COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is returning to South Carolina on Monday, making his second trip in as many months to the state that hosts the first presidential primary voting in the South.
Paul, a darling of tea party and other conservative Republicans, is coming back to South Carolina to take part in a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, a friend from the GOP congressional baseball team.
“Jeff Duncan is probably one of the most conservative members of the House,” Paul told The Associated Press a few days before his visit to the fundraiser being held in Anderson. “I struck up a friendship with him, and he mentioned he was having this barbecue in the summer.”
South Carolina primary voters won’t cast their ballots for more than two years. But in the state, like others with early primaries and caucuses, Paul’s name is frequently mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential contender. He’s also made recent trips to other early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
Paul also endorsed former Gov. Mark Sanford’s successful congressional bid this past spring, praising Sanford as an advocate for limited government and cutting spending.
The 50-year-old eye doctor was last here in late June, when he raised money for the state Republican Party and met with tea party-leaning activists. One of those meetings, Paul said, was with state Sen. Lee Bright, a Roebuck Republican who is mounting a primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Bright officially announced his candidacy earlier this month. During a winter tour around the state, he said Graham’s criticism of Paul’s 13-hour filibuster over the government’s use of drones pushed him toward running.
“If we don’t get behind Rand Paul and what he is trying to do and the Ted Cruz’s of the world, I don’t think we can survive,” Bright told Glenn Beck as the talk show host auditioned people to challenge Graham. “We’re at the tipping point.”
Cruz, a tea party Republican, is Texas’ junior U.S. senator. He was elected last year.
Bright has been vocal in his criticism of Graham for warning that Egypt may be in for prolonged violence without a dialogue between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. Paul has said he would stop aid to Egypt, where he said it actually has a destabilizing effect.
“You have to look at this from the prospective of the people who are rioting,” Paul said. “You think they are more encouraged by a warm fuzzy feeling from America when they are staring down the barrel of a tank, an American tank?”
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