In the last stop of a post-presidential announcement blitz to the nation's early voting states, Paul (R-Ky.) stressed the need for the federal government to stay out of the lives of ordinary Americans.
Paul has long called for the government to stop meddling in private lives and for a ban on NSA spying; he has said that he hopes his presidential campaign appeals to the so-called "leave me alone coalition." Saturday, Paul emphasized the libertarian branch of his conservative "libertarianish" philosophy in a far more robust way than he has on other stops this week. Individual rights and limited government are messages that resonate heavily here in Nevada, a state with a strong libertarian, individualist streak, where Paul's father, Ron, saw a strong well of support.
"I'm unafraid to challenge the status quo," Paul, sporting a bright orange button-down shirt, said to a crowd that repeatedly exclaimed "that's right!" or "yes!" during his 20-minute speech. His program to fix inner cities through "economic freedom zones" got a hearty cheer.
"The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedom and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped," he said.
The Kentucky Republican painted himself as a non-conformist who would not be afraid to rabble-rouse in Washington and buck his own party. Republicans, he said, have long "squandered our victory" by becoming part of the political status quo.
"That's not who I am," he said.
He is an eye doctor, a fact that Paul has been heavily stressing on the campaign trail to underscore that he is a Washington outsider — and to give some space between him and his father. Paul uses his experience as a doctor to criticize the Affordable Care Act and illustrate that as a physician, he looks for solutions to problems.
"I promise you this as a doctor, I will make it my mission to heal this nation," he said.
Paul again said that if elected, he would stop the government surveillance of phone records, which are "none of their damn business," he said.
As he has at the other stops in the tour — Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa— Paul got big applause when he talked about the national debt, which he dubbed a "powder keg," and urged restraints on spending.
Paul has long called for a reform of the criminal justice system and drug laws that disproportionately incarcerate African Americans. It is an area where he is not afraid to buck the status quo, he said.
The war on drugs, he said, has "created a culture of violence and put police in an impossible situation." It has "snatched up so many people of one race that it is now unfair."
While Paul acknowledged that many in the audience may not have personal experience with the issue, he told them to be empathetic.
"go meet people who live in poverty and ask them why all their sons seem to be incarcerated and killed," he said.
Kenny Bent, 61, sported a beaded, hand-made bracelet that read "Rand 2016," made by a friend who donates part of the proceeds of bracelet sales to Paul, he said. He also wore a T-shirt calling for the military to take on the government. Bent said he was a strong supporter of Ron Paul.
"He's not a purist, but he's a message to the machine," Bent said. "We don't have any choice. Rand is the only one."
He doesn't agree with some of Paul's stances, particularly on national defense, and thinks that he's not talking about the Federal Reserve as much as Bent would like. But he believes that a vote for Paul is a vote against the mainstream.
"To me, it's a knife against the mainstream and I'm always for that," he said.
Murray Roser of Las Vegas thinks Paul's stance on national defense is not robust enough. He's also taking a look at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who he believes is stronger on defense and a more stalwart supporter of Israel.
"I got a problem with his foreign policy," Roser, 74, said. "It seems a little wishy-washy."
Roser said he also doesn't believe government spying on computers and phones is a big problem.
"Every now and then I watch a little porn, but it doesn't mean much. I'm not doing much," he said. "It's a tempest in a teapot."
Kim Lotti of Las Vegas feels the opposite way, and said Paul's stances, particularly on privacy, may lead her to volunteer for him.
"Unless you're a bad guy you don't want to feel like you're living in a communistic country," she said. "I think Rand might be my man."
A throng of supporters waited for Paul outside in the bright sun, including a man in Colonial garb who said he hands out copies of the Constitution on the Las Vegas strip, and a man named Victor the SnakeMann, who sported a long beard and tattoo on his hand of an American flag and a GOP elephant.
"I'm the hardest-core Republican here," he said.
The crowd was hemmed back behind metal barriers, and when Paul walked down the sidewalk the crowd cheered, with people lunging for pictures and to ask for autographs. Paul obliged a few people and then got into a black SUV.
As the car drove off, a woman exclaimed, "President Paul signed my Constitution!"