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Vowing to 'Defeat the Washington Machine,' Rand Paul Announces 2016 Run

Republican Senator Rand Paul announces in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday that he is running for president.
/ Source: NBC News

It's finally official: Rand Paul is running for president.

"Today I announce with God's help, and the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States," the Kentucky senator said at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday, declaring himself the Republican who can "defeat the Washington machine."

"The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped!" he said, winning applause for saying that "both political parties and the entire political system are to blame" for the nation's problems.

Paul, a first term senator who has emphasized outreach to groups he says haven't traditionally been reached by Republicans, said that he's observed an "'undercurrent of unease" in places like Detroit and Chicago.

"Under the watch of both parties - the poor seem to get poorer and the rich get richer," he said in a nod to the message of economic populism being embraced by candidates on both sides of the political spectrum.

"It’s time for a new way, a way predicated on justice, opportunity and freedom," he said.

Paul, the son of former presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul, faces steep odds for the GOP nomination, as some more hawkish Republicans seek to paint him as weak on national security.

In his announcement speech, Paul described a foreign policy vision that includes the GOP maxim of "peace through strength," but also avoids "overseas nation building."

"We need a National Defense robust enough to defend against all attack, modern enough to deter all enemies, and nimble enough to defend our vital interests," he said. "But we also need a foreign policy that protects American interests and encourages stability, not chaos."

Echoing a common Republican refrain, Paul added that America must not hesitate to name radical Islam as its enemy.

"Not only will I name the enemy," he said. "I will do what ever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind."

But continuing his break with defense hawks who back more robust surveillance to apprehend potential terrorists, he pledged to end "unconstitutional" NSA surveillance of phone records on his first day in office.

Earlier Tuesday on his web site, Paul formally announced that he will seek the presidency, writing “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government."

He is the second major Republican contender to announce a run. Fellow GOP senator Ted Cruz of Texas jumped into the race last month in a speech at Liberty University in Virginia.

- Carrie Dann