Most participants painted a chilling picture of the nation’s security under President Obama and of the future if Hillary Rodham Clinton were elected president.
DES MOINES, Iowa — More than 2,000 Iowans gathered at a presidential-campaign event in Des Moines on Saturday for a GOP version of Halloween.
Zombies — the alleged result of Common Core education standards — dwelled at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s haunted-house booth.
A graveyard with headstones for Obamacare, historic debt and Planned Parenthood funding decorated New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s space.
At South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s table, Iowans picked the “scariest Democrat” by casting candy-corn votes in Mason jars. (Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton won by a wide margin.)
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Each of the 10 Republican candidates was given 15 minutes to speak in a hall decorated with hay bales, corn stalks and pumpkins. Most painted a chilling picture of the nation’s security under President Obama and of the future if Clinton were elected president.
“There’s a real doubt … whether this nation will be special any longer,” said Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida senator said wages have stagnated, small businesses are struggling and students are graduating college with crushing debt.
Rubio, in a dig at Clinton and his chief rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, added: “If we can turn the page on outdated leaders of both parties and embrace the ideas of the 21st century … then we won’t just save the American dream, we will expand its reach to more people and change more lives than ever before.”
Neither of the party’s two front-runners, developer Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, attended the gathering, hosted by the Republican Party of Iowa.
The event was the first time most of the candidates appeared on the same stage since Wednesday’s raucous debate in Boulder, Colo. Several attacked the media, complaining of the questions they heard, not the answers.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee blamed the CNBC moderators for causing a “train wreck” and Cruz described them as “left-wing operatives” bent on battering the eventual GOP nominee.
“How about if we say, from now on, if you have never voted in a Republican primary in your life, you don’t get to moderate a Republican primary debate,” Cruz said as the audience regularly interrupted his speech with applause.
Bush acknowledged he needed to improve his own debate performance. “I know I have to get better; I have enough self-awareness,’’ he said.
Christie used his 15 minutes to take questions. One woman asked about his bear hug for Obama when the president visited the New Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy hit three years ago. Federal aid poured into the state, which suffered heavy losses, but some Republicans never forgave the hug.
Christie said he wouldn’t apologize. “I stood up for the people of New Jersey who were hurting and suffering, and made sure the federal government did their job.”