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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Can Rand Paul convince more African Americans to vote Republican? The Kentucky senator is trying to turn the tide ahead of a possible presidential run.
Earlier this week, Rand Paul visited Howard University, a historically black college in Washington D.C. Today, he came to Kentucky's oldest black college, Simmons College, to try to change the recent history of the African American vote.
Rand Paul was literally surrounded by tradition, the images of Kentucky's civil rights pioneers as he tried to make his case to a new generation of African Americans.
Paul noted that blacks historically voted Republican until the mid-20th century, and made it clear that this was about trying to win those votes back.
"Because in the end, the Republican Party will no longer be a national party if we don't somehow attract the African American vote, the Latino vote, the Asian American vote, and we haven't been doing very well," Paul told the group.
For an hour, Paul answered questions and made his conservative case on a range of issues. "The Republican Party is not hostile to civil rights, to civil liberties," he said.
It was a civil discussion, except for one brief interruption. The man was escorted out, schools officials saying he was not a Simmons student.
It was evidence that any change will not come easy. But Simmons' president commended Paul for reaching out. "I'm not sure that the students will leave here and support a Stand for Rand rally, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and I think this was an important first step," said Kevin Cosby.
And the effort was not lost on the students. "I think it was a sincere conversation. I think it was much needed in this kind of community," said Shawn Billups.
When asked if he would consider voting for Rand Paul, Michael Williams said, "In the future, possibly."
Paul says he has not made up his mind about running for President. But it's clear, by his coming here, he is not writing off the black vote.
"We haven't done very well, but I think some of it is we're not trying hard enough, so I'm going to try harder," said Paul.
Last year, Mitt Romney received just five percent of the black vote.
But Simmons' President says this event is a signal that Democrats should not take the African American vote for granted.