Rand Paul was 2,487 miles away from the Beltway journalists who had written off his campaign, and he was loving it.
A riverfront hotel ballroom had filled early, latecomers grabbing chairs from the hallway to add more rows. Seven hundred people stood for a prayer, then the Pledge of Allegiance, then the Star-Spangled Banner, then for two amen-filled endorsements from local legislators, then a video message from the senator’s wife Kelley — and then, finally, for Rand Paul.
“Looks like the liberty movement is alive and well and packing itself into the room!” said Paul.
He wore a dress shirt and tie atop jeans and cowboy boots, his uniform for the week. He delivered a 34-minute speech, touching on everything from the Middle East to land rights to racial sentencing disparities to a rival with “orange hair” – Donald Trump – who benefited from eminent domain. “If I’m president, there’ll be no incident of anyone having their private property taken and given to another owner,” said Paul. Only one line drew louder applause: The one about defunding Planned Parenthood.