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Orem • Rand Paul brought his message of limited government and strict observance of the U.S. Constitution to Utah Saturday.
A crowd of several hundred applauded his call to stand up for all 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights not just the one protecting gun rights.
"You can't support the Second Amendment unless you protect the Fourth," the GOP presidential candidate said, referring to the constitutional prohibition against unlawful search and seizure.
That applause line was the Kentucky senator's segue into his intense opposition to blanket data-gathering on U.S. citizens a key pillar of his long-shot campaign.
The data-gathering program, which he believe is illegal because it enables surveillance of citizens who are not criminal suspects, is exemplified in Utah by the National Security Agency's new sprawling data center. Paul's campaign tour took him past the Bluffdale complex, where he posed for a photo, on his way to the rally at the Orem headquarters of Alder Home Security.
"On the hill behind us is vast array of government buildings that collects all of your phone records. I don't want President Obama collecting my phone records, my gun records, records of my religion, my credit-card purchases," said Paul, an eye surgeon elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. On his Twitter feed, he vowed to repurpose the building into "a Constitutional Center to study the Fourth Amendment."
While the libertarian stalwart's message resonates in Utah, his four-month-old candidacy has yet to gain significant traction in the crowded Republican field. In a Quinnipiac University survey conducted Thursday, Paul polled near the bottom of 17 contenders for the GOP nomination at 2 percent, just behind Mike Huckabee, but ahead of six others including Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
But Elodie, a University of Utah student who asked that her last name not be used, said Paul would be a great standard bearer for the libertarian cause whom she admires for "his lack of desire to impose his will on others."
"I came [to Saturday's rally] to learn how he worked in person," said the 21-year-old U. junior studying political science. "He speaks well compared with candidates who hold similar beliefs but who tend to be alienating."
Elodie, who holds dual French-U.S. citizenship, is concerned America is becoming too much like Europe by allowing government to butt into the affairs of private citizens. Paul offers the best antidote to that trend, she said.
She believes front-runner Donald Trump's antics, which include insulting his opponents, are entertaining and great for drawing attention to himself, but they are polarizing. The real estate tycoon and reality show celebrity holds an unexpected advantage in the GOP race.
At a campaign event in Massachusetts on Friday, Trump mocked Paul's golfing abilities and noted that his polling numbers tanked shortly after he attacked Trump.
At Saturday's rally, Paul did not mention any of his GOP rivals, although he did single out Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. He accused her of "dereliction" for failing to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya while serving as secretary of state. The Benghazi attack that claimed the lives of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans should disqualify Clinton from being taken seriously as a presidential candidate, he said.
Paul accused the Obama administration of helping arm the self-proclaimed Islamic State, whose soldiers he says are riding around in $1 billion worth of Humvees and are paid in U.S. dollars.
But central to his campaign was a pledge to uphold the separation of powers, which he says has been eroded in the federal government, and to reduce federal spending.
"I will spend every waking moment giving power to states and the people," Paul said. I'm going to make America great again by leaving more money in your community."
Paul went after the nation's 70,000-page tax code, which he would like to replace with a 14.5-percent, flat income tax rate and a one-page tax return form.