President Obama and national Democrats hope to turn the Republican stronghold of Texas into a battleground state, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., suspects that Republicans have the capacity to turn California red.

“One of the reasons I come to California is that the Republican Party seems to have given up on California, and my message to those in California is that we’re going to compete nationally as a party, and that includes California,” Paul told Wired Thursday as he traveled to meet with Silicon Valley executives. “And the way we’re going to compete is by running people for office who can appreciate some issues that attract young people and independents: civil liberties, as well as a less aggressive foreign policy, not putting people in jail for marijuana, a much more tolerant type of point of view. If you have Republican candidates like that then I think all of a sudden you’d find California back in play.”

Paul cited broad-based support for his email privacy bill, which would require the government to get a warrant in order to read private emails, as evidence that “a libertarian-leaning Republican can have an appeal in California, not only for Silicon Valley folks but voters in general.”

His comments might be just so much political braggodocio, but Paul seems to think he can peel off some Democrats frustrated with President Obama’s record on civil liberties (pointing out that Obama has continued or expanded Bush national security policies such as the drone program can’t hurt in that effort).

Will it work? I imagine Paul will keep his eye on the Michigan Senate race if Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., decides to run for Carl Levin’s seat.

“This whole notion that libertarians can appeal to disaffected Democrats is talked about a lot but it hasn’t yet been tested anywhere in the country,” Michigan-based GOP consultant John Yob, who worked for John McCain’s 2008 campaign during the Republican primary, said on the local talk show Off the Record.  “So, if Mr. Amash chose to run — and I think he’d be a strong candidate — the big question nationally would be, does he have the potential to win those disaffected Democrats based on libertarian issues? And I think that would have big ramifications nationally, not just from here, but also for Rand Paul’s presidential campaign.”  Yob said an Amash victory suggests that Paul is a strong candidate, but an Amash defeat might bode poorly for Paul’s presidential bid.