DAVENPORT — Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul, courting college-age voters, said Tuesday in Davenport that he’s alarmed by “trigger-happy” rivals who seem eager for a confrontation with Russia.
Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky who has long strayed from most of the GOP field on foreign and military policy, said Russia’s increased involvement in the Syrian civil war isn’t welcome. But he dismissed the idea of a no-fly zone over Syria, currently favored by most of the Republican presidential candidates — as well as Democrat Hillary Clinton — as “a recipe for disaster.” And, while answering a question about military spending, he used the word “reckless” in talking about Republican rhetoric about Russia.
“They scare me,” he said.
“We went through 70 years of the Cold War trying not to have a war with Russia, and now we’ve got people so trigger-happy that they’re gleefully talking about using force against Russia,” Paul added.
Paul is on a three-day tour of Iowa’s colleges and universities, trying to win over youthful voters. News reports said Paul drew about 400 at the University of Iowa on Monday, though his campaign said 700 people attended.
In his appearance in Davenport, Paul railed against the NSA eavesdropping program, the size of the government and what he called an “unholy alliance” between Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C., that collude to drive up spending on defense and welfare.
About 80 people were on hand at the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University, though a healthy percentage of those in the audience were beyond college age.
One person who is just reaching college age, a high school student from Bettendorf, said he supports Paul.
Fritzy Swearingen, who will turn 18 in December and plans to caucus next February, said Paul speaks to him on a range of issues, including civil liberties, spending and college costs. He added Paul would reduce the loans that he believes are prompting colleges to raise their prices.
“He really understands the true economic and free market of the United States,” Swearingen said.
Iowa Democrats took issue with Paul’s assertion last month in Iowa State University’s newspaper that the government is subsidizing demand. The state party said in a statement Tuesday that Paul would put at risk Pell Grants for 111,000 Iowa college students, including about 750 at St. Ambrose.
Paul also drew the support Tuesday of former UFC champion Pat Miletich, who introduced him. Miletich praised Paul’s tax plan and his call to exercise more oversight over the Federal Reserve.
Paul still is in low single digits in Iowa, according to recent polling. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of Iowa Republicans at the end of September put him at 4 percent.
The tour of college campuses is aimed at helping to get 10,000 Iowa students to commit to caucus for him. Youthful voters are seen as a key part of Paul’s campaign in Iowa and across the country.
As part of his swing through Davenport, he sat down for interviews with journalists with St. Ambrose news outlets, according to his campaign.
Not only does Paul have Republicans who are competing with him for voters, but across the aisle U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, is appealing to young people as he runs for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Some analysts believe they are competing for the same voters.
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Paul, as he did in Iowa City on Monday, criticized Sanders’ proposal to offer a free college education, saying the cost would be spread to everybody.
“So when Bernie Sanders comes around and says he’s going to give you free stuff — no, you’re going to pay for all the free stuff Bernie Sanders wants to give people,” Paul said.