DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A trio of Republican presidential prospects implored conservatives Saturday to vote in November's midterm elections while doing their best to impress likely caucus goers should they compete for the GOP presidential nomination in a year and a half.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — a surprise addition to the program — took different tones in their remarks to the roughly 750 people at the Iowa Faith and Freedom's annual fall banquet at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
The three declared the Obama administration a failure in domestic and foreign policy. But Cruz's message was more aimed at undoing the Democratic administration's agenda than proposing a new way.
Cruz railed against the administration's 2010 health care law and proposals to grant legal status to millions of people in the country illegally. A GOP majority would restore diminished U.S. leadership abroad and constitutional liberties, he said.
By contrast, Jindal, finishing his second term as governor, said it's not enough simply to urge a change in party leadership.
"My personal view is that we as the Republican Party can't be the anti-party," he said. "We can't be the anti-Obama party. We've got to be a party that stands for solutions, stands for ideas."
The two potential rivals were fresh off the Values Voters Summit in Washington.
Ryan was as upbeat as Jindal in his brief remarks.
"We know the next half dozen or years or so will make or break this country," the 2012 GOP nominee for vice president said. "The good news is we know what we need to do to get back on the right path."
Cruz has visited Iowa several times; Jindal and Ryan less often. Cruz has a more fiery speech style while Jindal and Ryan are more folksy.
But before they lay down 2016 markers, they tried to stoke turnout for Iowa's competitive midterm elections.
Chief among them, the race for retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst, is competitive and seen as among a handful that could determine Senate control.
On Saturday night, The Des Moines Register published a poll that found Ernst, a state senator and Iowa National Guard officer, leading Braley, a four-term U.S. House member, by six percentage points.