ESSEX, Vt. — Presidential candidate Rand Paul spent much of his visit to Vermont arguing that defending the U.S. Constitution sets him apart from rivals Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
Calling himself a “different kind of Republican,” Paul assured residents Monday that he can win in blue and purple states, with young voters and with minorities.
“If Republicans run the same kind of candidate that we’ve always run, at least in the last several cycles, they can’t compete in some of these areas,” he said in an interview before his speech.
Locals teed off another contrast.
“Please join me in welcoming to Vermont a presidential candidate that is not Bernie Sanders,” said Vermont’s Republican National Committeewoman Susie Hudson, filling Whitcomb Barn in Essex with cheers.
Paul, who stopped by the fundraiser on his way to New Hampshire and Maine, is a Kentucky senator, ophthalmologist and son of former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. He became the first non-Vermont presidential hopeful to visit the Green Mountain State this election cycle.
Paul filled the barn with his stump speech, asking Republicans to push back against warrant-less searches of phone records and detention without trial.
“If you like the Second Amendment, you’re not going to keep it unless you have theFourth Amendment,” Paul said.
“Amen,” offered a man in the crowd.
In his speech Paul also blamed former secretary of state Clinton for the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, called Donald Trump a “fake conservative,” argued against involvement in Middle East civil wars and said “the executive branch is on steroids.”
Vermont Republicans gave Paul a quart of maple syrup and a standing ovation.
State Rep. Paul Dame, a Republican from Essex Junction, believes that Paul, who is currently polling near the bottom of a crowded Republican field, is the only Republican that could win Vermont in a general election.
“Rand is the kind of Republican who can win in the Northeast,” Dame said, emphasizing limited government messages that could appeal to centrist Democrats.
Other state Republicans were more muted, saying they simply came to listen but were glad that Vermont was getting some presidential attention.
“I don’t consider myself to be a libertarian,” said Rep. Corey Parent, a Republican from St. Albans.
Conor Casey, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, countered in an interview that Paul isn’t too far from other Republican candidates on issues such as cutting the social “safety net,” defunding Planned Parenthood and imposing a flat income tax.
“I’m surprised by the Republicans’ choice of guest speaker at this fundraiser,” Casey said.
In an interview, Paul acknowledged that “Bernie, like Donald Trump, is going through a big rise at this point.”
“I think most Americans aren’t socialist, and I don’t know if they’ve discovered yet that Bernie’s a socialist,” Paul said. “Having government own the means of production is, you know, what led to the demise of the Soviet Union.”