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Politico's pre-CPAC piece makes Rand Paul sound like he'll be the most moderate Republican there

The Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual gathering of conservatives, begins Thursday and Politico has a story on how the event has come to reflect the discord in the Republican Party between the establishment and the "tea party" wing.

Though Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered the tea party response to President Obama's State of the Union speech and recently delayed John Brennan's confirmation as CIA director with a 13-hour talking filibuster, he comes off strikingly moderate in his interview with Politico...

Some of the key moments, emphasis added:

--“We have to, as a Republican Party, get bigger, not smaller, and we’re a party that’s becoming more regionalized and I think a smaller, less significant national party,” said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, deadpanning: “We’re a great red state party.”

--“If you want to get together a majority in California I think your only chance is to be more of a libertarian Republican,” said Paul, who is considering a presidential bid in 2016 and believes the views of his father, former congressman and long-shot presidential hopeful Ron Paul, are being vindicated.

--“When you saw the debate between President Obama and Romney on foreign policy, they sounded pretty similar,” Paul said. “In the vice presidential debate, Biden was more assertive, but Ryan didn’t disagree with most of his positions. It was sort of like, ‘We’ll either come a little bit slower out of Afghanistan, or we’ll do this.’ But Biden had a good response, ‘We’re coming home.’ And I think that’s what people want; I think that’s what people are ready for, that we’re coming home.”

--And on cultural issues, Paul would like to take marriage out of the tax code altogether, soften the GOP’s approach to illegal drugs and compromise on immigration. To be a national party again, Paul contends, there also must be a bit of political federalism and tolerance within the GOP. “I would say that one leg [of the GOP stool] has to be bigger, depending on what part of the country you’re standing in,” said Paul.

Paul is scheduled to speak at CPAC this year.

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