Though for some it's too soon to talk about 2016, for others 2016 couldn't come soon enough. The latter includes a Republican Party who is still licking its wounds after being soundly defeated by President Barack Obama and the Democrats, and that it's trying to evaluate what went wrong during the 2012 epic shellacking — while pondering which figures are the best to take the conservative torch into the next presidential race and beyond.
And according to Senator Rand Paul (R-K.Y.), the Republican Party needs to forget about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other rising stars that are already being mentioned as potential 2016 presidential candidates. Instead, the libertarian-leaning junior senator, son of libertarian icon Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), thinks he'd be the indicated candidate to make the Republican Party competitive again among younger demographics and even in places as deeply blue as California.
Paul received ABC News' Spinners & Winners with Jonathan Karl in the halls of Congress to talk about the 2012 election, and beyond. When asked if he thought the recently elected president had "a mandate," Paul said "no" since the president won "by a couple of points," and the issues he campaigned on haven't been settled nor talked about." "Do the rich pay their fair share in taxes," he asked. "Well, they already pay about half of their income. What's enough?
Contrary to the current popular wisdom, with Republicans suggesting the party should adopt a more conciliatory tone and compromise on some of Obama's policies, Paul said that compromising would actually make the party smaller, not bigger. "The message should be, as it always has been, we need to grow the economy, we want more jobs. And the way you get more revenue here is by more economic growth."
Addressing the so-called fiscal cliff, Paul admitted there needs to be a compromise — but not in the way he says the media have framed it; namely, that Republicans need to cave to Obama's tax hikes. "Us Republicans need to realize that maybe not every dollar spent in the military is sacred. But Democrats, too, need to compromise in things like entitlements and welfare," said the senator. "I think raising taxes is a mistake, and I won't vote for it," he added.
When asked about Romney's defeat in all but one battleground state, Paul admitted Republicans aren't currently competitive on the West Coast, New England and other critical regions. "I think we need to have a different message," he said. "We need to tell young people: I'm not in favor of you smoking pot. But if you get caught, I won't put you in jail for 20 years."
"I want things to be decided more at the state level, with more compassion," said Paul when asked about states like Washington and Colorado (which passed constitutional amendments to legalize marijuana). On abortion and gay marriage, Paul also said these are issues that should also be decided at the state level.
Paul disagreed with Karl on Ron Paul's influence in the Republican Party. "He's grown the party," Paul said of his father. "He brought a lot of young people [as well as] independents and libertarians into the tent." The Kentucky senator, who rose to prominence in 2010 during the Tea Party wave, concluded that he wanted to be part of "the national conversation" and that — even though is to soon to talk about who will run (or not) for president in 2016 — he'd be interested in "thinking about it."