Exclusive–Rand Paul: I Plan on ‘Mixing It Up’ and ‘Standing My Ground’ in Debate

rand paul
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Breitbart News exclusively that he’s “keyed up” and ready to roll in Thursday night’s debate hosted by the Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace.

In an interview in the lobby of the Radisson hotel in downtown Cleveland about 12 hours before the first GOP presidential primary debate—which will happen across the street at the Quicken Loans Arena—Paul said he plans on “mixing it up” on Thursday night with his fellow top 10 GOP contenders and plans on “standing my ground” on issues that matter to him.

“I plan on mixing it up, I plan on standing my ground and I plan on being proud of what I stand for and the differences between myself and the other candidates,” Paul said. “We’ll see where the cards lay at the end of the night.”

Paul said he expects a lively discussion of important issues and is ready to rumble.

“I think in the first tier debate, it will mostly be about interaction with those in the first tier debate,” he said. “But I think there’s potential for some good discussion. I think in some ways the last month or so we’ve gotten a little bit superficial and this is an important decision. We’re going to decide who is going to be the Commander in Chief, who will be in charge of our nuclear arsenal, who will be in charge of the world’s largest economy. I think these are important decisions and I think ultimately people are going to say this is a serious decision and we need to have a serious debate about it.”

When asked if he’s excited, Paul first joked that “it’s 9 in the morning, ask me again at 9 o’clock at night.”

“Yeah I am,” he continued. “We’re keyed up, ready to go and I think it’s a big forum and a big convention center and it’s very exciting. And to me, it’s a great honor just to be here and to be on the stage with the 10 leading contenders.”

President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran is sure to be a major issue in the debate. Paul, who is not supportive of the deal, ripped Obama for comparing Republicans to Iranians who chant “death to America.” He also noted that even though this deal is bad, Americans should support negotiations first before any rush to war with Iran—something he said Ronald Reagan did with the Soviet Union and communist China.

“I think any sort of stretches of analogy in either direction—there have been Republicans sort of doing the same thing—I think the best way is to be somewhat dispassionate in that we do have to have a debate over whether negotiations are a good idea or a bad idea,” Paul said. “There are some in our party who don’t want any negotiations at all. I think that’s a mistake. I think a bad deal is a mistake as well. But I think it isn’t a binary choice—it isn’t war or this deal. I think it could be war, this deal, or another deal—or even the end of negotiation. There’s a lot of in betweens, and I personally am a Republican and am not apologetic for saying we should have negotiations. But we should negotiate from a position of strength. Reagan negotiated with the Soviets. Reagan traveled to Communist China. I think negotiations are something that we still should pursue as opposed to war.”

Paul expects to push his flat tax plan—which he’s highlighted frequently on the campaign trail—on the debate stage on Thursday night. He also told Breitbart News that he thinks it’s the “largest tax cut in the history of our country” and will help protect American workers from losing their jobs overseas.

“I will mention not only our flat tax which will be the largest tax cut in the history of our country, but I’ll mention that it will help to bring American jobs home and will help prevent American jobs and companies from going overseas,” Paul said. “But I will also mention that I am the only one on the stage that has a real plan to balance the budget. Many on the stage will say they are for balancing the budget, but not one of them has a plan. I have introduced three individual plans spelling out where I’d make the cuts to balance the budget and I think that makes me unique among the 10 on stage.”

Several governors and former governors will be on stage with Paul on Thursday evening. In the top tier, he and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are the only three from the U.S. Senate. Governors on stage will include Ohio’s John Kasich, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Dr. Ben Carson, a world-renowned neurosurgeon, and billionaire businessman Donald Trump are also going to be on stage. Governors frequently attack senators, arguing that they will make better presidents, but Paul told Breitbart News that’s not necessarily the case.

“It depends on which governors, I guess,” Paul said. “Some of the governors on the stage have struggled with credit downgrades and various problems. Jimmy Carter was a governor and not many of us think he was a very good president. I don’t think it’s necessarily dependent on which job you’ve held in the past, I think it’s dependent on whether or not you’re a good decision-maker, whether or not you’re well-read, whether or not you have what it takes to be a leader.”

To prepare for the debates, Paul said the thing that has been most helpful to him has been doing regular media interviews and interacting with and taking questions from voters on the campaign trail in town hall-style events.

“Every day is sort of preparation—answering questions from reporters, answering questions from the audiences,” Paul told Breitbart News. “We’re quite a bit different than Hillary Clinton. We don’t rope the reporters off. We take questions from the audience. The other thing is is that as we go around and travel, if we do eight speeches in Iowa, we have four or five questions at each stop. We answer quite a bit of questions, so I think that day-to-day preparation is helpful.”