How 2016 GOP Hopefuls Fared at First-in-the-Nation Auditions
The Republican presidential hopefuls -- declared and undeclared -- descended on New Hampshire this past weekend for the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit.
But what issue was first on the agendas of those eyeing a shot at the Oval Office?
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tried to varnish the family name for a new campaign. "We're not always like our brother or sister or mom and dad. We all have our own unique DNA and our own life experiences," he said, telling a bit of his life story including the love-at-first-sight meeting with his wife at age 17 in Leon, Mexico.
His address focused largely on his tenure as governor. "My set of values believes that the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line, not in the back of the line. And Republicans, I think, do better when we show our consciousness to do the exact same, whether -- whether it's the developmentally disabled, or a child welfare system, or the people that are struggling, we should give them our attention and help and reform the systems to make sure that they have a better chance to rise up," Bush said.
The first question he fielded from the audience, though, was a concern about the establishment continuing the Bush dynasty. "I don't want a coronation on our side by any stretch of the imagination," the New Hampshire resident said.
"I don't see any coronation coming my way, trust me," Bush quipped. "Come on, what have you seen that I'm not seeing? I've got 95 people possibly running for president."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie latched onto the third rail. "If anybody comes up on this stage and wants to talk to you about national defense, wants to talk to you about education, research and development, tax cuts, or anything else involving the federal government, you should ask them what they're gonna do on entitlements, because if they're not gonna do something to fix that problem, we're not going to be able to deal with any of the other problems or opportunities that we have in this country," he said.
Yet one of the first questions he fielded was about immigration.
"One of the most important things you have to do is to protect the sovereignty and the security of the country," Christie said, though he's "not somebody who's for building a wall from one end to the other."
"...I'm not someone who believes that for the people who are here already, that they're going to self-deport. Not something that I think is going to happen. And the fact is, for our society, we don't have enough law enforcement people to round up 10 million or 12 million people -- whatever number you want to use. So we'd better get together as a party first, and then as a country and decide how we deal with these problems in a way that makes sense."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who was the first to declare his candidacy, talked about abolishing the IRS and putting the agency's 90,000 employees on border patrol.
"Now, to our friends in the media, I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But think about it for a second. Imagine you had traveled thousands of miles through the blazing sun. You swim across the Rio Grande. The first thing you see is 90,000 IRS agents. You'd turn around and go home, too," Cruz quipped.
He predicted the next 20 months will be like Lord of the Flies, but after repeating much of his campaign kickoff speech -- "imagine" a president who... -- Cruz's Q&A was cut short by a scheduled wedding in the hall.
Cruz did have time to explain why he'll be voting against Loretta Lynch once a vote on the attorney general nominee comes to the floor. "I asked over and over again, number one, if she would support the president's illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty," he said. "She said absolutely yes."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mixed serious and silly, cracking jokes throughout his speech, such as: "Don't let anybody buy the Republican primary. If it weren't for Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, you could. I do bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, weddings, funerals. Call me, I'll come."
"If you're looking for something new," he advised, don't look to Hillary. "Look to the 35 people running for president on the Republican side. And just shoot up among us until you get one of us out of the tree. And whoever that person is, I'm gonna be behind them."
Graham did take time to cover his signature issue in Congress: the war on terror. "You know how it ends? We win, they lose. That's how it ends," he said. "We're gonna beat these bastards and they're never coming here again. And I've never been more worried than I am right now about them coming here again. And if we don't do something, they're coming here again."