Rand Paul’s 2016 Long Game

Rand Paul this week announced a class action lawsuit against President Obama to curb the NSA’s ability to gather domestic phone records, insisting such surveillance efforts should be “specific to the person, to the place and to the items.” But lurking behind the policy argument is a clear political motive as well: the Kentucky senator, who’s considering a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, has argued for years that his libertarianism is just what the party needs to attract a younger, more diverse base.

Paul’s lawsuit, which is backed by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and tea party group Freedomworks, is the latest phase in Paul’s long running campaign against government spying.

But lately his political motives have been more visibily attached to the war on surveillance.

Paul has argued such crossover issues will attract voters not traditionally associated with the GOP. He’s made an effort to reach out to African Americans by criticizing mandatory sentencing laws. And he insists protesting government intrusion will win back the so-called Millennial voters – young people born after 1980 who backed Obama by large margins in 2012.

Paul’s efforts may even resonate with more traditional GOP base voters. Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told msnbc that Paul’s NSA attack would appeal to that group because it dovetails with conservatives’ general anxieties about government overreach under Obama. 

“This is about not just getting to the general election and winning young voters, it’s also high on the mind of tea party folks and constitutional conservatives,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC.com

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