120106_rand_paul_82Rand Paul came to Howard University on Wednesday and argued to students at the historically black college that the Republican Party hasn’t changed.

It seemed at first like Paul misspoke.

But Paul did, in fact, intend to say the GOP is the same party it’s always been. That might seem like a strange strategy for a speech to black students by a white Republican senator from Kentucky, representing a party that has been almost completely estranged from African-American voters for the last few decades.

Paul, however, said he wanted to “resurrect” the history of the GOP prior to the Civil Rights era.

“The story of emancipation, voting rights and citizenship, from Frederick Douglass until the modern civil rights era, is really in fact the history of the Republican Party,” Paul said. “How did the Republican Party, the party of the great emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?”

Paul spent a substantial portion of his 20-minute speech (for which he read from teleprompters) talking about the history of the GOP and race, and returned to that theme often during a 30-minute question and answer session with students.

The event went remarkably smoothly for Paul, a 50-year-old freshman senator who identifies himself as a Tea Party lawmaker and may run for president in 2016. But his most off-note moment came as he explained why he wanted to talk so much about race and the history of the GOP and Democrats.

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