The specter of the terrorist attack in California hung over a Saturday afternoon forum in Cedar Rapids organized to showcase the economic approaches five Republican presidential candidates plan to pursue.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz tailored his speech to what he described as “liberty and security in an age of terror.” Cruz promised the crowd he would “utterly destroy” the radical Islamic terrorists if he’s elected president.
“We will carpet bomb them into oblivion,” Cruz said, to cheers. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
The event started half an hour late, as the crowd of about 2000 couldn’t get through security quickly enough. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, the first candidate to speak, joked with the crowd as he took the stage.
“I hope you were all patted down and groped sufficiently to get in here,” Paul said.
Paul drew a roar of approval from the crowd with his harsh critique of Hillary Clinton’s performance as secretary of state, but Paul warned the crowd that Republicans should be the “party of balanced budgets” and resist unlimited military spending in response to terrorism.
“The biggest threat to our national security is our debt. We could literally destroy our country,” Paul said. “We have to decide, we have to think through how we’re going to defend ourselves.”
Retired surgeon Ben Carson called for cutting off the “four major routes” in and out of Raqqa, the city ISIS claims as its capital.
“If we really want to take care of our people over here, we need to get rid of them over there,” Carson said. “And the way we do that is very systematically look at the things that work.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told the crowd being commander-in-chief isn’t “an entry-level position.”
“The president of the United States has just started World War III…by allowing Iran on a path to a nuclear weapon where they can go through the process of bringing about the end of times,” Santorum said. “That’s what happens when you put people in positions of power who don’t have experience.”
Santorum called Iowans “the human resources department” for the country and he urged the crowd not to let anger motivate their votes on February 1. That reference to Donald Trump’s candidacy did not move the crowd. It was met with silence.
Carson, who spoke after Santorum, said “the political class” aren’t “the only ones” who can solve the nation’s problems.
“This country was designed for the citizen-statesman, not the career politician,” Carson said, to cheers and applause.
Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was the event’s final speaker.
“It is delusional, ladies and gentleman, as a terrorist attack is ongoing for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to be tweeting about gun control,” Fiorina said. “It is delusional for President Obama to be standing in Paris talking about climate change.”
She told the crowd Clinton would have to face questions about her record and “her trustworthiness.”
“When she has to fight on that ground, we win,” Fiorina said, to cheers.
(This post was updated at 6:37 p.m. with additional information.)