Gov. Terry Branstad welcomed the potential presidential candidates to Iowa and declared the 2016 first-in-the-nation Iowa precinct caucus season underway. While Democrats appear to be trying to clear the field for their chosen candidate, Republicans “are prepared to assess a strong field of candidates who are poised to take American back in the right direction.”
“My advice to all the candidates is this: Share your vision and goals for a renewed America that restores freedom. Offer these solutions and travel to all 99 counties.”
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, accused President Barack Obama of repeatedly violating the federal Constitution with Medicaid expansion, EPA emission standards, and recess appointments and plans to conduct a thorough vetting of the new U.S. attorney general appointee and pass a balanced budget amendment as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He told the crowd “it's so obvious we need a new president” and as judiciary chair he would be fighting with Iowans and for Iowans. “Nothing less than the Constitution is at stake in the 2016 election.”
David Bossie, president of Citizens United, said the forum provide “a chance to hear from America's great conservative leaders … who believe our best days are yet to come.” He railed on Obama's “daily assault” on the family, free markets and national defense. It's the duty of “patriotic Americans and conservative activists” to pass on liberty to future generations.
“Let's not let freedom begin a memory. We must fight for it. We must fight for it. We must re-establish and re-commit to our traditional values: Faith, family and freedom.”
Iowa 1st District U.S. Rep. Rod Blum talked about winning in the most Democratic district in Iowa because he listened to “we the people” who said they were tired of business as usual and not getting the same representation in Congress as special interests.
“My message to these wonderful presidential candidates that we have … (is) It's not complicated. Listen to 'we the people.'”
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U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called for a comprehensive plan to address terrorism and other threats to the U.S.; reform of the tax code by closing loopholes without raising taxes as Obama has proposed; cut wasteful spending and balance the federal budget. She also urged Iowans to look ahead to 2016 to re-election Sen. Chuck Grassley to “keep Iowa red” and take back the White House.
“This energy is a tell-tale sign of great things to come. It led to a great victory in 2014. But we can't stop there. We've got to take this enthusiasm and continue moving forward. We have the momentum and we have to use it.”
Overview: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he won three elections in the last four years (including a recall challenge) because he has championed pro-life legislation, enacted policies to reward hard work, enacted “big and bold” tax cuts, bolstered gun rights, promoted school choice and required photo identification to vote. He also “said no” to Obamacare in promoting the Wisconsin way, not the Washington way.
Quote: “If conservative reforms work in a blue state like Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in the country.”
Overview: Business executive Carly Fiorina says there is a “deep disquiet” among Americans who fear the nation is losing its sense of limitless opportunity. The nation's wounds, she said, are self-inflicted and can be solved but it will require citizenship and leadership and it will require the reform of government and politics. The chairman of the Christian-based organization Opportunity International She touted her business experience and her pro-life advocacy while criticizing the hypocrisy of liberals who tout infrastructure investments but oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and cheer for Obamacare but ignore Americans who lose their coverage or have coverage that is worse than what they once had.
Quote: “Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.”Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who said he is not running for president, called for conservatives to vet the candidates and find a conservative who can attract moderates and build coalitions that make it possible to win elections and to win policy battles after the election.
“If conservatives don't produce and support a candidate who is … principled, positive and proven, then we will no right to complain about whoever Washington establishment chooses to nominate instead because it won't be their fault. It will be ours.”
Overview: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum challenged Republicans to do more to bolster families by removing government barriers and standing strong with American workers who feel the American dream slipping away by bringing manufacturing jobs back to America and eliminating corporate welfare. He said he favors legal immigration, but the policy must not hurt American workers. He also reminisced about his victorious 2012 Iowa caucus exploits and said Hoyt Sherman was the venue that launched his sweater vest look.
Quote: “We need less Common Core and more common sense.”
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Overview: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called on Iowans, who play a “special and unique role in the political process,” to join him in reassembling the Reagan collation of conservatives and libertarians, evangelicals, women and “all Americans who want to believe again in the miracle of America.”
Quote: “The answer, the reason I am hopeful, the reason I am optimistic is because of each and every one of you. The answer is the grass roots, the American people. The answer will not come from Washington. It will only come from the American people.”
Overview: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP's vice presidential candidate in 2008, who says she is “seriously interested” in running in 2016, provided comic relief with jabs at the president, Michael Moore and animal rights activists. She told Iowans to “screw the left and Hollywood who can't see what we see in Chris Kyle,” the subject of the film “American Sniper.”
Quote: “We all must be willing to sacrifice ... and fight ... now more than ever. Together, dreaming that, living it, working for it, we can make sure that the (American) dream lives and that we know our best days are still ahead.”
Overview: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said conservatives have to offer an alternative to the mediocrity and decline of the last six years by unleashing a pro-growth agenda with tax reform, fiscal sanity, energy policy and a revamp of the bureaucracy that is strangling business. He said the time has come to usher in a new era of prosperity. Perry, whose speech was interrupted by protesters with “Deportables?” signs, also said if Washington won't secure the U.S. border, Texas will. He noted he spent time in Iowa last year campaigning for Republicans Terry Branstad, Joni Ernst and Rod Blum, and he referred to host Steve King as “brother.”
Quote: “It is the people who have the power to make a great change, and that's exactly what we did at the ballot box last November. We said enough.”
Overview: Gov. Chris Christie challenged the conventional wisdom that a New Jersey conservative will be unable to connect with Iowa conservatives. If he's too loud and “too New Jersey” for Iowans, he asked, why does he keep getting invited to come to Iowa? And, Christie said, if his conservative values weren't consistent with Iowans' he wouldn't keep coming back.
Quote: “I am here today because I do not believe that any of the patriots in this room want to be a part of the generation that turns over to our children a lesser, smaller America than the one that was given to us. It is time for us to stand up and fight together for the country we were given, the country we believe in, for the country the world needs and the country I want my children and your children to have.”
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Overview: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in giving the wrap-up speech, told the dwindling summit crowd, “I'll leave it to your imagination” why he left Fox News as a commentator three weeks ago. He said conservatives should not spend the next two years beating each other up. Huckabee, the 2008 winner of the Iowa caucuses, said the country can't build a strong economy by punishing productivity and rewarding irresponsibility.
Quote: “Washington, D.C., has become the roach motel — people go in, they never come out.”