NH1 News Exclusive: Paul slams Rubio tax plan; urges candidates to use debate 'leverage' against networks
DURHAM – Rand Paul took aim at fellow Republican senator and presidential rival Marco Rubio Monday, saying Rubio’s tax plan includes “refundable welfare.”
In a one-on-one interview with NH1 News, Paul also said he and his fellow GOP White House contenders should have “enough leverage to exclude” national reporters who lean liberal from taking part in the Republican presidential debates.
And the Republican senator from Kentucky added that reports of top GOP officials being concerned that Paul’s Senate seat is in jeopardy in 2016 “are made up by my other presidential opponents.”
Paul spoke with NH1 News minutes before holding a town hall at the University of New Hampshire. Speaking to nearly 150 people at a Students for Rand event, Paul opened his remarks by suggesting that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was being a hypocrite for opposing the decriminalization of marijuana.
“I guess what I don’t like about the hypocrisy is that while Jeb Bush acknowledges that he made this mistake, he smoked some pot when he was a kid, he doesn’t acknowledge that it’s really the poor kids getting caught up in this and if you’re a rich kid going to Andover, you just frankly don’t get caught. And so I think really the laws need to understand and ought to be applied equally to everyone,” Paul said.
Rubio was also in Paul’s crosshairs.
“I don’t like Rubio’s plan,” Paul said. “His has a bunch of refundable welfare in his plan. Mine doesn’t have that and that’s a big contrast. His is nearly a trillion dollars’ worth of refundable credits giving money to people who didn’t pay any taxes. Mine doesn’t do that. So it’s a big contrast between the tax plans.”
Asked about Rubio’s numerous missed votes in the Senate, Paul touted that “I take it very seriously. I get a pay check. I get paid by the taxpayers and I take it very seriously. I do show up for as many votes as I can. I think I was 99% in my voting record last time it was measured and we’re going to continue to do that.
And he said that Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a fellow Republican presidential candidate who’s missed many votes, need “to explain it to the voters. I think that in this day and age when voters are upset about those in Washington that are not doing the right thing and then not showing up office, I think it is something that will affect voters opinions.”
Paul: Debates ‘self-reinforcing’
Paul was mostly non-existent during last week’s much derided Republican presidential debate in Colorado hosted by CNBC, with the candidate receiving the least amount of speaking time of the 10 contenders on the stage.
“In the debates, they’re kind of self-reinforcing because they’ve been giving twice as much time to certain people, then they do higher in the polls, and maybe it’s because you gave them twice as much time on the stage. So one of the things people are actually arguing for is a more equal allotment of time where everyone gets about the same amount of time and I think that would make a difference,” Paul said.
And Paul urged that the GOP candidates should use their clout.
“We should negotiate. We have leverage and we should negotiate with the networks to have objective reporters. I can name you ten reporters on national TV that I don’t know whether they’re Republican or Democrat, they’re right down the middle. But I can also name you ten that wear liberal or Democrat on their sleeve and we should have enough leverage to exclude them from the debates,” he added.
Paul says Senate seat not in jeopardy
Paul is running for the presidential nomination as well as for re-election to his Senate seat from Kentucky. The GOP is trying to retain its majority in the chamber in next year’s elections.
Paul termed untrue reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Kentuckian, and his allies are putting pressure on Paul to pay more attention to his Senate re-election bid next year and less to his hopes of winning the presidential nomination.
“I think it’s a concocted story by my opponents. I don’t’ have anybody running against me for the Senate so it’s kind of hard to say ‘oh my goodness you must be worried.’ I don’t have an opponent and so I think most of those stories are made up by my other presidential opponents,” Paul said.
When Paul announced his presidential bid in the early spring, he was considered one of the stronger contenders for the GOP nomination. But he was quickly overshadowed by rivals such as Donald Trump, Ben Carson and even Cruz. And his suffered from poor fundraising.
Paul’s brief trip to New Hampshire came as a new poll from Monmouth University put him at ninth place for the nomination, at just three percent, among likely Granite State Republican primary voters.
But Paul’s still confident he can build a winning coalition.
“One of our strengths is on college campuses. A lot of independents I think sympathize with not having another Iraq War. And a lot of independents sympathize with not putting people in jail for minor marijuana offenses, things like that. So I think all of those issues bring together an interesting coalition that I think is biggest enough to actually win. There are also a number of liberty minded Republicans that are part of the Libertarian liberty movement within the Republican Party. I think we bring all of that together, I think we have enough to win in New Hampshire,” he said.
Some students who support Paul told NH1 News they’re disappointed.
“He’s my number one but I am disappointed, he’s just not number one in the race, so it’s a bummer,” said Billy Bradley of Stratham.
“I just think we need more candidates to drop out so there’s more room on the debate state. I think that’s the number one problem with Rand right now. I just think he’s not getting the attention he deserves and I think at some point he will,” added Alex Worth of Exeter.