MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had a question.
"Anybody down at South by Southwest last week?" Paul asked of the annual conference of tech, music and more in Austin, a city that's 2,000 miles from this first-in-the nation presidential primary state. At least one hand shot up among the dozen or so employees of an Internet company, Dyn, that came to hear Paul speak Friday afternoon.
Paul, who is widely expected to announce next month that he is running for president, was the latest in a parade of prospective Republican candidates who have traveled to New Hampshire in the past few weeks. But the Kentucky Republican is taking a slightly different tack: he is making stops at tech companies like Dyn to appeal to young people as well as the more traditional presidential primary stops, including county Republican dinners and stops at diners.
That dichotomy was on display Friday, as Paul made his pitch in Dyn's office in a converted mill on the banks of the Merrimack River here. The office boasts an area where employees can practice their golf putts, at least one arcade game, T-shirts that read "DNS is sexy" and keg taps in the kitchen with a digital board reading what kind of beer is available to employees. Two men played on a "Miracle on Ice 1980 USA-USSR" stick hockey table but didn't want to talk to a reporter because they didn't want to be known as people playing a game while a potential presidential candidate toured their office.
— Katie Zezima (@katiezez) March 20, 2015
Hours later, Paul was in North Conway, N.H., at the Carroll County Lincoln Day dinner, where a painted moose antler was auctioned off for $575 and the mostly baby boomer crowd ate prime rib.
This painted moose antler was auctioned off for $575 at a dinner where Sen. Rand Paul is speaking in North Conway, … pic.twitter.com/me2KyYwuUO
— Katie Zezima (@katiezez) March 21, 2015
Paul brought his message of limited government, defense of the Constitution and privacy to both audiences Friday. In Manchester he had to cajole the small crowd to ask him questions. He talked about reducing taxes -- always a popular subject here in a state with no sales tax and income tax on dividends only, but a high property tax -- and Internet privacy. He reiterated that by signing a letter to Iran he didn't intend to disrupt nuclear negotiations but instead wanted President Obama to negotiate from a "position of strength."
Paul also called for Hillary Clinton to return gifts given to her family's foundation by foreign countries. He said specifically she should return money from Saudi Arabia and Brunei.
"How could we possibly consider for the presidency a woman who is taking money from stone age countries and then act as if she is somehow going to be objective or be a champion of women’s rights?” he asked in North Conway.
Paul is selling his nascent campaign as one that will aim to broaden the Republican party . "I'm going places Republicans haven't gone in two decades," he said. He has co-authored bills on criminal justice with Democrats, appeared at historically black colleges and universities. He has made courting young people in tech a priority, opening an office in Austin last week and planning to open another in San Francisco in May. Paul said he likes being around people in tech because they like to solve problems; most people in government don't.
"Who cares about the Fourth Amendment? Every teenager in the country," Paul said in North Conway. "Kids have been voting in the last couple cycles 3 to 1 for the Democrats. If we can be the party that defends privacy and the bill of rights, they’ll come back our way.”
But here in New Hampshire Paul also must appeal to the older demographic. New Hampshire is one of the oldest states in the nation; the median age is 41.1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau -- a population that is older, on average, than Florida.
Paul's appearance in North Conway put him on a different type of potentially friendly turf: New Hampshire has a strong libertarian streak that eschews government and strongly defends gun rights, and it manifests itself in the northern part of the state. Paul is likely banking on finding members of what he dubs the "leave me alone" coalition here in the White Mountains.
Paul said that all of the constitutional amendments -- not just the second, must be defended. While there is "nothing more important" than defending the country, but called for going after terrorists with warrants, not surveillence. He called for checks on power; he said that he plays golf with an FBI agent who asked why Paul doesn't trust him. Paul said he does, but believes that power must not be unlimited.
"What happens if you don’t have the checks and balances? What happens if the police force is racist? What if the police force is 1920 in the south and they think you can just go in a black person’s house without a warrant? What happens if you give the police that much power and they say we don’t like Jews, we don’t like gays, we don’t like blacks? There’s a horrific scenario of what happens in your country if you don’t have checks and balances," Paul said.
No matter what, Paul said, Republicans must have a full-throated defense of their policies.
"If we want to win, if we want to be big enough to win, If we want to make it worthwhile to win the white house we need to be boldly for what we are for," he said. "Being Democrat light isn’t enough."
Paul often brings up the Kelo vs. New London case, where the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Conn., could take homes by eminent domain. Paul reminded voters that Justice David Souter, who joined the majority ruling, was from New Hampshire, and a group of people later tried to take his house by eminent domain and turn it into a bed and breakfast. It didn't work.
"Hope he's not here or any of his relatives," Paul said. "Is his house anywhere near here?"