Iowa Freedom Summit exposes strength of GOP’s 2016 field

Iowa Freedom Summit

Raging heat, outside events for the candidates, and even a couple of staged protests couldn’t prevent an otherwise perfect Iowa Freedom Summit.

More than 20 speakers participated in the event that spanned more than nine hours long and was broadcast live on C-SPAN. To see an archived video, click here. This article, however, will focus only on those who are likely presidential candidates.

Dr. Ben Carson had the attention of the national media, which leaned in from its position at the front of the balcony level to hear his every word. His speech contained a level of energy that may have surprised those who have grown accustomed to the former neurosurgeon’s soft-spoken demeanor.

“We have to have courage in this country again. We cannot allow the progressives to shut us up through political correctness … if they want to act like third graders and call us names, let ’em.”

Billionaire real estate and construction mogul Donald Trump took no prisoners in his speech, which was the most fiery yet from the 2012 almost-candidate. Calling ObamaCare a “filthy lie,” he chided the Republican Party for its lack of opposition to President Obama.

“I’m a conservative, very conservative, and I’m a Republican,” he said. “But, I’m very disappointed with our Republicans in Washington, because they’re letting the president get away with murder.”

He said that if he runs and wins, he would work to secure the southern U.S. border, and would enact a foreign policy that confronts the nuclear ambitions of other countries, like Iran. As for the economy, he said rather than cutting spending, he would prefer to improve the economy to the point where the U.S. could afford its obligations to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Trump also took some swipes at the mainstream media’s choice for the GOP nomination.

“It can’t be Mitt, because he ran and failed … he choked,” he said. “In the last month, he couldn’t get it done. You can’t give people like that another chance.”

With regard to “a third Bush” – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – running for the presidency, Trump said “the last thing America needs” is another Bush.

“He’s totally in favor of Common Core, it’s a disaster,” he said. “He’s very weak on immigration. His brother really brought us Obama … even Lincoln coming back from the dead couldn’t have won that election, things were so bad.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker focused much of his speech on efforts by liberals in his state to harass and otherwise coerce him to abandon his principles. He also touted his record, both as Governor of Wisconsin and as Milwaukee County Executive, a position unfamiliar to almost all Iowans.

His overriding theme was that conservatives needed to stop just giving lip service to conservative core principles, stating “actions speak louder than words.” He also championed a vision of America in which Americans are no longer dependent upon the country.

“We take a day off from work to celebrate July 4th, not April 15th, because we celebrate our freedom from government, not our dependence on it,” he said.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum returned the location that had made his sweater vest an electoral cultural icon in 2012, and received a warm response from Iowa Republicans, many of whom likely voted for him in the 2012 Iowa Caucus. He jokingly referenced the intrigue that surrounded his victory, saying, “Iowans made a good choice in 2012 – once they got around to it.”

He shared his vision for the American economy, and addressed foreign policy and illegal immigration. But much of his speech focused on his record on social issues, particularly the sanctity of life.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) received, arguably, the best response from the audience – which swelled in the moments leading up to the speech, and receded shortly thereafter – and certainly the loudest ovations both before and after he spoke. His speech matched the energy of the room.

“Today is the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s passing,” he said. “He stood as a lion in winter … 50 years later, we are facing threats every bit as ominous. We need the clarity of thought, voice, and action Churchill provided.”

Cruz went on to note that one of President Obama’s first actions upon moving into the White House was to have Churchill’s bust returned to the United Kingdom. He then noted America was “built on an extraordinary miracle,” and laid out his vision for turning the country around.

It includes “repealing every word” of ObamaCare – the Affordable Care Act – and abolishing the IRS. He said he supported the Flat Tax as an alternative to the current graduated “progressive” income tax, which seems to conflict with a statement he made just a week ago at the South Carolina Tea Party Convention.

His communications director, Catherine Frazier, said the senator believes the Fair Tax is the ideal policy, but thinks the Flat Tax is “more achievable” in the short-term, while still allowing for the elimination of the IRS.

“He wants to implement a simple flax tax so we can shut down and abolish the IRS,” she said. “Once in place he wants to continue to work towards a fair tax. A consumption tax makes more sense than a productivity tax.”

Cruz also said the U.S. needs to take a tougher stand in its war against global Islamic jihad. Referencing Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he never uttered the phrase, Cruz said, “You cannot win a war against radical Islamic terrorism if you’re unwilling to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’”

The award for longest speech of the day goes to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose speech clocked in at more than 34 minutes long. She took to the stage and left to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” which includes the phrase “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate.”

That was, in a nutshell, the gist of her speech. The mainstream media and the liberals in Washington don’t much like her, and she doesn’t much care. She laced her speech with a number of Iowa anecdotes, including the first time she met “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, and the family’s newest member, a dog she obtained from the Puppy Jake Foundation.

She briefly delved into foreign policy, at one point suggesting the military’s role in the war against global Islamic jihad was to say, “Uh, uh … get the hell out.” She also tackled education and social issues, saying it’s not government’s place to tell families what to do, and throwing in a barb at current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

“It’s going to take more than a village to defeat Hillary.”

During speeches given by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a group of illegal aliens, called DREAMers, attempted to cause a disruption in the event. The group had been sitting in the auditorium for at least an hour prior to their outbursts, and had been protesting outside the event when attendees first arrived in the morning.

Perry shouted over the demonstrators, while members of the audience cheered loudly to drown them out. For those in attendance, it was a strong demonstration of power and energy from a candidate who had been hampered by a lack of both during his 2012 presidential campaign.

Christie diverted briefly from his prepared remarks to say simply, “Don’t they know I’m from New Jersey?”

Perry touted his record, which he said demonstrated substantial success, during his time as Governor of Texas. He then differentiated them from the status quo, which he said Americans utterly rejected in last November’s General Election.

“The American people made a clean break from the economic policies that have weakened us at home,” he said, “and, I might add, the foreign policies that have weakened our prestige abroad.”

Christie used much of his speech to talk about his upbringing and background, and to take an unapologetic stance on his past dealings as New Jersey’s chief executive. He also used the opportunity to repeatedly state his a pro-life candidate who believes “life begins when it bestowed upon a person by God.”

Mike Huckabee closed out the event – at his own request because he feared he may not be able to attend when he originally committed – with his usual folksy charm, but not without a few barbs for the Obama Administration.

Unfortunately, nearly half of the audience had left by the time he gave his speech. With the event already running nearly 20 minutes beyond its scheduled ending when he took the stage, he took the opportunity throw in an impromptu joke about the situation.

“They that endure to the end shall be saved,” he said. “So, it’s great to be talking to a room full of saints.”

Initially, it sounded like he was laying the groundwork for a “play nice” campaign, which while admirable, is unlikely to win in a deep field with more than one solid conservative. He did, however, attack the Obama Administration for its foreign policy, and for the President’s statement about “climate change” being the biggest threat facing the U.S. during his State of the Union Address.

The former Arkansas Governor and former FOX News host also demanded a complete repeal of the Internal Revenue Code, elimination of the IRS, and implementation of the Fair Tax in the U.S. He also took the time to assert that he is not a supporter of Common Core.

“Education needs to be determined at the local level,” he said. “And by local level, I mean Mom and Dad.”