Nineteen GOP presidential hopefuls descended on the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua, N.H., this weekend to attend the inaugural state Republican Leadership Summit, an event previewing the first 2016 primary on Jan. 26 in the Granite State. 600 Republicans were in attendance over the two day conference, which started on Friday and featured 30 minute speeches and Q&A sessions with the candidates.
Here are some highlights from nationally known candidates, both in conference speeches and on the early New Hampshire campaign trail:
John Kasich, Governor of Ohio: Gave “warm-up” speech to Marco Rubio’s prime dinner-time slot on Friday; emphasized ability to promote bi-partisanship and spread message of unity (won by large majority in 2014 re-election bid in “the swingiest” of states).
Marco Rubio: Standard stump speech pitching “next-gen” leadership with a vision for the future; made it clear that he will have an aggressive foreign policy as president (no negotiations with Iran); said risk of terrorist attack on American soil, “is real”.
Scott Walker (leads New Hampshire polls): Saturday night keynote address; conveyed hawkish foreign policy by suggesting to “bring the fight to (ISIS)”; touted record as Wisconsin governor (budget surplus, tort reform, new concealed-carry law, “right to work” law); called for tax reform, cutting federal regulations, and a ‘no-holds-barred’ American energy policy.
Jeb Bush (second in New Hampshire polls, leads nationally): Speech gave the impression of a ‘policy wonk’ and a non-ideological problem-solver; emphasized growing wealth opportunities for the lower and middle class; said he opposes gay marriage for religious reasons; denied that he has the support of the party establishment, (“We’ve got 95 people running for president — I’m really (not) intimidating a whole lot of folks.”)
Rand Paul: Addressed controversy with women in the media by saying that they are, “kicking butt”, and that we don’t need a female president to prove it; accused Republicans of being too hawkish, but supports ground troops to fight ISIS; father Ron Paul historically popular in libertarian-leaning state.
Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas: Said he survived “Clinton machine”, and will announce run on May 5th in Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hope, AR., (“I know the Clinton’s all too well.”); before attending the conference, he went to a target-range to show his support for gun owner’s rights; openly courting working-class Republicans by emphasizing cultural/socially conservative issues
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard: Said Hillary Clinton lacks integrity and that she, “must not be President of the United States.”; emphasized her own business/problem-solving skills
Chris Christie: Made headlines earlier in the week by proposing to cut social security and disability benefits, and continued the theme of entitlement reform in his conference speech when he said, “If they’re not going to do something to fix that problem, we’re not going to be able to fix any other problems.”
Ted Cruz: Hawkish on ISIS, promising that “we will destroy them.”; doesn’t believe in alternative (peaceful) solutions to conflict in the Middle East, such as poverty reduction and education; visited a hunting club on Sunday to show his support for the Second Amendment and the constitution in general, (…”common sense principles this country was built on…like live within your means, don’t bankrupt our kids…follow the Constitution…it is only in Washington, D.C., that those are viewed as radical and extreme ideas.”)
So the field is off to a semi-official start for 2016 and it seems like there isn’t much disagreement in the ranks so far. It’ll be a lot more entertaining when they all get on the debate-stage next fall though (most of them should still be around then). We can only hope that the Democratic field fills up with half as many candidates/laughs as the Republicans will provide. No one will want to see a two hour debate between Hillary Clinton and Lincoln Chafee of course. If the Democrats can’t find more candidates, it’ll be a Republican land-slide come November 8th, 2106.
[Washington Post] [AP] [WMUR-ABC] [Photo courtesy Brian Snyder/Reuters]