The Latest on GOP's 2016 hopefuls: Iowa Republicans see a bumper crop of contenders

9 p.m. CDT (10 p.m. EDT)

For some at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting of social conservatives, it looks like a bumper crop of Republican candidates competing in the 2016 race.

Sixty-eight-year-old Bill Campbell Indianola says he hasn't decided which of the contenders to support. But he's pleased so many are vying for the nomination. He calls that "a wonderful dilemma."

Another voter, Jean Gerritsen of Ankeny, is impressed with what she calls a lineup of "good Christian" candidates. But she's settled on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, calling him steadfast and a standout.


7:30 p.m. CDT (8:30 p.m. EDT)

Clinton-bashing is down a notch at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in Iowa, compared with the big Republican gathering of presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire a week ago.

Carly Fiorina, the only woman among the 2016 Republican contenders, is a relentless critic of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Iowa meeting Saturday night proved no exception when she had her turn on the stage.

She said Republicans need to choose someone who can throw "punches all day long" at the potential Democratic presidential nominee.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal challenged Clinton's views in support of abortion rights, which he opposes. While taking issue with Clinton's views on foreign policy, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said her likely success in seeking the Democratic nomination means Republicans should choose someone well versed in foreign policy to compete with the former secretary of state.

For the most part, though, the gathering of social conservatives is more focused on religious faith, opposition to abortion rights and defense of traditional marriage than on the woman who's dominating the Democratic campaign. In New Hampshire, where roughly 20 potential and declared candidates for the GOP nomination appeared, one after another went after Clinton, with surefire applause lines.


6:30 p.m. CDT (7:30 p.m. EDT)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he's always been clear about his opposition to gay marriage — and a recent fundraiser hosted by two gay businessmen was no exception.

The 2016 Republican presidential contender told reporters in Iowa on Saturday that the private fundraiser, first reported by The New York Times, was focused on foreign policy.

He said that during the event, he stated his opposition to gay marriage. But when asked what he would do if one of his daughters was gay, he and his wife said they would love her with all of their hearts.

Cruz suggested that a different question be put to Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats: "Would you love your children or your grandchildren if they became evangelical Christians?"

He's in suburban Des Moines for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering.


6:20 p.m. CDT (7:20 p.m. EDT)

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has a message for Iowa conservatives: Pick someone who will finally beat the Democratic nominee in the 2016 election.

He'd like that to be him, of course.

In remarks to social conservatives at a church in suburban Des Moines on Saturday night, the 2016 GOP contender noted that the state supported the Democrat, Barack Obama, in the last two elections. Now, he tells Iowans, "You've got to run somebody who is different."

Paul says the Republican Party needs to reach out to people who aren't coming to gatherings like the one he addressed.

In his speech, Paul also advocated a more aggressive push against late-term abortion, saying he was tired of seeing retreat on the issue.

Paul has said previously the issue is too divisive to expect changes in federal abortion law. That led some religious conservatives to raise questions about his commitment to their cause, despite a voting record in their favor.

He's supported legislation that would ban abortion with certain exceptions, while at other times, he's backed bills seeking a broader ban on abortion.


5:30 p.m. CDT (6:30 p.m. EDT)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is speaking up for traditional marriage. But in remarks to social conservatives, he isn't weighing in explicitly on whether gay marriage should be allowed.

The Republican presidential candidate won a standing ovation at a meeting of the conservative Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition on Saturday night when he declared that marriage between a man and woman has existed as an institution before governments or laws came to be.

But where he stands on the legality of gay marriage did not come up in his remarks. He said that the country should not have policies that stand in the way or marriage or families.

On other occasions, Rubio has said that sexual orientation is something most people are born with, not a choice — a view at odds with that of some religious conservatives. And he's said he would attend a same-sex wedding of someone close to him.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June whether same-sex marriage, now allowed in 36 states, should be recognized nationwide.

Rubio is playing catch-up in Iowa with some 2016 rivals who've been in the state more often. He was the lead-off speaker at the Faith and Freedom gathering.


5 p.m. CDT (6 p.m. EDT)

Hundreds of Iowa Republicans are crowded into a church in suburban Des Moines to hear Republican presidential hopefuls address the conservative Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Nine GOP prospects are on tap for the evening. It's a chance for them to offer their views on abortion, the evolving landscape of gay marriage and other social issues important to that constituency as they bid for favor in the Iowa caucuses, which open the 2016 presidential nomination season.

Most of the major contenders are there, but not former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Sixty-five-year-old Gary Chidester of Lakesburg, Iowa, says he wants to hear support for traditional marriage and opposition to abortion. He's already talked to most candidates, but is still undecided.

As he puts it, "As a Christian, when I'm holding my Bible and the words change in it, I'll change."

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley says Republicans in the state will have a lot of options to choose from in the GOP field. He says it's possible to run a cheap campaign in Iowa and candidates without much money can still compete.


11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT)

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling for clear, principled American leadership to stave off violence in the Middle East and mounting anti-Semitism in Europe.

During his 35-minute speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas, Perry bashed President Barack Obama's foreign policy while calling for more defense spending, putting troops on Poland's border with Russia and taking a more aggressive posture against China. He underscored the importance of Western values against Islamic extremism.

Perry says he is calling for "the type of strength that prevents war."

Perry has yet to say whether he'll pursue the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but he's spent months gearing up for a second run. Four years ago, he plummeted from prime contender to political punchline. He couldn't remember during a nationally televised candidates' debate one of the three Cabinet-level departments he wanted to abolish.


10:45 a.m. PDT (1:45 a.m. EDT)

Sen. Ted Cruz say he'll do "everything humanly possible" to stop a nuclear deal with Iran, a stand that's drawn cheers from the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Concerns about President Barack Obama's diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program are dominating the group's meeting in Las Vegas.

A 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Cruz says a nuclear Iran threatens Israel's existence.

Cruz points out that every politician who appears before the group will promise to protect Israel "unless you are a blithering idiot." He says the key question is which candidate coalition members will trust to fulfill that promise.

The group says it plans a presidential forum in December and that all candidates for the GOP nomination are expected to attend.


Associated Press writer Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report from Las Vegas.