NAPLES, Florida — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a contender for the 2016 GOP nomination, flexed his potential presidential campaign muscles during a trip here this weekend—showing off his pull with grassroots voters and his ability to win over donors.
After arriving late Friday night after a speech in Montgomery, Alabama—Paul was the keynote before the Alabama GOP’s annual winter dinner—Paul on Saturday morning kicked off his day by holding a roundtable discussion with local doctors about healthcare policy.
“I think it’s very helpful to have someone familiar with healthcare here both inside the beltway and outside the beltway,” Dr. W.G. Eshbaugh, a reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgeon from the Naples area said. “He’s had a private practice and is able to articulate many of the challenges we face. It was a real pleasure to have that discussion with him.”
Eshbaugh was a year behind Paul at Duke Medical School—where Paul studied to become an ophthalmologist. Paul and his wife Kelly then moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Paul practiced for more than a decade before he scored a surprising Senate primary win against the Mitch McConnell-backed Trey Grayson in 2010. As a U.S. Senator, he’s now one of the leading Republicans—along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—potentially vying for the GOP nomination in 2016.
Sergio Gor, Paul’s energetic communications director, explained to Breitbart News that Paul plans to highlight the fact he is a doctor on the campaign trail, and Paul has frequently held such roundtable type meetings with doctors nationwide on many occasions.
“Part of Sen. Paul’s appeal both inside of politics and outside of politics is he was a doctor and surgeon for so many years,” Gor told Breitbart News as Paul wrapped up the meeting.
So you’re able to get a lot of doctors and surgeons from all over the country who are interested whether it’s their first time [meeting with a politician] or they’re regularly politically involved. You get a lot of doctors upset about Obamacare, about new regulations from Washington.
While everyone can be against Obamacare, doctors understand the exact intricacies and the small details that someone like Dr. Paul would understand. When they’re involved in day-to-day practice, they’re able to relate to what he’s saying. He knows it in and out.
One of the things we do is almost everywhere the senator travels we’ll invite a group of physicians and they’ll invite some of their other physicians and this happens all across the United States.
On Paul’s trip, both Cato Institute president John Allison and Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL) hinted that they believe Paul may very well win. Clawson said that while he’ll back whoever wins the GOP primary in the general, he plans on backing Paul in the primary. And Allison predicted that given the current political environment, Paul will become the next president of the United States of America.
That’s what Paul is projecting himself as: The conservative Republican who can go the distance, battle former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the primary then defeat Hillary Clinton—or whomever else Democrats may nominate should they decide against coronating the former Secretary of State—and get elected to the White House.
Paul is doing that by painting himself as the perennial outsider, the man of the people—and a grassroots champion for liberty and the values of ordinary Americans. Paul has, in recent weeks, amassed an impressive array of campaign operatives. He outmaneuvered potential rivals Cruz and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to get Texas state GOP chairman Steve Munisteri to join his campaign-in-waiting and picked up Chip Englander—a young data-and-ground-game-savvy GOP operative who led newly elected Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign in 2014—to run his presidential effort should he run.
While in Naples on Saturday, Paul also held a meeting with grassroots activists where he spoke then took questions—a meeting that occurred across the hall from the doctor roundtable. It was there that Clawson—a businessman before his election to Congress—introduced Paul, and Paul praised outsiders like Clawson while railing against the political class in Washington, D.C.
“It’s good to have people like Curt in Congress—we have very few people who have any business sense at all,” Paul said.
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