AMES, Iowa--Barack Obama won't be on the ballot in 2016. But he was the focus of the strongest criticism from five potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.
The candidates spoke before more than 1,000 people at the Family Leadership Summit 2014 at Stephens Auditorium in Ames.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the 2012 Iowa Caucus winner, encouraged Republicans to reach out not just to business owners, which he said make up just 10% of American adults. Santorum said Republicans won't win in 2016 if they don't better connect with the middle class. And he said they won't control the senate in 2016 if they don't win first in 2014.
He criticized President Obama's leadership and said, "There really isn't much this president hasn't had a negative effect on."
Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal ripped on the federal government's Common Core standards for schools and pointed out his lawsuit to stop his state from being forced to adhere to the requirements.
Jindal also told the crowd he struggles figuring out which way is best to describe how bad the Obama administration has been. He said, "Is this most ideologically extreme or the most incompetent? The best answer is what Secretary Clinton said, 'what difference does it make?'"
Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz drew, perhaps, the longest, strongest ovation from the crowd. He joked about having a pork chop-on-a-stick earlier at the Iowa State Fair and compared that to Russian President Vladimir Putin's diet, which is to "have Obama for lunch."
That drew laughs. But the ovation came when Cruz came after a popular (or unpopular) Republican target and added it to a list of things that need change in Washington. Cruz said, "We need to repeal Obamacare. We need to repeal Common Core. We need to bring back jobs, growth, opportunity and defend the constitution."
The crowd roared to its feet with approval.
Fellow Texan, Governor Rick Perry, stressed the importance of faith and religion. He also pointed out how he warned the president several years ago that illegal immigrants would eventually flood across the U.S. border.
Perry repeated the main thrust of his message he used in Iowa last month when new piqued of tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant children getting dropped off at the border. Perry said, "The message to Washington, the message to the president of the United States is if you will not secure the border of our country, then the state of Texas will."
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa Caucus winner, focused much of his attacks on the fighting in the Middle East. He said the lackluster U.S. response so far is because, "We haven't seen enough dead Jews."
Huckabee said the president has failed to appropriately back Israel enough against the attacks from the militant group, Hamas. Huckabee said, "Somehow the best our government has is create some ridiculous, irrational, insane view of moral equivalency and symmetry when, my friend, there is a difference between the good and the bad, the light and the dark and our government seems not to know the difference."
Progress Iowa Executive Director Matt Sinovic issued this statement in response to the criticism at the event.
"Iowa values were nowhere to be found today at the Family Leadership Summit, hosted by Bob Vander Plaats and a number of extreme right-wing groups. One speaker after another pandered to Vander Plaats, calling for our borders to be closed, our health care to be taken away, and for freedoms to be taken away from anyone whose lifestyle they disagree with."