Heavyweight Republicans line up to claim the conservative mantle for 2016
GOP 2016 hopefuls speak at Iowa summit.
Heavyweight Republicans lined up in Iowa on Saturday claiming to be the leader who could retake the White House for conservatives, as the long race to become the party’s nominee for US president in 2016 began in earnest. Appearing at an all-day political beauty contest in front of voters whose caucuses will be the election’s first nominating process next January, big-name Republicans from statehouses and congress explained why they had the vision and public appeal required for nationwide victory. Ted Cruz called on Republican voters to hold presidential candidates accountable for their conservative credentials Saturday in a speech to the party’s grassroots faithful at Rep. Ted Cruz of Texas called on Iowa voters to thoroughly vet the GOP candidates that run for president to make certain they are not peddling a false bill of goods on the campaign trail. But other notables include a pair of former governors, Rick Perry of Texas and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 but lost the nomination.
David Bossie, president of Citizens United, which co-sponsored the Iowa Freedom Summit, introduced Cruz as “America’s change agent” at the daylong conservative gathering — the opening event of the 2016 Iowa presidential campaign. Cruz told Iowans that they need to use their status as the first in the nation to vote on presidential nomination races to force Republican candidates to prove they’re conservatives, not just accept their words that they are. Cruz was one of two dozen GOP speakers and White House contenders flocking to the heartland summit, where they took potshots at Democrats — and each other. Cruz won loud cheers as he challenged would-be rivals to “show me where you stood up and fought” for conservative priorities such as opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, endorsing religious rights and battling President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms. “We need to bring together a coalition of Americans who want to believe again in the miracle of America,” said Cruz, in a sermon-style address that attacked the Internal Revenue Service and condemned the employees of the Environmental Protection Agency as “locusts”.
He spoke of “sending the locusts of the EPA back to Washington” and the needs to abolish the IRS as “the most tax reform we can do.” He reiterated his tongue-in-cheek plan to padlock the IRS and send all 110,000 employees to the U.S. Only Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, hailed for pushing through anti-union legislation and slashing public spending in his Democratic-leaning state, appeared to match Cruz for enthusiasm among voters. Scott Walker — fresh off his re-election — wooed the crowd by firing off a litany of lines that brought activists to their feet during the event hosted by Iowa Rep.
He railed against intrusion into religious liberty by the federal government and back in his hometown of Houston, insisting that “Caesar has no jurisdiction over the pulpit.” Like other potential 2016 candidates, Cruz stroked the Iowa ego, lauding the state’s “unique and special role in the political process” and urging Iowans to take with a grain of salt claims of just how conservative a candidate it. “`Gosh darn it who-diddley, I’m conservative,’” Cruz said, mocking the pandering. “Talk is cheap. Cruz has become a rock star among grassroots conservatives and has been a thorn in the side of both parties, including in 2013 when he led an effort to defund Obamacare that led to partial government shutdown, which many in the GOP said tarnished the party’s image.
If he runs again, Santorum said he wants to put forward a more forward-looking agenda. “Americans feel the division and we’re sick of it,” he said, adding that he wants Republicans to do more than just bash Democrats. Steve King. “We need a president who doesn’t sit in Washington, DC, when world leaders are standing together against terrorism in Paris,” Walker said, blasting President Obama for failing to march after the terror attacks there.
Walker claimed he has received death threats over his union-busting policies and said it “reminded me to focus on why I ran for governor in the first place.” New Jersey Gov. The summit was backed by Citizens United, the conservative activist group that won a liberalisation of campaign finance limits at the US supreme court in 2010. Walker thrust himself into national prominence four years ago, when he used Republican legislative majorities to restrict collective bargaining for most public employees in his state. Perry and Huckabee offered the clearest indications of any speakers that they would soon jump into a contest poised to be more crowded than any in recent memory. “I’ve been thinking a little of 2016,” said Perry. On why he recently left his show on Fox News, Huckabee said: “I’ll leave it to your imagination, but it wasn’t just so I could go deer hunting every Saturday”.
Cruz said that when his father Rafael, now a pastor, was invited to Bible study by a friend, “he gave his life to Jesus,” and returned to his wife and son. Sarah Palin, a 2008 vice presidential nominee, delivered a meandering speech that covered a controversy involving her son stepping on the family dog and Islamic terrorists. But their comments were only the most blatant overtures among a series of thinly-veiled pitches for the party’s nomination to take on a Democrat for the job of commander-in-chief in November.
Wearing a tie, but with no suit coat and sleeves rolled up, Walker thanked Iowans for the financial and spiritual support they offered during his recall election fight. “In those darkest of times, we needed it,” said Walker, who also noted that he had spent part of his childhood in Plainfield, Iowa. She also condemned Hillary Clinton, who will likely be a Democratic contender. “Hey Iowa, can anyone stop Hillary?” Palin said. “Let’s borrow a phrase, ‘Yes we can.’ It starts here and it starts now.” Donald Trump laced into most of the GOP field. Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, is considered the likely Democratic frontrunner. “The next two years are about hope and revival, and a vision to restore America’s place in the world.” To whoops and applause, Perry added: “America is looking for a new path forward and starting today, right here in Iowa, lets give it to ‘em”. During the union battle, Walker told the audience that he and his family received repeated threats, including one that said the person wanted to “gut my wife like a deer.” The experience, he said, convinced him that politicians can survive, even if they take controversial stands. In remarks to reporters, Trump skewered 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who was not scheduled to appear. “You don’t want to give a choker a second chance,” he said.
Christie, viewed by many as the most moderate would-be candidate in attendance, reeled off impressive statistics from his re-election victory in New Jersey last year as he received a predictably lukewarm response from the conservative-leaning audience. “The next century does not have to be a Chinese century,” said Christie. “It can be an American century”. With a 2014 re-election campaign of his own back in Wisconsin, Walker has spent far less time in Iowa than most of his fellow Republicans at the summit. Making the case for himself as a conservative in another Democrat-heavy state, Christie told the crowd: “If our conservatism is really going to succeed, it is going to have to defend itself in every part of our country”. He promised to make up that gap in the coming months. “I’m going to come back many more times in the future,” he pledged, saying he could bring leadership that is “new and fresh and bold and aggressive.” Most of those speaking to the group are social conservatives, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie being a notable exception.
Two more moderate potential candidates–former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney–skipped the event, as did Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, former governors of Massachusetts and Florida, were the only major candidates viewed as likely to compete for the nomination who did not appear at Saturday’s rally.
Romney was dismissed by Donald Trump, the television personality and real estate magnate, as a “choker” who had had his turn while Bush’s support for the controversial Common Core educational standards was attacked by others. In his remarks, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson mostly stuck to a speech similar to one he delivered in November to another large group of Iowa social conservatives. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, meeting with reporters before the event, sought to remind voters of King’s controversial statements on immigration, including his calling an undocumented immigrant who sat with First Lady Michelle Obama during this week’s State of the Union address “a deportable.” King is one of his party’s strongest opponents of immigration reform. “This opening act is a ring-kissing summit, an extremist ring-kissing summit, masquerading as a political forum,” Wasserman Schultz said in a community center across from the event. “That really sends a signal to all voters and all Americans.” The summit will also feature appearances from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former Texas Governor Rick Perry. However several continued to lament the country’s $18 trillion national debt, with Perry arguing that the US needed “major economic and fiscal reforms”.
Boasting of the large proportion of new jobs that Texas had contributed to the national total under his governorship, he said: “I happen to know something about this.”
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