Rand Paul: Electing "lesser of two evils" isn't good enough

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., Friday, March 7, 2014.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a tea party favorite in the Senate and potential 2016 presidential candidate, told a group of conservatives gathered outside of Washington on Friday exactly what they wanted to hear from him: He's ready to defend their Fourth Amendment rights.

"Will you, America's next generation of liberty lovers, will you stand and be heard?" the senator asked audience members at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, bringing them to their feet. "We will not submit, and we will not trade our liberty for security."

Of the several prospective presidential candidates speaking this weekend at the annual conservative conference, Paul stands out for his libertarian views. At a time of global upheaval in Ukraine and elsewhere, defending those views to a broad conservative audience can be a challenge, but Paul on Friday stuck to the issue that was sure to be a hit with the crowd -- his opposition to the National Security Agency's sweeping surveillance programs. He made the case that CPAC conservatives shouldn't be willing to compromise on that issue.

Paul entreated the crowd to imagine "when the White House is once again occupied by a friend of liberty."

"You may think I'm talking about electing Republicans -- I'm not," he said. "I'm talking about electing lovers of liberty. It isn't good enough to elect the lesser of two evils... The Fourth Amendment is equally as important as the Second Amendment, and conservatives cannot forget this."

Paul reminded the audience he has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its collection of telephone metadata, calling general warrants used to collect records from millions of Americans "a profound constitutional question."

"The NSA monitors your every phone call. If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business," Paul said to cheers.

A large portion of CPAC attendees are college conservatives -- a crowd that should be relatively in sync with Paul on this issue. A Pew Research poll released earlier this year showed that people younger than 50 were significantly more likely than people older than 50 that "Americans shouldn't have to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism."

Paul slammed the president's approach to civil liberties issues, referencing a Pink Floyd song -- which asks, "did they get you trade your heroes for ghosts?" -- to suggest Mr. Obama has let his supporters down.

"I don't question President Obama's motives, but history will record his timid defense of liberty," he said.