00:55 - Source: CNN
Rand Paul mimics Trump on the campaign trail

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Paul's campaign wants to encourage college students to launch chapters for supporters on 300 college campuses in the next 30 days

Paul's campaign said his emphasis on certain issues has helped make him popular with younger voters

Washington CNN —  

Republican Sen. Rand Paul is hoping college students will give him an edge over his GOP opponents as the presidential primary season heats up.

With Back to School season around the corner, Paul’s campaign is launching an initiative called “300 in 30.” The goal: to encourage college students to launch chapters for Paul supporters on 300 college campuses in the next 30 days. They have produced a video the campaign says is ready-made for college-age supporters to share with their friends and classmates.

“I am thrilled to be launching our Students for Rand initiative,” the senator said in a statement. “We have a robust goal, 300 student chapters across the nation in the next 30 days, and are uniquely positioned to appeal to young voters, which we will heavily engage over the next few months. No candidate will do more to earn support from students than our campaign.”

Paul’s campaign said his emphasis on issues like protecting privacy, curtailing government surveillance and criminal justice has helped make him popular with younger voters. He has been building an audience on Snapchat, the social media message app popular with young people, for more than a year and talked drones and Hillary Clinton in an interview with CNN on the app in January.

Drumming up the support of college students could make an impact in early voting states like Iowa, which boasts more than 130,000 students at four-year colleges alone, according to the 2013 Iowa College and University Enrollment Report. Iowa makes it easy for such students, and all voters, to cast a ballot: One can register and vote on the same day, which will allow people to make a last-minute decision to participate in the state’s first in the nation caucus early next year.

Rising University of Iowa senior Alexander Staudt, who will serve as president of Students for Rand Paul when he heads back to school in a few days, said he expects the group to be the largest 2016 student organization on campus this year.

“Rand seems like the only genuine candidate in the race,” Staudt told CNN via email. “He excites and relates to the younger vote on issues they care about. He stands on campuses and talks about criminal justice reform and keeping the government out of our damn phone records.”

Staudt, whose contact information was provided by the campaign, said he plans to be ‎the precinct chair for the caucuses this February.

The Kentucky senator, a libertarian, has slipped in some recent polls compared to several months ago, polling in the mid-to-low single digits both nationally and in some of the early states. The most recent CNN/ORC poll of Iowa voters, released Wednesday, shows Paul has the support of just 5% of likely Iowa caucus-goers, and in the most recent nationwide CNN/ORC poll taken last month, he had the support of 6% of registered voters.

Meanwhile, the latest Suffolk University poll shows the senator tied with several candidates at just 2% in Iowa, while a Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University poll shows him at 6% in New Hampshire. Both polls were released Tuesday.

While his campaign is staying positive about his chances, Paul has been going negative on GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, questioning the billionaire businessman’s conservative credentials and pushing Republican voters to take a closer look at his past statements, stances and changing party affiliation over the years. Paul wrote in The Journal by IJReview this week the candidates “owe the American people substantive answers” rather than “bluster and bombast.”

The 2016 hopeful’s next big test is Aug. 22, when the Kentucky Republican Party will decide whether to change their presidential nominating event from a primary to a caucus – a move that would help Paul since Kentucky law prevents any candidate from appearing on the same ballot more than once.

Unless the primary is changed to a caucus, Paul will not be able to run for reelection to his Senate seat and for president on the same primary ballot. His campaign is confident Paul will prevail and says the senator will be on hand at next week’s vote.