Three Republican contenders addressed the gathering on Day 2 – Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rick Perry.  Ted Cruz was clearly the crowd favorite.  His arrival drew a large and loud crowd to shake hands and take “selfies.”  However, all three candidates received warm welcomes.  Of interesting note, a number of attendees who left early waiting until after Marco Rubio spoke.

Ted Cruz had no new revelations, but certainly knew how to charm the crowd and speak forcefully.  He came out in shirtsleeves looking as if he had just come in from the Iowa State Fair, relaxed and approachable.  His best line was “The New York Times says ‘Cruz can’t win because Washington elites hate him.’ I thought that was the point of the campaign.”  He repeated his determination to repeal Obamacare, stand for fiscal restraint and to defund Planned Parenthood – all which were well received.

Marco Rubio also engaged the audience.  He focused on the nation’s economic ills and that their cause lied in the nation’s inability to be competitive globally because of our tax and regulatory structure.  He also addressed the need for changes in college education to make it more affordable, more available and more responsive to economic need.  He related his own $100,000 student loan debt and graduates aren’t getting jobs that allows them to pay off the enormous debt.  He reached out to Republicans who have been angered by the lack of results from victories in Congressional elections – a clear outreach to those drawn to Donald Trump.  He said,”Change has not happened. You are right to be frustrated and even angry, but our anger does not define us.” He further added that we are “one election away” from lasting change.  He also recounted his family’s immigrant story that became his story.  He concluded with a powerful, “It’s not just my story. It’s your story. It’s our story.”

While many have speculated that Rick Perry’s campaign was out of steam, he showed no sign of that.  His speech was powerful and confident.  While most of the candidates were very restrained in talking about the other Republican candidates, Perry – without mentioning names – took obvious swipes at Scott Walker and John Kasich.  He criticized Walker’s  changing positions on guest worker status and Kasich’s Medicaid expansion.  He had a notable quip on the expansion,  “The goal should not be to add a million more to its rolls, but to make coverage more affordable.”   He decried the intrusions of Washington on state and local governments by stating, “The Constitution is my owner’s manual and it still has a 10th Amendment” and “It’s time for the federal government to get out of the healthcare and education business and do its job-defend our borders.”  Both lines drew thunderous applause.  While the crowd response was not as enthusiastic as Cruz, from the Twitter response to Perry’s speech, you would have thought his support was overwhelming.