WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Rand Paul's populist campaign, based on advocacy of a smaller, less-nosy government, gained popularity at first but he soon faded. The Kentucky senator was among those bumped from the main debate stage because of low polling, but won readmission for the last debate before the Iowa caucuses. A look at the senator:
Paul launched his presidential candidacy early, anchoring his effort in detailed policy positions before Donald Trump jumped in and captured the attention of angry, change-seeking Americans. Paul, though a senator, is no go-along-to-get-along Washington insider. He was elected in the tea party-driven wave of 2010 and tangled often with GOP leaders. But he started to learn the ways of Washington and adapt to them.
Paul is an ophthalmologist who has worked at clinics in southwest Kentucky, specializing in eye surgery, and helps to run a free clinic for his poor neighbors. In politics, Paul helped his father, Ron, run against Texas Sen. Phil Gramm in 1984 and on his 1988 presidential campaign, and managed his father's 1996 campaign to return to the House representing a Houston-area district. In Rand Paul's first campaign with his own name on the ballot, running for Senate in Kentucky in 2010, he toppled Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell's choice in the GOP primary by an almost 2-to-1 margin and went on to win the general election by 12 percentage points.
Paul grew up near Houston, the son of an obstetrician father and mother who was a secretary. He was 15 when his father won election to the House in 1978. Rand Paul attended Baylor University, where he was an honors student, but left without a degree when he was accepted into Duke University's School of Medicine. While on a surgical rotation at Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta, he met his future wife, Kelley, at a picnic. The couple married in 1990 and moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to be closer to her family. Paul joined a medical practice before opening one of his own, and Kelley Paul is a freelance writer and political consultant. The couple is raising three children in Washington.
Paul's career and campaign is centered on the idea of a smaller, less-intrusive government — a platform that appeals to liberals concerned about government operating outside its authority as well as to many conservatives. He controlled the Senate floor in 2013 for almost 13 hours to hold up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. Brennan had been President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, and Paul opposed the Obama administration's use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. He drew support from people across the political spectrum who shared a concern about government overreach, making it seem possible to cobble together a diverse coalition big enough to compete in the race for president.
"If you want boots on the ground, and you want them to be our sons and daughters, you got 14 other choices," he said in a reference to his rivals. "There will always be a Bush or Clinton for you, if you want to go back to war in Iraq. But the thing is, the first war was a mistake. And I'm not sending our sons and our daughters back to Iraq. The war didn't work."
MOMENT TO REMEMBER
Paul in October embarked on an online event in which he answered hostile questions from Twitter users.
One asked if he's still running for president.
"I dunno," he answered. "I wouldn't be doing this dumbass live streaming if I weren't."
Still a year out from Monday's Iowa caucuses, Paul began a series of stumbles that turned into displays of his prickly personality — and raised questions about his credibility as a doctor. Paul said he had heard about "many tragic cases" of children who got vaccines and ended up with "profound mental disorders." That assertion has no basis in medical research. Paul at first blamed the uproar on "inaccuracies" in the media. He later said he believes vaccines are safe and that his own children are immunized. That came after Paul suggested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the transmission of Ebola sound similar to that of AIDS. Ebola, he said, is easier to contract. Health authorities worldwide have said that Ebola is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids.
Senate Twitter: http://twitter.com/senrandpaul
Campaign Twitter: http://twitter.com/drrandpaul
Campaign Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/RandPaul
Senate Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/SenatorRandPaul
Senate campaign website: http://www.randpaul2016.com
Political action committee: http://www.randpac.com
Senate website: http://www.paul.senate.gov
Follow Laurie Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman