Rand Paul combined a speech with a Q&A session at Harvard a few days ago, and it seems to have been relatively well received. It looks to me like he is preparing to shake up the GOP from the inside, on several levels. For example, Paul's remarks on abortion (below, courtesy of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government) are probably not going to please the hard-core pro-life voters. But I have to admit that he's got a point:
“I am pro-life. I think there’s something special about life. I think it comes from our creator and that will always be my position. As a legislator I’ve introduced legislation that reflects that. Where are the people? The people aren’t exactly there so there needs to be discussion and persuasion but I think sometimes it gets dumbed down too much that we’re in one extreme or the other. And our discussion needs to be more about what does the vast majority of the public want and think there may well could be incremental change and I think that’s most likely to happen."
Overall, Senator Paul was impressive. Some on the right have criticized his attempts to reach out to historically liberal groups, such as college students, on the grounds that he merely resorts to arguing his liberal views — his drug-legalization remarks at Berkeley come to mind. Senator Paul was clearly trying to appeal to his Harvard audience by focusing his prepared remarks on privacy and security issues, but he didn’t pander. His comments on abortion, marriage, health care, gun rights, and campaign finance all didn’t waver much from views held by many mainstream conservatives.
Newsmax apparently didn't review the speech, choosing to report on comments made by a Rockefeller-wing Republican instead of the speech itself. But even they were not entirely dismissive, which is probably the best I'm going to get from them:
What I've said repeatedly is the Republican Party will adapt, evolve or die," Paul said. "They're not big enough. They have to be bigger, they have to include more people. The Republican Party needs to look like the rest of America to have a chance. "That means with tattoos and without tattoos, with earrings and without earrings, black, white, brown. You know, you go to a Republican event and it's all white people. Not because we're excluding everybody, but we haven't done a good enough job encouraging people to come into our party."
For people like me, long time Republicans with a crisis of faith in the party, this is shaping up to be a long bumpy ride through the 2016 elections.