As promised, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky kicked off his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination today in Louisville with a declaration that he's running for the White House to "return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government." At a splashy kickoff rally, Paul promised a government restrained by the Constitution and beholden no more to special interests. "I have a message, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words," he told cheering supporters. "We have come to take our country back." Paul is a fierce critic of Washington, where he is in his first term as a senator but seldom in line with his party's leadership. A banner over the stage in Louisville proclaimed: "Defeat the Washington machine. Unleash the American dream."
Paul's challenge now is to convince Republican primary voters and caucus-goers that his is a vision worthy of the GOP presidential nomination, a prize twice denied his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, who joined him today. "Rand, I think, encompasses those same principles (as his father), but he also realizes the pragmatism that is necessary to bring those principles to fruition in American politics today," said a supporter. Paul begins the 2016 race as just the second fully declared candidate, behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but he could face as many as 20 rivals for the nomination before the lead-off Iowa caucuses in February. Perhaps reflecting the challenges he faces, Paul is also leaving open the door to a second term in the Senate. (Read more Rand Paul stories.)