOPher's wildest wet dream.
Wait until they meet his namesake, Ayn Rand. All they have to do is archive his past comments about advocating virtually no government at all, no regulation for greedy business, an isolationist foreign policy and mean spirited attitudes towards the poor and he's toast.
Paul is the only choice if you want a common sense approach to upholding the US Constitution. Paul would have an advantage over Hillary Clinton. Since Hillary has a 30 year record to have to defend.
People are tired of old candidates like Hillary and McCain, as exhibited in the election of an unqualified Barack Obama.
As a democrat, this is too good to be true!
As the 2016 election approaches, I find it insulting and not fundamentally unamerican that the republican party and democrats have not advanced any minorities as potential candidates on the tickets. The present list simply does not ha very new-America as an integral part in ,it's growth. It is hope each party will make a concerted effort to show politics is about "We the "People".
@ Smeagel4T – dead on my friend, you're very observant.
He would get my vote because frankly Im sick of the same ole same ole. The standard Rep vs Dem debate has shown us nothing changes when you vote for either partys pre chosen candidate. Im also sick of being the worlds policeman at the cost of our economy and young people.He is the closet thing to a 3rd party and the time has come.