-- Sen. Rand Paul made his 2016 White House bid official on Tuesday, telling an audience in his adopted home state of Kentucky that he will be a different kind of Republican -- one who will "clutch the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other."
"Today I announce with God's help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for the United States of America," Paul said to the cheers of an estimated 1,000 supporter packed into a ballroom at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville.
The audience greeted the Kentucky Republican with cheers of "President Paul, President Paul!" and many sported the same "Stand with Rand" shirts that made an awkward debut at Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential announcement last month.
Paul laid out a vision of limiting the federal government, cutting taxes, and ending the practice of government surveillance.
"The phone records of US citizens none of their dam business," Paul said. "As president, on day one, I will end this unconstitutional surveillance. I believe we can have liberty and security and I will not compromise your liberty for a false sense of security."
He vowed to take on "the Washington machine” by not giving into special interests, which he said seek to “fill their personal piggybanks” to the disadvantage of the American public.
"Too often when Republicans have won, we’ve squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine," Paul said. "That’s not who I am."
"We must not dilute our message or give up on our principles. If we nominate a candidate who is simply Democrat-lite, what is the point?" Paul later asked the audience rhetorically, in presenting himself as a principled leader.
Paul also proposed a constitutional amendment to "force Congress" to balance the budget, saying that the only way to achieve such a measure is for the American people to rise up and demand it.
"Congress will never balance the budget," he said. "Our only recourse is to force Congress to balance the budget with a Constitutional amendment."
The Kentucky Republican broke his silence on the negotiated deal with Iran, saying he would take a Reagan-like "peace through strength" approach to foreign policy in order to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"I will oppose any deal that does not end Iran's nuclear ambitions and have strong verification measures and I will insist that final version be brought before Congress," Paul said. "The difference between President Obama and myself is he seems to think you can negotiate from a position of weakness."
Paul also called for a tough approach to dealing with ISIS, labeling the radical Islam an enemy against which he will do "whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind."
Paul's father, three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, was in attendance at the event but did not address the crowd. The elder Paul is not expected to be a large presence in this campaign, as the younger Paul seeks to distinguish himself from his father's purist libertarian ideals to appeal to the mainstream Republican electorate.
Though his announcement today had been long expected, earlier in the day, he previewed the news on his newly launched presidential campaign website ahead of his scheduled announcement speech.
"I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government," the Kentucky Republican is quoted as saying on his newly-launched campaign website, RandPaul.com.
Before his speech Tuesday, Paul was introduced with a video message and in-person speech from his wife, Kelley Paul.
"Rand has the energy, the ideas, the honesty, to really help restore the prosperity and hope in the country," Kelley Paul said in the video. "He loves making a difference as a doctor, and he believes he can make a difference as the president."
Addressing the audience, Paul's wife revealed that her husband first began contemplating a White House bid in the days of his 2010 Senate campaign.
"You know, everyone says I have less than a 10 percent chance of winning the primary," Paul's wife recalled her husband half-joking to her in discussing the possibility.
"As her eyesight began to fail, he became her eyes to spy the faint mint marks on the coins as they would go through them together," Kelley says in the video. "Rand never forgot how sad it was for him to watch his grandmother lose her vision and that really cemented for him his desire to be an ophthalmologist."
Paul will now kick his campaign into high gear, making visits the first four states in the presidential nominating process over the next four days.