Rand Paul: Bush Immigration Remarks "Well-Intentioned"

Rand Paul: Bush Immigration Remarks "Well-Intentioned"
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MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Friday responded to contentious remarks made by Jeb Bush last weekend, in which the potential 2016 Republican presidential rival said that illegal immigrants who come to the United States seeking a better life for their families often do so as "an act of love."

“I think it wasn’t the most artful way of saying something, but I think he was well-intentioned,” Paul said in an interview with RealClearPolitics. “If I were to make the same point, I would say that people who seek the American dream are not bad people, but that doesn’t mean you can invite the whole world to come.”

Paul was here in the first-in-the-nation primary state to make appearances at several events over the course of two days, as he continues to prepare for his likely White House run.

He noted that those who criticized Bush for his comments were not necessarily supporters of the former Florida governor’s pro-immigration reform stance in the first place.

“But I think they worried that if love is the criteria, what does that mean?” Paul added. “That everybody who’s got some love for their relatives can come? You know, the whole world loves America, and they can’t all come.”

Paul said that it was important to have a “healthy respect” for immigrants when engaging in the debate over immigration policy.

“They come to this country and they’re not bad people,” he said. “But we have to start with the first part then that the border can’t be open, and everything that’s offered to American citizens can’t just be offered to the world. We have this enormous welfare state that we can’t pay for on our own, so we can’t invite the world to be on it.”

Paul spent much of Friday making the rounds with local and national media, including an interview shoot for ABC News’ “This Week,” before heading to private meetings, a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Republican Party, and a rally in Dover later in the day.

Asked how he will decide whether to run in 2016, Paul signaled the direction he is leaning toward by noting that current polling shows him in the first-tier of candidates, which “makes a difference with decision-making.”

He added that Republicans have expressed a “great deal of pessimism” over losing the last two presidential elections and suggested that his own brand of libertarian-leaning Republicanism could be just the recipe to turn that tide.

“And so really, we need a transformational election,” Paul said. “To have that, you have to have a transformational candidate. And to do that, you have to have a candidate who’s different than the cookie-cutter Chamber of Commerce Republican.”

Paul noted that independent voters tend to have a big impact both in the New Hampshire primary and in Iowa, where they can change their party affiliation on caucus night -- a statute that could be a boon to his candidacy.

“If we get into this, we would only do it if I thought I could win,” Paul said. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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