CAP-HAITIEN, HAITI — Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul says it's only a matter of time until the country wakes up to Donald Trump's insincere message, but he's worried that some Americans are blinded by his "celebrity."
In a series of interviews between performing pro-bono eye surgeries in Haiti with the University of Utah's Moran Eye Center, the Kentucky senator was relaxed in scrubs, dismissive of Trump and critical of the media's role in Trump's rise.
"How do you out-Trump the irrational?" he asked.
It's a question he and the other Republican candidates are puzzling over. Paul said the reason "people have gone gaga" over the billionaire real estate mogul is that he's tapped into anti-establishment conservative anger.
In many ways, it's not dissimilar from the anti-Washington sentiment that helped Paul rise to his own political fame. But in the case of Trump, Paul believes there's no substance at all behind the frustration.
"I've likened it to 'The emperor has no clothes.' He's saying things that are completely vapid, things that are completely vulgar and completely a non sequitur."
And Paul is confident that the Trump show can't last.
"There's no way the voters in the country will nominate him. Absolutely not," Paul said.
Paul acknowledged that Trump's organization has helped to fund Paul's charity eye surgery trips, which are planned by the Moran Eye Center. The organization confirmed to NBC Wednesday that the Donald J. Trump Foundation gave $10,000 to support the medical mission to Haiti that Rand Paul participated in. Trump's group also donated $10,000 in 2014 to support humanitarian work in Guatemala.
In the interview with NBC News, Paul took particular aim at Trump's recently released immigration proposal, which he said made "no sense" and is "bizarre."
"Even the people who think they might like him, when they hear what his bone-headed plan is, you think they might have second thoughts," he said.
Still, one element of Trump's immigration plan that Paul won't push back on is his proposal to end birthright citizenship.
Back in 2011, Paul co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to put an end to the right that allows everybody born on U.S. soil to be a citizen. He told NBC News that today's circumstances still warrant that move.
"What I would say is, if you have an open border you can't have birthright citizenship," he said.
He also said his preference is to fix the border, adding that "no Republican or Democrat president" since 1986 has properly enforced America's immigration laws.
One policy agreement with Trump isn't changing his thinking about the New York candidate, and Paul isn't changing his campaign plan.
Asked if he will change tactics to counter his faltering poll numbers when he is back on the campaign trail next week, he doesn't see a need to.
"I think I do exactly the same thing I've been doing," he said.
Next week, that will mean a West Coast swing that will take him to Alaska and other Western states where his campaign believes his message resonates.