Speaking at the University of California, Berkeley in March, he quoted a passage from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to draw a parallel to surveillance by the National Security Agency.
"If you own a cell phone, you are under surveillance," he went on to tell the Berkeley crowd. "I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business." The crowd whooped. It's a line he repeated at the Conservative Political Action Conference, to similar applause (he also quoted Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" to CPAC's mostly white audience).
And while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in September, Paul referenced The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, who was a physician and a devout Catholic. "Walker Percy laments in The Moviegoer that we've left no room for the seeker," Paul told the Values Voter audience. "Maybe our country's revival depends on seeking and rediscovering the synthesis of freedom and tradition."
Paul doesn't just alter his cultural touchstones to fit his audience; he often completely switches up the set of policies he talks about. What Paul understands is that varying his stump-speech material isn't just about pandering to local accents, sports teams, and delicacies; it's about broaching subjects that matter to specific subsets of voters.
And he's markedly improved over the past year. Read the transcript of his 2013 Howard speech, and you can understand why some students felt he was condescending to them—half of the speech is Paul lecturing his audience about the history of the Republican Party's relationship to black voters. Compare that tone with his National Urban League speech from this July, in which he simply addresses issues he thinks will matter to his audience and empathizes with them; it's a much more successful technique.
In front of a majority-black crowd, he touts sentencing reform, voting rights, school choice, and Economic Freedom Zones. In front of a Christian conservative crowd, he'll talk about the sanctity of life. In front of a tea-party crowd, he'll get them fired up about repealing Obamacare.
Paul doesn't just tailor his message in pre-written speeches; he can do it off the cuff, too. When he appeared on Fox News to criticize the NSA, he used Fox's core audience as a jump-off point for his argument that the NSA's surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment.
"Let's say you call up [a judge] and you say, 'I want all the records of all the Republicans who live in Texas.' My guess is, then the judge will say no. So it's a great protection," Paul told John Stossel.
The speech that he gives to a group of black college students will be rhetorically similar to the speech he gives to a crowd of white conservative retirees; but the issues he talks about will be almost entirely different.
For comparison, here are his applause lines from a variety of recent events:
At the Values Voter Summit: "As Christians, we should always stand with the most defenseless. I believe that no civilization can long endure that does not respect life from the not-yet-born to life's last breath. The debate isn't really about whether government has a role in protecting life. The debate really hinges on when life begins. I've held one-and-a-half pound babies in my hand. I've seen them sucking their thumb on an ultrasound, and I've seen surgeons operate on babies still in the womb. So don't tell me that five- and six-pound babies have no rights simply because they're not born."
At the National Urban League Conference: "Anyone who thinks that race does not still—even if inadvertently—skew the application of criminal justice, is just not paying close attention. Whether you are a minority because of the color of your skin or by virtue of your political or religious persuasion, it's imperative that we restrain the power of the majority."
At Berkeley: "The Republican Party needs to either evolve, adapt, or die. ... Remember when Domino's finally admitted they had bad crust? Think Republican Party. Admit it: bad crust. We need a different kind of party."