By Ken Thomas, Associated Press

Rand Paul

Rand Paul Official Portrait, 2011

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that Republicans face long odds in connecting with black voters and are often cast as unsympathetic to the needs of blacks and minorities — something he says the party needs to change.

Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said in a speech at Howard University that the Republican party was rooted in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and efforts to rid the South of oppressive Jim Crow laws…

“Republicans face a daunting task. Several generations of black voters have never voted Republican and are not very open to considering the option,” Paul said. [Editor’s Note: To find out why that is, click on the link below this article.] By speaking at Howard, Paul said he hoped students would “hear me out — that you will see me for who I am, not the caricature sometimes presented by political opponents.”

Paul’s speech to black students and faculty members at the historically black university was emblematic of Republicans’ efforts to attract a broader swath of voters following President Barack Obama’s re-election…

He argued that many Democrats had opposed civil rights in the South during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt but many black voters became impatient with Republicans in the years that followed over economic policies. He said Democrats offer “unlimited federal assistance” and policies that put “food on the table but too often, I think, don’t lead to jobs and meaningful success.”

Paul said using taxes to “punish the rich” hurts everyone in the economy, along with more regulations and higher debt. “Big government is not a friend of African-Americans,” he said.

Many students said they didn’t agree with Paul on many issues but gave him credit for speaking to them. “It could be very intimidating. You’re sitting in a room with people who don’t support you for the most part so I do give him credit for coming,” said Tasia Hawkins, an 18-year-old freshman from New York.

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To learn why the majority of black voters abandoned the party of Lincoln, visit our exhibit  Politics in Black and White.