Tea Party favorite and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday said he is strongly considering a 2016 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, announcing plans to travel to at least three key primary states this summer.
"We're considering it," he said at a morning newsmaker breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Paul, heir to his father former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's libertarian voting and fundraising base, said that he is already planning to visit three early primary states this summer — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. And Paul said he "will continue to travel to the early primary states."
The plain-spoken senator has been hinting of a 2016 run, saying it helps to give him a national voice on key issues. While his comments Wednesday were much stronger, he said he will not make a final decision until next year.
He joins Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as the other Tea Party leader planning to run for president in what is expected to be a crowded field. Rubio told radio host Andrea Tantaros Wednesday that he isn't planning his 2016 travel yet, but called Iowa and New Hampshire "really great states."
During the breakfast he touched on a lot of hot-button issues, including gun control, immigration reform, Social Security, race relations and interest rates.
On guns, he noted that in some recent mass slayings, the shooters have been attracted to "gun-free zones" like schools. He said that teachers should be encouraged to carry guns, a position pushed by the National Rifle Association.
He also blasted many of the gun control proposals being considered this week in the Senate as ineffective when it comes to stopping criminals and mentally ill killers. "A lot of things in Washington are done as window dressing," he said. Paul added that the much-hyped bill to expand the background check system "doesn't go to the problem."
Paul also said that "I am for immigration reform," but has not read the newly released bill. However, he already plans to include up to four amendments focused on border security. He calls his plan "trust but verify," and requires a yearly report on border security and that border state governors be involved in writing it.
He also cautioned that the bill not include a "new pathway to citizenship," other than the normal process of how immigrants become U.S. citizens.