LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - U.S. Sen. Rand Paul launched his presidential campaign in downtown Louisville on Tuesday.
Paul announced the much-expected decision via his website hours ahead of his speech at the Galt House Hotel. Paul followed that up with a 30-minute speech that focused on a wide range of libertarian causes but omitted social issues.
Paul walked on stage after his wife, Kelley, introduced him. About 1,000 supporters chanted "President Paul" several times during the event as Paul positioned himself as a Washington outsider.
"We have to take our country back," Paul said, using the same words he did to launch his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. "The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedom and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped."
Paul's announcement surprised no one, as Kentucky's junior senator had publicly prepared for such a decision for months. Paul joins Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the only candidates to formally join the race, although several other candidates are likely to announce in the coming months.
The hour-long program made several mentions of "liberty" and "freedom," as Paul repeatedly drew on favorite topics: pledging to end NSA monitoring of personal cell phones, supporting a federal balanced budget amendment, and imposing term limits on members of Congress.
"Too often when Republicans have won, we've squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine," Paul said. "That's not who I am."
But Paul's push for term limits conflicts with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who has held office for 31 years. McConnell did not attend Tuesday's announcement, preferring to remain out of the GOP nominating spotlight.
Paul steered clear of divisive social issues, such as gay marriage. Republican analysts have said in recent days that Paul's biggest challenge will be convincing the establishment wing of the GOP that he's strong enough on foreign policy and conservative enough on social issues.
"I think he has a shot," said supporter David Darlage of Louisville, who attended the event. "He's going to have a lot of people against him. Even the Republican party may not be fully behind him because of his ideas on foreign policy."
Republican governor candidates Hal Heiner, James Comer and Matt Bevin attended the announcement. U.S. Rep Brett Guthrie, who lives near Paul in Bowling Green, also was there.
"Rand's not getting in this to make noise, Rand's doing this for an opportunity to be the nominee and to win the presidency," Guthrie said.
Paul is widely known partially because of his famous father, Ron Paul, who ran for president in 1988 as a libertarian and again in 2008 and 2012 as a Republican.
Ron Paul sat off to the side during Tuesday's event -- receiving a mention from his son -- but he's expected not to have a role in the campaign.
On Sunday, Paul's campaign posted
teasing Tuesday's announcement that proclaimed, "On April 7, a different kind of Republican will take on Washington."
The junior senator from Kentucky hopes to capitalize on the public's frustration with Washington legislators. Instead of the sunny optimism common in presidential campaigns -- as in Reagan's "It's morning in America" and George H. W. Bush's "thousand points of light" -- Paul's assessment of the condition of the nation can be "downbeat and dour,"
In his response to President Obama's State of the Union address earlier this year, Paul said, "I wish I had better news for you, but all is not well in America." Despite improvements in economic conditions, much of the country is still suffering, he said.
Other Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida are already running de facto campaigns, with official announcements expected soon.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
according to the Associated Press, is widely expected to win the nomination. In recent polls, Clinton holds a lead over all potential Republican challengers, and the GOP candidates will try to frame themselves as the party's best chance to beat her.
Also up for re-election in the Senate in 2016, Paul has been working to clear the path for a presidential run for months.
In March, the Republican Executive Committee gave preliminary approval to a plan to convert Kentucky's 2016 primary into a caucus. The move is designed to
that prevents candidates from appearing on the ballot twice. The change is still awaiting final approval.
If Paul were to win the Republican nomination or be selected as a running mate for the eventual nominee, he would still be prevented from appearing on Kentucky ballots twice in the general election, unless he finds another workaround.
The Louisville event kicks off Paul's announcement tour. He also has rallies scheduled in the coming days in several early primary states, including New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.