ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rand Paul brought his message of less intrusive government to a "like-minded" crowd Tuesday in the first trip of a presidential candidate to Alaska this campaign.
"I think some of you tried to get away from Washington," said Paul, decked out in blue jeans, cowboy boots and a blue-and-white checkered dress shirt. He praised Alaska's "independent, libertarian spirit," driven by "those who did want to get away from big government, those who thought, 'You know what, there is a right to be left alone.'"
The Kentucky senator said he's trying to capitalize on being first to the state before the Alaska Republican caucuses March 1.
"There's a groundswell and a movement already here, so we want to get that organized," he said. Paul is using the network that his father, Ron Paul, put in place four years ago for his presidential run. The elder Paul finished third in Alaska's 2012 caucuses.
Shaun O'Brien, 40, of Wasilla came to learn more about Paul's positions on foreign policy and military intervention, convinced that the U.S. has been "way too involved militarily and spreading ourselves thin." An independent, he said Paul "doesn't have to swing too hard" to win his vote.
Matthew and Shelby Allen, both 24, of suburban Anchorage said Paul's visit made it feel like Alaska is part of the political game, but that wasn't enough to clinch their votes. "Not necessarily," Matthew said, "but it does make you feel good and gives him a leg up on the other candidates."
After the rally, Paul spent a few minutes in another hotel meeting room Chuck and Sally Heath, the parents of Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who was the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008.
Afterward, the Heaths shied away from saying their appearance at the Paul rally was any sort of endorsement. Chuck Heath noted that he has a bumper sticker that says: "Anyone but Obama."
Paul's Alaska visit kicked off a Western swing, with other stops planned in Washington state, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.