LOUISVILLE, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Friday that he is leaning toward a run for president and will likely make an announcement in his home state of Kentucky sometime in March or April.
"Anything that I do, you know I'm from Kentucky, will be in Kentucky," Paul told reporters following a speech in Louisville on Friday.
Hours later, he was in Alabama testing his pitch that the GOP's hopes depend on nominating "a different kind of Republican."
In a 30-minute speech at an Alabama Republican Party gala, Paul mixed conservative orthodoxy with positions and proposals that aren't typical themes of GOP gatherings.
"Your government has gotten so out of control that often we aren't in charge," he said. "The executive branch has become this monster with tentacles that reach into every aspect of your lives, and no one can stop it."
He called for steep cuts in taxes and spending, sidestepping details. He celebrated his role in a partial government shutdown in October 2013. "In Washington, everybody was clamoring, everybody was worrying," the senator said. "I went back home to Kentucky, and you know what they said? 'Why the hell did you open it back up?'"
Paul alluded to his repeated calls for sentencing reforms, though he didn't go into details, and told the overwhelmingly white audience that Republicans must reach more non-white voters if they want to reclaim the White House in 2016.
He also worked in blistering critiques of President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic nominee to succeed Obama.
Paul seeks to distinguish himself from a crowded Republican field with a delicate balancing act. He wants to maintain the loyal following that his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, enjoyed from libertarian-leaning Republicans in his presidential bids. But the younger Paul also wants to attract traditional Republicans, including cultural conservatives and business-minded conservatives who were wary of his father.
Then there's his push to expand the GOP's reach.
"We have to be a bigger party," he said. "I've shown I can go anywhere."
Though he skipped the policy details in Alabama, earlier Friday in Kentucky, the senator discussed legislation that he co-sponsored with New Jersey Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker that would allow juveniles charged with nonviolent crimes to expunge their criminal records.
It is similar to other proposals Paul has pushed, including restoring voting rights to some nonviolent convicted felons and eliminating federal mandatory minimum sentences for some drug charges. The proposals highlight Paul's effort in recent years to appeal to black voters, a population that frequently votes for the Democratic candidate.
In a speech to the Young Professionals Association of Louisville, Paul announced he returned another $480,000 in unused office funds to the federal treasury, marking $1.8 million he has returned since taking office in 2011. He used the example to tout his legislation that would lower federal taxes in certain economically depressed areas, notably the west end area of Louisville, one of the city's poorest areas that has a mostly minority population.
"I have a proposal that would leave $600 million in the west end, not money we would send from anywhere, just simply the businesses that are already in the west end, don't tax them — or lower their taxes dramatically," Paul said. "Democrats typically will tax you, and then they will give money to the west end. That's what they've been doing for 40 years."
Paul's campaign timeline that he announced Friday matches up with his efforts to persuade Kentucky Republican Party leaders next month to create a presidential caucus in 2016. That way, Paul could run for president and re-election to his Senate seat simultaneously without appearing on the primary ballot for two offices, which is banned by Kentucky law.
"You have a better chance asking your fellow party members than you do asking the judiciary," Paul said. But he noted the caucus, if approved, would only solve the problem in the primary. If he becomes the Republican nominee, it would likely require a judge's order for him to appear on the general election ballot twice.
"We think there are valid, constitutional arguments for why states can't have different rules, so Wisconsin, we don't think, can have different rules for who can be eligible for office than Kentucky can," he said. "It's optimistic to think that we would have a general election issue."