The Iowa Freedom Summit, an event sponsored by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, was held today in Des Moines. Most every 2016 GOP contender, aside from Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul, were in attendance and delivered what can essentially be called an opening statement for their candidacy. Here is a rundown of each candidate and a link to video of their full speech.


Sarah PalinVideo (40 mins)

She offered a loosely organized speech that included well-received broadsides against the “left in Hollywood,” the media, radical Islam, Obama’s policies and Hillary Clinton. “It’s going to take more than a village to beat Hillary,” she said, to cheers. “I’m ready for Hillary. Are you coming?”

Fueling speculation of her own possible bid, Palin said GOP should leave room for a female candidate in the primaries in order to end the “no girls allowed” view of the White House.

Ted CruzVideo (28 mins)

Cruz peppered his speech with applause lines, and the hundreds of conservative activists packing a historic theater in the state capital lapped it up.

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.-Mexico border to scare off illegal immigrants. 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.”

At each one-liner, the audience burst into applause.

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. The Word tells us you shall know them by their fruit.”

Chris ChristieVideo (28 mins)

Christie has spent years trying to reach across the aisle in preparation for a presidential run, but has been dogged by questions whether he could win over the party’s base.

“I have heard and read all the conventional wisdom that somehow a guy from New Jersey would not be welcomed or understood at the Iowa Freedom Summit—that somehow I’m too loud, I’m too blunt, and I’m too direct,” Christie said, as the crowd chuckled. “The conventional wisdom from Washington, DC that says we aren’t friends…They’re wrong again today.”

King used his introduction to boost Christie’s conservative credentials. “He vetoed the gay marriage bill in New jersey,” he said. “He is pro-life.” Christie has since declared gay marriage a “settled” issue in his state after the State Supreme Court declined to stop same-sex unions in 2013.

Speaking calmly and slowly, Christie was self-effacing about “the blunt New Jersey stuff,” using it to introduce himself to Iowa voters with the story of his childhood.

Rick SantorumVideo – (30 mins)

Santorum said that Republicans have to move beyond criticizing Obama if they want to expand the party’s appeal. “Look for that message that can bring us together,” Santorum said, “Because as good as it feels to hear the bad stuff, as good as it feels to beat up on the other side for what they’ve done to this country—and it’s been substantial—that pointing the finger and blaming somebody doesn’t win us the arguments.”

Rick PerryVideo (23 mins)

He boasted that he signed seven balanced state budgets in Texas and created the best economic climate in the country. He said Texas has adopted “smart regulations,” improved its educational system and “stopped frivolous lawsuits at the courthouse.”

But Republicans can’t simply criticize Democrats. They need to offer a positive agenda and a vision, he said

“The time has come to usher in a new era of reform and American revival,” Perry said.

Several political activists stood in the balcony at Hoyt Sherman Place and tried to interrupt Perry as he spoke about his tough stance on immigration enforcement on the Texas-Mexico border.

Scott WalkerVideo (28 mins)

“We weren’t afraid to go big and go bold,” Walker told some 1,200 people at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

“Maybe that’s why I won the race for governor three times in the last four years. Three times, mind you, in a state that hasn’t gone Republican for president since I was in high school more than 30 years ago… If you’re not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results. You can applaud for that. And if you get the job done, the voters will actually stand up with you.”

And applaud they did. Walker — one of several potential presidential candidates who spoke Saturday — received hearty responses as he talked about putting restrictions on abortion, approving a voter ID law, giving people the right to carry concealed weapons and tightly limiting collective bargaining for public workers.

Ben CarsonVideo (28 mins)

Speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit, Mr. Carson said strengthening the nation’s borders should be a top priority for the next president.

“Whoever wins in 2016, I’m pretty sure it is going to be a Republican,” Mr. Carson said. “I think they should make it their goal to seal that border within year.”

Mr. Carson’s said his “common sense” approach to the problem includes a revamped guest worker program for immigrants as long as they take jobs that American citizens won’t fill.

Under the plan, he said the illegal immigrants living here already would have leave the country before they could apply for a work visa.

Carly FiorinaVideo (26 mins)

With a calm tone and polished delivery, Fiorina introduced herself to Iowans as a business-savvy outsider, the kind capable of creating real change in government.

“Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” Fiorina said. “But unlike her, I’ve actually accomplished something.”

That line prompted applause, hoots and hollers.

Fiorina also touted her international business experience to help position herself as one familiar with America’s allies and enemies.

“And unlike Hillary Clinton, I know what difference it makes that our American ambassador and three other brave Americans were killed in a deliberate terrorist attack,” she said, alluding to the 2012 attack at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The line brought a standing ovation from attendees, halting her mid-speech.

Mike HuckabeeVideo (33 mins)

“Not to diminish anything about the climate at all, but Mr. President, I believe most of us would think that a beheading is a far greater threat than a sunburn,” he said, echoing criticism the president took last year for not taking seriously enough the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) amid the beheadings of journalists.
Huckabee is exploring another run for president, recently ending his eponymous Fox News show to do so. That anticipated time conflict was one reason the former governor was given the final slot of the evening, so he could have made it from New York City to speak to the conservative gathering.

Instead, the audience that had been there since early morning had thinned out and was much more muted, something the former Baptist preacher even joked about.

“They that endure to the end shall be saved,” he said, referencing scripture.

He bemoaned Democrats assailing the GOP about income inequality, blaming over-burdensome regulations and government overreach for stunting economic growth.

“Sometimes I think the greatest challenge we face economically is intelligence inequality,” Huckabee said to laughs. “We will never be able to build a strong economy when we punish productivity.”

I included Palin and Fiorina in the list since they’ve both indicated they may have interest in a 2016 run. I’ve heard Fiorina say that several times now so it wouldn’t shock me if she launches a campaign. As for Palin, I doubt she will launch a 2016 presidential campaign but it never hurts to float the idea for the sake of publicity (See: Donald Trump).

Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Mitt Romney were not in attendance at this event though they were invited.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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