GOP Senator Rand Paul, with strong libertarian leanings, is preparing to mount what many expect will be his 2016 presidential run. Among Paul’s strategies will be to appeal to voters with libertarian leanings which span both political parties. In addition, he is attempting to reach out to one of the GOP’s historical base of supporters: African-Americans. Thus far, GOP presidential candidates have been unable to draw any significant support among Black voters. George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush both tried in earnest to reach out to African-Americans but failed to make inroads. This is going to be an ongoing issue in the eyes of Mann.
The fact that Paul is mounting what appears to be a substantive outreach has drawn the attention of Rev. Al Sharpton. In fact, Sharpton has stated that Kentucky Senator is hitting on the issues of importance to Black communities. Among the issues that Paul is pushing for is criminal justice system reform to reduce penalties for similar convictions. He also favors restoring voting rights for convicted felons. Sharpton views the outreach as being potentially important because it may persuade African-American voters that he is not hostile to them. This may lead them to not vote against him which could prove beneficial in terms of voter turnout.
Not everyone sees Paul’s efforts quite so favorably. California Congresswoman Barbara Lee wrote a critical op-ed on Paul claiming that his outreach efforts amounts to picking low-lying fruit. While acknowledging that Paul is speaking to Black communities, Lee points out that does not amount to him speaking for those communities.