GOP hopefuls gather for freedom in Des Moines


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State Daily

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks to the crowd during the Tea Party of America’s Restoring America event on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 in Indianola. Despite the rain, many people came to the event specifically to hear Palin speak.

Alex Hanson

Republicans eyeing the White House in 2016 gathered in Des Moines on Jan. 24 for what can be described as the unofficial kickoff to the 2016 presidential race in Iowa.

The nine-hour marathon of speeches featured up-and-coming stars within the GOP and several familiar names for Iowans. Speeches took aim at President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, illegal immigration and foreign policy.

“It’s good to be back in Iowa!” was a common line among speakers who ran for President in 2008 and 2012 and those who campaigned heavily in the 2014 midterm elections for Iowa candidates.

The event, billed as the “Iowa Freedom Summit,” took place in front of a sold-out crowd of over 1,200 at the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines. Citizens United and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, sponsored the event along with several conservative news outlets joining in as co-sponsors.

Those who may run include Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Several other prominent speakers attended the event, focusing on different themes. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich focused extensively on foreign policy. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who mentioned she is considering a 2016 bid, spoke at length on being pro-life and “liberal hypocrisy.”

Sarah Palin gave a 35-minute speech, at one point mocking the “Ready for Hillary” campaign.

“Can anyone stop Hillary? Let’s borrow a phrase, ‘Yes we can,’” Palin said, also using a line frequently used when President Obama first campaigned for office.

Other speakers included Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, and Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.

Notably absent were former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“You can’t have Romney. He choked. You can’t have Bush. The last thing we need is another Bush,” said businessman and entrepreneur Donald Trump, the only direct mention of the two during the event.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also were not in attendance.

Even with all the attention on Des Moines, the 2016 Iowa Caucus is still scheduled more than a year from now.