Rand Paul Hopes His Opposition To Patriot Act Boosts Campaign Support

As his fellow Republican Kentucky senator, Mitch McConnell, pushes this week to reauthorize the Patriot Act, Rand Paul took his presidential campaign to Independence Mall on Monday and said he’d do whatever he could to kill the law and the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

“One senator came up to me and said, ‘If you defeat the Patriot Act, what will happen? How could we possibly survive?’ ” Paul said on a muggy afternoon, outside the Philadelphia hall where the Constitution was adopted. “And I said maybe, just maybe, we could rely on the Constitution for a few hours.”

Paul’s vow to fight the Patriot Act sets up a showdown with McConnell, and it’s an important moment for his campaign. Polls show Paul mired in the middle of a crowded field of Republican contenders, and he’s hoping his threat to filibuster over the mass collection of phone records will bring back the excitement of the 13-hour anti-drone talkathon on the Senate floor two years ago that launched him into national prominence.

Paul won supporters two years ago when he launched a filibuster in protest of what he deemed a risk of drone strikes to U.S. citizens on American soil. But Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said in an interview that Paul now had a fine line to walk as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination between firing up libertarian-minded backers and not appearing weak on national security and foreign policy.

“Foreign policy is driving him down in the polls, but it’s stances like this on the Patriot Act that are still sparking interest in him,” said O’Connell, who advised the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “He has to be able to use the Patriot Act debate to leverage it into a wider foreign-policy debate.”

Paul, who’s feuded with the hawkish McCain on foreign policy issues, said Monday that American intervention had backfired in Iraq and Libya.

Read more from Sean Cockerham at McClatchyDC

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