Rand Paul: Trump Bad For GOP, But I'll Support Him If He's the Nominee

Jan 18, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul speaks with a supporter at the Red Arrow Diner in Londonderry.
Credit NHPR/Michael Brindley

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul has pledged to do everything he can from keeping current front-runner Donald Trump from becoming the GOP nominee.

"I think he’s a bad messenger. I think he sends a bad message," the Kentucky Senator said during a campaign stop in Londonderry Saturday. "I think his message is not on limiting power; it’s on give me power. I think that’s a real problem and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he’s not the nominee."

But Paul also says he'll back Trump if he's the eventual nominee.

"It’s kind of the way party politics works in our country. We decide we think one party is better than the other and that’s the party you join. "

Here's Sen. Paul's full interview with NHPR's Morning Edition:

What are you hearing from people in the diner?

A lot of supporters, a lot of people wanting a different kind of voice in the Republican party. I’ve heard many people saying they don’t want the government collecting their phone records. Many people are saying they want a voice of reason when it comes to how we defend the country and whether or not we should be involved in another war in the Middle East. One group told me they were barely born when the authorization to go to Afghanistan in 2001 came up and they don’t understand how one generation can bind another generation to war.

As you’re talking to these voters at these stops in New Hampshire and you’re talking about these issues, do the recent terror attacks in San Bernardino and overseas overshadow your positions on the NSA and phone records? Does that change the dynamic at all?

I actually think the facts on the ground make it even more important that there be a voice of reason and not letting those in Washington who are reactionaries go too far. I think when events happen, people tend to say, “Do something, do something, do something.” But often times, we overshoot the mark and in overshooting the mark, our liberties are lost. The Washington Post reported on the general counsel from the NSA saying the way we’ll get to ban encryption, the way we’ll get this done, is to wait until there’s some bodies we can point to. It is sad that people are actually looking for opportunities to try to take away our liberty and blame it on terrorism, when in reality all the bulk collection of our phone records has not stopped one terrorist attack. I think it’s important to note that practically, it’s not working, but also that the terrorists win if we fear them so much, we give up our freedoms.

But do you feel that message is getting through to people? Recent polls have you down a bit and the Republican National Committee putting you in the undercard in the last debate, though you decided not to participate. Do you worry perceptions that you are an undercard candidate are hurting your campaign?

We actually think we’ve been doing better in the polls. If you look the polls recently, the national polls, we’ve been scoring higher than two or three of the people who were on the stage. We think the RNC made a mistake in the last debate. We’re urging them not to make the same mistake again because if you want to have a bigger party, you need those liberty voters in your party. You need those who lean a little bit Libertarian who could vote for a Libertarian candidate or they could stay in the Republican Party. I think the Republican Party would be smart to make sure my voice is allowed to be heard.

You have said that you will spend every waking hour making sure Donald Trump is not the nominee, but you’ve also said you will support the eventual nominee of the party. Is that putting party ahead of principles?

I think every Republican on the stage so far has said they will support the nominee. When I ran for Senate, I said I would support the nominee, whether it was me or my opponent. It’s kind of the way party politics works in our country. We decide we think one party is better than the other and that’s the party you join. When I say I’ll spend every waking hour trying to stop Trump, he is currently leading in the polls. I think he’s bad for the Republican Party. I think he’s a bad messenger. I think he sends a bad message. I think his message is not on limiting power; it’s on give me power. I think that’s a real problem and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he’s not the nominee.