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Republican presidential hopefuls test waters at GOP event

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas photo bombs Gordon MacDonald, a Manchester lawyer, at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas photo bombs Gordon MacDonald, a Manchester lawyer, at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Summit featured speakers including former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky does a radio interview as media and spectators watched at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky does a radio interview as media and spectators watched at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Summit featured speakers including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Former House speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including US Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Former House speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Summit featured speakers including US Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Laura Ingraham, host of the Laura Ingraham Show, comes out from backstage at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Laura Ingraham, host of the Laura Ingraham Show, comes out from backstage at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Summit featured speakers including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

    Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee

    ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas photo bombs Gordon MacDonald, a Manchester lawyer, at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky does a radio interview as media and spectators watched at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Former House speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including US Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Laura Ingraham, host of the Laura Ingraham Show, comes out from backstage at the Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United Freedom Summit in Manchester on Saturday, April 12, 2014.  The Summit featured speakers including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Donald Trump.<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff
  • Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee<br/><br/>ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff

Several possible Republican presidential candidates tested their messages before hundreds of voters in Manchester yesterday, each bringing his own flavor to the day’s theme of expanding personal freedoms.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas crafted a narrative around his family and promised to continue his quest to repeal Obamacare. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a 2008 presidential contender, said America today is a place that continually limits people’s freedoms. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky talked about expanding the party’s base by tackling issues such as the war on drugs. Both Cruz and Paul also focused heavily on spying by the National Security Administration, which they said violates the fundamental protections of privacy in the Fourth Amendment.

“Please leave your cell phones on, I want to make sure President Obama hears everything I have to say,” Cruz joked.

The three addressed a crowd of roughly 700 people at the Freedom Summit, an event held by Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United. In addition to the three potential candidates, the event featured speeches from leading conservative voices and members of Congress as well as

former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich and business magnate Donald Trump. Throughout the day, speakers railed against policies from Obamacare to the Common Core educational standards and “incompetence” by Democrats who favor expanding the federal bureaucracy.

Paul, Cruz and Huckabee, who will all be courting the votes of these activists if they choose to run here, made sure to cheer the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” and were well-received by the crowd.

Cruz took to the stage with lighthearted stories about his daughters and jokes about how the Republican leadership in Congress views him. He moved around the stage as he spoke, taking a more casual approach than other speakers who stayed parked behind the lectern. Under the country’s current leadership, individual freedoms are under more assault than they’ve ever been, Cruz told the crowd, referencing NSA spying and targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.

Just elected to the Senate in 2012, Cruz rose to fame for his opposition to Obamacare, which he spoke against on the Senate floor for 21 hours. Yesterday, he reiterated his opposition to the law and said he is optimistic it will be repealed. Although Cruz hasn’t officially declared his intentions to run in 2016, he ended his speech by asking the audience to send a text message to get on his list of “grassroots” activists.

“I’m spending my time not focused on Washington, not trying to convince Washington of anything, ’cause they ain’t listening,” he said. “What I’m trying to do instead is help mobilize the American people.”

Huckabee, who is at the top of the Republican pack in early presidential polling, hit on key conservative talking points such as the IRS targeting and the death of four Americans in Benghazi.

He said he fears today’s children will be worse off than their parents if the direction of the country doesn’t change. He also spoke emphatically against what he believes are intrusions on the First Amendment and individual freedoms.

“My gosh, I’m beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the U.S.,” he said.

American success depends in part on returning power now in the hands of the federal government to the cities and states, he said. He also spoke out against the idea that the U.S. Supreme Court justices have the ultimate power to determine policies and cultural ideas.

When Paul took the stage, he made similar remarks to those he gave in Dover the night before, at a fundraiser for the state Republican Party. A central theme of his platform is expanding the Republican base, primarily to those less affluent and minorities. One way to do this could be targeting the war on drugs, he said, which imposes too harsh penalties on using and selling marijuana that disproportionately affect minorities.

Republicans shouldn’t be the party of “fat cats” and Wall Street, Paul said. The president’s policies haven’t done anything to lift people out of poverty, and Republicans can and should offer solutions, he said.

“We’re all interconnected; we’ve got to get beyond this class warfare,” Paul said.

Beyond presidential politics, a handful of prominent state Republicans tried to fire up the crowd for statewide victories in 2014.

Former New Hampshire House speaker Bill O’Brien, a Mont Vernon Republican, was recognized as AFP-New Hampshire’s Conservative of the Year. Gingrich presented O’Brien with the award, saying no lawmaker has been “bolder and more aggressive” in advancing conservative principles. Under O’Brien’s leadership, the Legislature drastically slashed state spending and advanced strongly conservative policies.

O’Brien also proudly reminded the crowd that under his leadership, the Legislature refused to create a state-based health insurance exchange under Obamacare. The state now uses the federal exchange, which currently has only one provider in New Hampshire.

Republicans can pursue conservative policies again if they win in 2014, said Rep. Pam Tucker, a Greenland Republican and chairwoman of the House Republican Alliance. She encouraged attendees to run for office, saying a Republican-dominated Legislature would push for right-to-work laws, cut corporate income taxes and stop cooperating with the federal government on Obamacare.

Several Democrats stood outside the event in the morning, holding signs in protest. Americans for Prosperity is backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch. Speaking out against the brothers and the candidates they support has become a rallying cry for Democrats this election cycle.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments22

It's nice to see that one of the Republicans said the trouble with America is the entrenched politicians on Capitol Hill and then they select Rand Paul as their lead man.

When is somebody gonna tell Ted Cruz that he cannot run for President because he's not an American?

As soon as you prove NObama is!

Don't have to prove it, that horse has already been beaten. Besides it was his people (GOP) that made it an issue in the first place

No it wasnt ...it was the Hillary campaign...google it

Someday in the future when someone desperately needs health insurance and can't afford it, someone older will say "I remember when we did have health insurance for a few years, but the Republicans got into power and they repealed it." What a legacy that will be.

that statement makes it painfully obvious that democrats do not have even a fleeting knowledge about the economic principal called INSURANCE.

Seriously, you really believe that. More so you could even put that into writing, boggles the mind. Businesses were cutting back on benefits or doing away with some insurances because of sky high costs. Prior to the passing of Obamacare - "Those who oppose Democratic versions of the health care legislation, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, agree that the rising cost of insurance has become a hardship on families and businesses. The two parties disagree on how to address the problem." Those that have always had the luxury of having health benefits apparently are completely out of touch with reality if they think that pre ACA insurance was something to want to return to. I prefer Obamacare over your Wedontcare plan.

Psst. Ted Cruz is a Cuban operative, sent by Castro, to disrupt the United States. What good for the goose is good for the gander. LOL

I see no humor in that. But I guess a Cuban patriot in office would be better than a Cuban sympathizer and supporter of despotic regimes, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.

What's the matter Itsy. You don't find Conservative tactics funny?

At no time has NObamakare ever had a majority of Americans behind this Govt dictatorial rule. At no time during this democrat reign has the public ever said the nation is on the right track. You can keep your 37% that approve of they way things are OR you can vote to change with the 60+% that say democrats are seriously on the wrong track.

Personal freedoms? Choice? LGBTQ? A collection of hypocrites.

Your point? No president or administration has attempted to limit personal freedoms more than this administration. LGBTQ? That is the business of people in that group. It does not belong in the political discussion. Choice? No problem, every woman should have that "choice", I just don't want to take tax dollars and fund it.

Where are all the "far right" candidates we always hear the democrats complaining about? Paul, Huckabee, Cruz...they are all middle of the road. Clinton is probably as middle of the road a democrat as you can get...Warren and Cuomo are way out there on the left.

Huckabee, Cruz and Paul are middle of the road? Just goes to show where you're at.lol

I think she was referring to Atilla the Hun . . .

Paul, Huckabee and Cruz are most certainly NOT middle-of-the-road. Christie, Jeb Bush, Scott Brown, Jon Huntsman, Buddy Roemer - THEY are middle-of-the-road. Or, if you'd like to go back in time - Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, heck even REAGAN - would be considered middle-of-the-road by today's hard-right-wing Tea Party standards.

The Tea Party is about as middle of the road as they get. The Republicans are not trying to impose some untried liberal progressive socialist democrat utopia, but to restore the lost heritage of a self reliant citizenry in small govt America. That heritage has been eroded, undermined, or just plain sold out by democrats. It is a shame the left has only the tactic of demonizing real patriots

While there may be many people who call themselves "Tea Partiers" who are decent, honest, hard-working, caring, and rather apolitical individuals - the movement as a whole is certainly NOT that. IT has been co-opted and is being directed by corporate right-wing ideologues. Some of what these puppet-masters want is actually at cross-purposes with what some of those more decent, hard-working, caring, rather apolitical "Tea Party" folks want - it's just that they cannot see it.

Well said, Dan!

I'll second that, Dan.

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