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Rand Paul: Don't Rule Out Containment of Nuclear Iran

United States Congress(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- New Hampshire can be a make-or-break state for a potential presidential candidate and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is ahead of the 2016 competition.

ABC News’ Jon Karl caught up with the Kentucky senator at a Manchester eatery, the Portland Pie Company. He was in town for the conservative Freedom Summit – dishing on Iran’s nuclear program, the future of the Republican Party, fellow republican Jeb Bush, and his own potential presidential candidacy.

Despite winning the last several straw polls, Paul is still shying away from being labeled the 2016 frontrunner. “I don’t know if that’s good luck or bad luck. So why don’t we not go there?” he said.

“I guess it’s better than not being noticed,” he added.

He may be ambiguous about his candidacy, but Paul is adamant on his views about the Republican party and its future.

“No matter what happens, I think the Republican Party needs to evolve, change, grow if we’re going to win again. And so I do want to be part of that.”

He is particularly focused on efforts to bring in minorities and young voters who gravitate toward Democrats. The senator has visited Berkeley, Howard University, and Detroit, working to bring new communities into the republican fold.  Paul said his party’s staunch and sometimes alienating policies face “a hardened resistance.”

“It’s been going on for decade after decade after decade.  So it’s not going to be easy to change. We got 3 percent of the vote in Detroit,” he said. “There’s not one Democrat that’s offered to help the people in Detroit,” a city who is struggling economically.

“I offered them a billion dollars of their own money to try to help them recover.”

But when asked by Karl to explain how those tax cuts he is proposing would help them, Paul said it would allow businesses to hire the unemployed.

“That money will be left in the hands of businesses that people in Detroit are already voting on,” he said. “Let’s grow those businesses and they will employ more people.”

Paul also defended his push to cut defense spending beyond lower sequester levels.

“I believe national defense is the most important thing we do, but it isn’t a blank check,” he said. “Some conservatives think, ‘oh, give them whatever they want and that everything is for our soldiers’ and they play up this patriotism that, ‘oh, we don’t have to control defense spending.’”

“We can’t be a trillion dollars in the hole every year,” he continued.

In 2012, Paul was one of two Republican senators to vote against a bipartisan bill proposing tough sanctions on Iran. Paul stood by his decision, saying he thinks “all options should be on the table” and explained why the government should not rule out containment of a nuclear Iran.

“They said containment will never ever, ever be our policy. We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. If that would have been our policy toward Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan. We woke up one day and China had nuclear weapons. We woke up one day and Russia had them.”

“The people who say ‘by golly, we will never stand for that,” he continued, “they are voting for war.”

Earlier this week, another conservative superstar Jeb Bush made headlines with his comments on immigration. The former Florida governor said illegal immigrants break the law by crossing the border, but “it’s not a felony, it’s an act of love.”

While Paul didn’t dispute Bush’s comments, he did say he may have framed them differently.

“If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people.”

“But here’s the way I’d finish up,” he continued “We can’t invite the whole world.  When you say they’re doing an act of love and you don’t follow it up with but we have to control the border, people think, well, because they’re doing this for kind reasons, that the whole world can come to our country.”

Ultimately, the conversation turned back to 2016 – the question on everyone’s minds – will he or won’t he?

Paul said the decision is up to his wife, joking that he’s trying to convince her to run in his place. As of now, “There’s two votes and at least one undecided in the house,” he said. “So we’ll see.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio