Rand Paul warns his former home state, Texas, could turn blue
(CNN) — Sen. Rand Paul on Saturday made a prediction that plenty of Democrats would love to see come true, but Republicans hope to avoid: “Texas will be a Democratic state within 10 years if you don’t change.”
The Kentucky Republican, who was in Houston at a dinner with GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, continued to push his message for change within the Republican Party, bringing that gospel straight to one of the most reliably red states in the country and his former home.
“That doesn’t mean we give up on what we believe in, but it means we have to be a more welcoming party,” Paul said. “We have to welcome people of all races. We need to welcome people of all classes – business class, working class.”
That diversity is needed not just along ethnic lines, but in appearances, too, he said.
“We need to have people with ties and without ties, with tattoos and without tattoos; with earrings, without earrings,” he said. “We need a more diverse party. We need a party that looks like America.”
Paul grew up in the Houston area, where his father, Ron Paul, was an obstetrician who later went on to become a longtime congressman and three-time presidential candidate. Rand Paul went to Baylor University in Waco.
He has been one of the most outspoken elected officials aggressively trying to reshape the party’s image. He joins the Republican National Committee, which has spent millions in the past year to reconstruct its outreach to minorities.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, won only 6% of the African-American vote, 26% of the Asian vote, and 27% of the Latino vote.
With the success of some Democratic Latino elected officials in Texas – such as Rep. Joaquin Castro and his brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro – and the meteoric rise of state Sen. Wendy Davis, who’s running for governor this year, Texas is starting to gather steam as a potential pickup for Democrats down the road. Davis still has a sharp uphill fight in actually winning the race, but her star power indicates a louder, more vocal Democratic base exists in the state.
One organization, Battleground Texas, has as its mission to make the state up for grabs, which hasn’t happened on a presidential ballot since 1976, when Texas narrowly voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford.
Paul said he’s encouraged by people like George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. George P. Bush is half Mexican and speaks fluent Spanish. He’s running for Texas land commissioner and has been part of efforts to expand the Hispanic Republican base in the state.
“I think having people who are trying to make the party bigger is good,” Paul told CNN’s Peter Hamby on Friday after meeting with Bush. “The party has to be bigger across the country, not only appealing to people of various ethnic background but various economic backgrounds.”
Speaking Saturday night at the dinner, Paul stressed that the country’s top immigration priority should be border security but said the party needs to have a “better attitude” when talking about resolving the country’s broken immigration system.
“People who are Hispanic or Latino, they have to believe that we want them in our party, so it is an attitude thing as much as it is policy,” he said.
One of those messages, he said, should be: “If you want to work and you want a job and want to be part of America, we will find a place for you.”
His line drew mild applause from the audience.
“That was kind of tepid,” he said.