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Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) greets student at Carpe Diem-Aiken charter school in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Senator Rand Paul continues to poll competitively against Democrat consensus candidate Hillary Clinton in swing states like Maine, New Hampshire and Colorado.

Another poll released over the weekend, not surprisingly, showed Paul beating Clinton in his home state of Kentucky by a slim four percent margin (48-44).

But the new Bluegrass Poll also revealed that Paul’s ongoing minority outreach efforts might be working with African-Americans in his home state. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that “29 percent of the African Americans surveyed said they would back the tea-party senator.”

Compare that number to John McCain, who received only four percent of the African-American vote in 2008 and Mitt Romney, who won six percent of the black vote in 2012.

In his 2010 race for U.S. Senate, Paul received only 13 percent of the black vote against Democratic candidate Jack Conway.

Why the sudden increase in black support? National Review’s Eliana Johnson writes:

One of the poll’s significant findings was that 29 percent of the African-Americans surveyed said they would back the tea-party senator… This suggests that some of Paul’s outreach to the minority community — speeches at Howard University, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a push to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenders, among other things — is having an impact.

5 ways Rand Paul is trying to grow the Republican Party

Paul asked at Howard University last year, “How did the party that elected the first black U.S. senator, the party that elected the first 20 African-American congressmen, become a party that now loses 95 percent of the black vote? How did the Republican Party, the party of the Great Emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?”

Those questions yielded mixed reactions among critics. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin — one of Paul’s biggest critics — gave a positive review, hailing him as “a force to be reckoned with” who “liberals and conservatives ignore … at their own risk.”

Funnyman Jon Stewart, on the other hand, called it a cheap and “awkward” attempt — “the Republicans left black, now they want to go back.”

The only other Republican with suspected presidential ambitions to garner the same level of black support in his home state is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. As early as 2012, Christie had a 31 percent approval rating among black voters in New Jersey, which continued into 2013.

Rand Paul has also urged Republicans to tone down racial rhetoric.

Rand Paul continues to urge conservatives to tone down racial rhetoric

“There are times, and I don’t think it is our movement, but there are times when people are using language that shouldn’t be used,” Paul said.

“I recently criticized someone for using some of that language. I’m not going to bring it up, but I will say, we can disagree with the president without calling him names.” The someone was Ted Nugent, who, it was discovered in February, had called President Obama “subhuman mongrel.”

Paul’s response to that controversy pleased the NAACP, which eventually invited him to speak.

Earlier this month, Paul suggested Republicans needed to tone down their rhetoric in their insistence on Voter ID laws, but later moderated his statements.

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