The Republican Party needs to broaden its appeal by softening its edge on some volatile social issues and altering its image as the party always seemingly "eager to go to war," U.S. Sen. Rand Paul told hundreds of Greater Cincinnati Republicans Saturday.
"We do need to expand the party and grow the party and that does mean that we don't always all agree on every issue," the Kentucky Republican said at the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club's annual pancake breakfast at the Sharonville Convention Center.
To help the party rebound from two successive losses in presidential races, Republicans must find new strategies and messages to reach voters who now often look askance at the GOP, Paul told a crowd of more than 500.
Toward that end, the party needs to become more welcoming to individuals who disagree with basic Republican doctrine on emotional social issues such as gay marriage, Paul said.
"We're going to have to be a little hands off on some of these issues ... and get people into the party," Paul said.
Paul, a tea party favorite whose name is among those mentioned in the early speculation over the 2016 presidential campaign, expanded on that theme in a brief interview with The Enquirer after his speech.
"Even bigger to me than the social issues is the idea of war," Paul said.
Republicans, he said, might attract voters put off by the party's hawkish image "if we had a less bellicose approach, if we were for a strong defense but a little bit less aggressive defense around the world."
"If we didn't have to be everywhere all the time, if maybe we tried to reserve it for when our national interests were impacted or a vital interest of ours was - and if Republicans didn't seem so eager to go to war - I think we'd attract more young people."
Most of Paul's speech focused on topics alternately guaranteed to produce loud applause - gun rights and holding down tax rates - or disgusted murmurs and headshaking - the nation's $50,000-per-second, $4 billion-per-day borrowing rate - from his appreciative partisan audience.
He and other speakers also alluded several times to Paul's pointed criticism of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a Senate committee hearing last week on the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
During last Wednesday's hearing, Paul, calling last September's fatal attack "the worst tragedy since 9/11." If he had been president, he said, he would have fired Clinton after she admitted that she had not read all of the U.S. embassy's cables and other documents from Benghazi.
"I don't question Hillary Clinton's motives, I don't question her patriotism, but I do think she made a really inexcusable error of judgment " Paul said Saturday.
"Putting the ambassador into that country with insufficient security was a mistake. And then when the ambassador and others pleaded for help ... not to do anything about their security was a mistake in judgment and leadership. She shouldn't be in ... charge of people's lives if she wasn't able to be on top of her game in this."