Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), the libertarian-leaning candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, took the gloves off on Thursday night’s debate.
Paul–who has seen his poll numbers and fundraising totals crater over the last few months–decided to go for broke, and squarely attacked his opponents on the debate stage.
His fiercest fight came when he got into a tough match with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after Christie advocated for continued government collection of phone records in order to combat terrorism.
Paul, who has been a fierce opponent of the NSA’s domestic wiretapping, shot back: “I want to collect more records from terrorists from less records from innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the revolution over. John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence. And I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights! And I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights!”
Christie responded: “That’s a completely ridiculous answer…. How are you supposed to know [which records are from terrorists]?”
Shouting over Christie, Paul countered, “Use the Fourth Amendment! Use the Fourth Amendment! Get a warrant! Get a judge to sign a warrant! Use the Constitution!”
Rand Paul’s campaign has been under increasing strain over the last few weeks.
Aside from his poll numbers, he’s seen a top aide get indicted and his father’s former director of fundraising pen a scathing editorial about how the younger Paul was apparently abandoning libertarian principles during his presidential run.
Only time will tell whether Rand Paul’s aggressive debate performance will help him regain the ground he’s lost over the past few weeks–or if it will further turn off the Republican base to his beliefs.