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Rand Paul Tries to Transform a Moment Into a Movement

Sen. Rand Paul's big moment lasted nearly 13 hours.

To many, that's how long it took the Republican lawmaker to transform from fringe politician to overnight sensation, in an old-fashioned Senate floor filibuster to seek White House safeguards against using drones to kill Americans.

Billed as a spontaneous gesture, the filibuster was in fact the most successful of several planned actions that began when the eye doctor-turned-senator decided in December to weigh a run for president.

In short order, Sen. Paul, of Kentucky, won a first-place finish in a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, beating Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a field of potential 2016 contenders; his new super PAC welcomed a flood of new donors; and he was invited to prestigious speaking engagements in key primary states.

Although Sen. Paul says he hasn't made a decision to run, he isn't coy about his ambitions to be a national force. "My new notoriety allows me to talk about ways to make the Republican Party bigger and better, and to be part of the national debate," he said, using a copy of the Constitution to block the sun from his eyes on a recent drive down a Kentucky interstate.

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