Walker, Cruz, and Christie: Prepping for Presidential Bid in Iowa?

Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Darren Hauck/Getty Images

The Iowa Freedom Summit, put on by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Citizens United, was held Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. The biggest names in the Republican party came together to speak, and, quite frankly, start assessing support for potential 2016 presidential runs. So what did we learn from the summit that might affect 2016?

Scott Walker woos Iowans

Is Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) looking like a front-runner for the 2016 presidential bid? “Strolling back and forth on the stage with his sleeves rolled up, Mr. Walker cast himself as a conservative warrior,” the Washington Times wrote. Walker took the stage on Saturday with a passionate speech, touting his successful elections and policies he’d helped pass that stirred applause from conservative attendees, citing voter ID laws, education reforms, tax cuts, and defunding Planned Parenthood. Of the potential candidates, “Walker did the most to help himself politically, elevating his stature as a candidate who might achieve the elusive synthesis of pleasing the party base while also attracting a general election audience,” according to a piece from Slate.

“Scott Walker has something going on in Iowa,” Craig Robinson, a former Republican Party operative who now runs the Iowa GOP website, said to the Washington Times. “I am not saying that one good speech makes an Iowa front-runner, but I will say that what we saw from Scott Walker was a candidate that can do extremely well not just in Iowa, but against the entire field. This is the advantage of having a strong record.”

…And so does Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also came out fighting at the Iowa Freedom Summit, calling for accountability and action. “Talk is cheap,” he said. “If you say you will stand up to the Washington establishment, to the career politicians of both parties, who have gotten us into this mess, show me where you’ve stood up and fought.”

Cruz embraced talk of religion in his speech, which was welcome to the conservative audience. He shared the story of his father abandoning him and his mother before being saved by an invitation to Bible study from a friend, which turned his life around and sent the now-pastor back to his family. He also told an anecdote about starting to organize an emergency prayer summit in Houston, only to find out that the pastor he contacted had one planned for the same day. According to Politico, Cruz’s speech, which also touched on abortion, marriage, career politicians, Common Core, and the Middle East, played well with the crowd.

Christie talks cooperation

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) is no stranger to Iowa — he’s been spending a lot of time in the state over the past year. That said, when he took the stage at the summit, it was still uncertain if his politics would jive with the very conservative-leaning group assembled.

Christie’s main message was that voters would know where they stand with him — he’d be honest about his policies even if people wouldn’t always agree with him. “In a trusting relationship, you need to tell people what you really believe and what you’re thinking,” he said, via Time. “You’ll always know who I am, you’ll always know what I believe, and you’ll always know where I stand.”

Christie’s theme of finding common ground continued into his comments that touched on the wealth gap in the country. “We need a coalition that covers all parts of the country, all ethnicities, a coalition that is comprised at its core of our proud, yet underserved and underrepresented working class in this nation,” he said. “The rich are doing fine, that’s great. We don’t demonize the wealthy like so many folks in the Democratic Party, but nor should we cater to the wealthy at the expense of our middle-income workers and the working poor who are the backbone of every American community.”

Republicans tip-toe around same-sex marriage

One of the biggest political stories of the past few weeks — that same-sex marriage will be considered for legalization by the Supreme Court — remained noticeably absent from the many speeches at the summit. The Huffington Post reports that the “first and only mention of gay marriage came near the end of the event, when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the host of the summit, introduced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by noting that he vetoed a bill legalizing gay marriage.”

According to the Huffington Post, Republican officials suggested that the Supreme Court overturning all the states’ gay marriage bans could light a fire under conservatives and result in bolstered support going into the 2016 presidential election. “It might have an effect of pouring more energy into our base,” Iowa GOP party chair Jeff Kaufmann told The Huffington Post. He said that Republicans would  most likely seek judicial reform “in terms of amending the Constitution.”

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