Why Rand Paul's headed to Vegas
POSTED: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 9:30am
UPDATED: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 11:06am
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rand Paul's headed to Las Vegas Friday, but gambling is not on his agenda.
The Republican senator from Kentucky and possible 2016 GOP presidential contender has a full schedule for his weekend visit to the first western state to vote in the primary and caucus calendar.
According to a top Paul political aide, the first term senator will headline a fundraiser for Nevada Republicans, address a meeting of grassroots activists, meet with donors at a reception and dinner, and speak at FreedomFest, an annual gathering of libertarians and conservatives that touts itself as "the world's largest gathering of free minds."
Nevada becomes the fourth of the early primary and caucus voting states that Paul has visited so far this year.
He's mingled with donors and supporters, reached out to grassroots activists, and helped raise money for the state GOP in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
It appears to be part of his strategy to build stronger bonds with establishment Republicans in the crucial early voting states, while at the same time staying close with the grassroots, tea party, and libertarian crowds, which helped put ophthalmologist in the Senate in 2010.
"Senator Paul looks forward to his first trip this year to Nevada. He is thrilled to accept the invitation to help the Nevada GOP, as he has in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina also this year," Doug Stafford, a top Paul political adviser, tells CNN.
Starting late last year, soon after the 2012 presidential election, Paul has been very open about the possibility of running for the White House.
He told CNN last November that "I won't deny I'm interested."
And in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun earlier this week, he added that "I am thinking about whether or not I will run for president at that time. I haven't made my mind up yet."
Paul has said in numerous interviews that he expects he'll decide next year.
Paul's father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, ran for president as a libertarian in 1988 and made bids in 2008 and 2012 for the GOP nomination.
Last year, the elder Paul came in third in the Nevada caucuses, just behind Newt Gingrich.
Eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney easily won the caucuses, carrying around half the vote.