Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) goes to Howard University today to become the first GOP in elected office to speak at the predominantly black college in nearly a decade.
Paul asked the university for the opportunity to come speak at the School of Business event.
“Because I think the Republican Party needs to expand. We need to compete for every vote. I think for too long we haven’t been showing up to African-American audiences. My staff told me I might be the first Republican to go there since Colin Powell in the 1990s. That means we’re not showing up,” Paul said last night on Fox. “We’ve got to show up in all venues and ask people for their vote.”
Then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) spoke at the school’s 2004 commencement, but George W. Bush turned down an invitation during the 2000 campaign.
“I used to think this was kind of corny. I’m a physician. When I ran for office, I thought you just told people what you were for and they might vote for you. People say, no, ask for their vote. And I think symbolically there’s some truth to that,” said Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
“You have to show up to an African-American college, a historically black college, and ask for their vote. For the Republican Party, for me, whoever it’s for, you have to ask them for the vote and talk about issues that might appeal to them. I think there’s a lot of things that I believe in that have crossover appeal to people who have been voting for the Democrat Party.”
The senator speech is expected to range from unemployment to drug policy.
“The African-American rate of unemployment is twice the average. Unfortunately it’s been that way for a long time, but it hasn’t gotten any better under this president. One in six people are living in poverty,” Paul said. “We have made and ruined the lives of a lot of young not only African-Americans but whites, young people in general by putting them in jail for nonviolent drug crimes. We have a foreign policy I think that needs to be something more appealing to a broad section of people, not just African-Americans but young people, independents, Democrats.”