April 8, 2013
Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul will speak Wednesday at Howard’s business school.(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

With studies, research and the future hiring of outreach workers, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus wants to rebrand and market his party to important minority voting blocs that have voted heavily Democratic in the past.

Now, though, Sen. Rand Paul is beating Priebus to the punch.

On Wednesday morning, the conservative Kentucky Republican and tea party favorite will take his message of freedom and economic opportunity to the campus of Howard University in Washington. This will be Paul’s first visit to a historically black college or university, the senator told me in an interview today.

Paul said he wanted to get the ball rolling on a conversation that the GOP needs to have with African Americans. He said he also is “looking forward to hearing” from the audience as well.

Paul recalled that he told Priebus after the 2012 elections that the GOP is overdue for a serious outreach effort to voters who feel shunned by the party. The freshman senator noted that the Republican Party was once home for African Americans in his state, as it was in much of the South during the post Civil War era and the first half of the 20th century. Credit, he said, is due to Lincoln, the civil war and the amendments to the Constitution passed after that war.

To his credit, Priebus acknowledged in his autopsy of the 2012 election that the GOP has all but died in the eyes of African Americans, Hispanics and young Americans. So the Republican chairman, after weeks of focus groups and internal soul-searching, has launched, at least on paper, a multimillion-dollar outreach plan dubbed the “Growth and Opportunity Project” to connect his party to heretofore dismissed and disaffected groups.

But Paul is striking first.

Paul said he plans to talk about not only the history of GOP and African Americans but also issues on which the GOP and the students can find common ground — i.e. economic freedom and opportunity, civil liberties and criminal law reforms.

He expects he will have to discuss his conservative positions on spending, the size of government and taxation.

We will know soon enough how the audience in Howard’s School of Business auditorium will receive Paul and his message.

As his party dithers, Rand Paul deserves credit for trying.