Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul firmly staked out his place as a conservative firebrand this week, igniting the blogosphere and cable news punditry with his feisty interrogation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during Wednesday’s Senate hearing on Benghazi.
The exchange — in which he told Clinton he would have “fired her” if he were president — was eyebrow-raising, but not particularly surprising. In recent weeks, Paul has made a habit of inflaming political passions, part of a calculated effort to boost the Kentucky Senator’s national profile in advance of a possible 2016 presidential bid. ??Check out Paul’s activities in the last month alone:
• He took a tour of Israel with 40 evangelical leaders, including several from Iowa and South Carolina, two key early voting states.
• He accused President Barack Obama of acting like a “king” by issuing executive orders to curb gun violence, and told off New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his criticism of the NRA. (He also chided Christie for throwing a “tantrum” over Hurricane Sandy relief aid.)
• He spent Inauguration Day in South Carolina, where he spoke to the Charleston Meeting, a exclusive conservative confab in the first-in-South primary state. At that meeting, he accused House Republicans of “retreating” on the debt ceiling.
• After grilling Clinton Wednesday, he emailed supporters a video of his questioning with the subject line: “Had I Been President I Would Have Relieved Clinton Of Her Duties”
Regardless of whether he runs for president in 2016, Paul’s recent maneuvers are further indication he plans on playing a big role in reshaping the Republican Party in the wake of its 2012 losses.
“I think we’ve become less and less competitive. If we don’t adapt or evolve, we’re going to die or become a permanent minority party,” he told Business Insider during his trip to Israel earlier this month. “Right now, Republicans are not competitive on the West Coast, we’re not competitive in New England; in this last election, we weren’t competitive in the Rust Belt or in big cities.”