Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., visited Charleston Monday to talk about his possible presidential bid, how to rein in the national debt and the current military action in Libya.

Paul, a tea party favorite who won his Senate seat last fall, is visiting several early presidential voting states independently of his father, 2008 presidential contender and current U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

"The only decision I've made is I won't run against my dad," Rand Paul said.

He has upcoming trips planned to Iowa and New Hampshire, in part, he said, because "I want the tea party to have an influence over who the nominee is in 2012."

Paul said he favors a balanced budget amendment and restructuring Social Security and Medicare to increase the age when future benefits will kick in and to limit benefits to those who have relatively more income. Paul said he is working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Social Security reform.

Paul also expressed skepticism about the wisdom of the current U.S. military involvement in Libya, particularly when the nation's forces are engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I'm not sure we need to be involved in a third war," he said. "You should ask the question, 'Is Libya a threat to our national security?' I'd like to have that debate."

Paul, whose new "The Tea Party Goes to Washington" book was written with help from Charleston columnist and radio personality Jack Hunter, said his political beliefs are similar to his father's but not always identical. For instance, Paul said unlike his father, he supports keeping open the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay and military -- not civil -- trials for those captured on the battlefield.

Paul appeared in the College of Charleston's Bully Pulpit Series and the Charleston Meeting, a new invitation-only, center-right organization that invites prominent politicians to address its members off the record.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.