AMES, Iowa — The lineup of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates courting Iowa conservatives Saturday agreed on two things: America is on the wrong track and they could move it in the right direction.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and past caucus winners Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee addressed more than 1,000 evangelical voters at the Family Leadership Summit. Though the state’s caucuses are more than a year away, all wanted to impress Christian conservative voters, who traditionally influence the caucuses because they tend to be organized and motivated to participate.
Cruz, a tea party darling, repeatedly drew listeners to their feet with a fiery speech.
“We need to stand unambiguously for the commonsense conservative principles shared by the vast majority of Americans,” Cruz said as he criticized the national health care law, national education standards and other initiatives disliked by many conservatives.
“We need to stand for life,” he said. “We need to stand for marriage. We need to abolish the IRS. We need to repeal Obamacare. We need to repeal Common Core.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recently led an effort to install new leadership in the state party and to bring more traditional Republicans into the fold, in hopes of making the state more attractive to mainstream candidates.
Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and the last to speak, focused on foreign policy, accusing the administration of not supporting Israel and arguing that the United States should provide arms to Iraq’s Kurds.
The crowd responded warmly to Perry when he repeated his criticism of Obama’s response to the recent flood of unaccompanied child immigrants that has overwhelmed authorities in Texas. He drew a standing ovation for repeating his credo: “If you will not secure the border of our country, then the state of Texas will.”
Meanwhile, Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, took a different approach, telling the crowd that the Republican Party needs to better appeal to working-class voters, calling it the “party of the average person.”