MILFORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday promised New Hampshire voters — and quite a few political tourists from neighboring Massachusetts — that if he wins the White House, he would protect the state from federal intrusion.
"I will fight for your right to be left alone," Paul said at the historic Milford town hall during his first full day as a presidential candidate. "I will fight to keep the federal government out of New Hampshire, out of your home, out of your business and out of your church."
The Kentucky senator's pitch was part of an overt outreach to New Hampshire libertarians, who helped power Paul's father, former Rep. Ron Paul, to a second-place finish during his 2012 presidential primary campaign. The younger Paul is now trying to persuade his father's backers to stick with the next generation of tough-talking Pauls.
"I loved his father," said Laura El-Azem, a 45-year-old voter from Londonderry, New Hampshire. "We need to get back to our constitutional roots. We have the Constitution for a reason."
Yet El-Azem, like many who attended Paul's midday rally, was still shopping for a preferred candidate.
To help sway them, Paul repeatedly used the state's "Live Free or Die" motto, tapping into its flinty independence.
"New Hampshire has a leave-me-alone attitude," Paul told reporters. "And that's something I think sits very well with what I have to say and what I believe. I think we are a natural fit in New Hampshire,"
Asked about the state's place in his political strategy, Paul was blunt: "I do think we do need to win New Hampshire."
Paul's father captured 23 percent of the vote during his 2012 bid for the GOP presidential nomination.
Many people from Massachusetts crossed into New Hampshire to hear Paul.
"He wants to get the government out of people's lives," said Andrew Borus, an 18-year-old who drove to Paul's rally from Worcester, Massachusetts. "He's a social conservative but he doesn't force it on people. And that's what we're going to need if Republicans are going to reach out to people who normally aren't Republican."
Later Wednesday, Paul was heading to South Carolina for events on Thursday, which has the first presidential primary in the South. He goes Friday to Iowa and to Nevada on Saturday.
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