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Graham, Bush, Christie Make Pitches to Southern GOP Conference

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 10:41 PM

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, all likely to join the growing list of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination, spoke of their hopes for the nation to an audience of conservatives at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Friday.

The three-day event, which began Thursday at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City, has featured a wide slate of potential candidates over the past two days, reports The Oklahoma Gazette, and in addition to Bush, Christie, and Graham on Friday, other speakers have included former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal were on the late-afternoon schedule Friday, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to speak at an invitation-only session Friday night.

On Friday, Bush spoke of the love and pride he has for his family before discussing the importance of keeping the United States strong through increased military power.

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He also highlighted the achievements he made as governor in Florida, including using a corporate tax scholarship that helped send some 70,000 lower-income children to private schools, where their educations thrived.

"In Washington, under this president, we've now reached $18 trillion in debt," said Bush, calling the debt a "tragedy" that has played out in dangerous ways as the nation's credit rating took a drastic drop.

But in Florida, Bush said, he was able to trim the state's budget by millions and limited government "the old-fashioned way."

"I vetoed line items equaling $2 billion," said Bush, noting that his nickname was "Veto Corleone," a play on the infamous "Godfather," and those vetoes were on projects being pushed by Republicans and Democrats, showing that "conservative principles do work."

He also urged Republicans to escape their "comfort zone" and reach out to nontraditional voters such as Hispanics, African-Americans and college students, telling the audience that it is time to "get beyond preaching to the choir."

Bush also commented that he supports reauthorizing the Patriot Act, which was enacted during his brother George W. Bush's presidency, and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, saying there is "ample evidence" that it has protected Americans.

Meanwhile, Graham appeared on video,  rather than in person, as the ongoing trade bill votes kept him in Washington D.C., rather than attending the conference in person, and he told the audience that he can defeat potential Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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"I think she represents the past in the worst kind of way," Graham said. "She's the third term of Barack Obama."

Further, he said the former secretary of state has "her fingerprints" all over Obama's foreign policy, and "Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton did a better job of selling Obamacare than Obama did, and that's blown up in our face."

Liberalism has had its chance for 6 1/2 years, he continued, but if the party "gets our act together, we should win in 2016."

Graham said U.S. foreign policy "is failing" as "radical Islam is running wild," because Obama was interested in keeping a campaign promise alive, and he "has allowed Iraq and Syria to become hell on earth."

Meanwhile, Christie outlined the steps he learned as governor of New Jersey, including balancing a budget with an $11 billion deficit without raising taxes.

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"As long as I am governor, my people will not put up with an income tax increase," Christie said.

"This is not Washington math; this is actual reduction in spending," said Christie. "We spent $2.5 billion less than we spent eight years ago in actual dollars."

Further, the government was trimmed, including eliminating about 8,500 state-level jobs to "make the government smaller in every way we can," said Christie.

It's important for the Republican Party to retake the White House, the outspoken governor said, because "we cannot afford to lose the next time."

"If you are like me and despondent and full of despair at how America's confidence has been destroyed, imagine the spirit of America if it adds on eight years of Hillary Rodham Clinton," he said."We have to elect a president who knows how to fight and knows how to win."

But if the party nominates "the most charming and attractive nominee" but not one whose ideas are better, the race will be lost, he said.

There are specific needs for the next president, said Christie, including one who is willing to work on entitlement reform, make changes to stabilize Social Security, simplify the nation's tax code, improve the nation's energy policy, and strengthen the military.

"The rest of the world wants the United States to lead, but we have to lead based on strength," said Christie. "We need to make our military strong, not to wage war but to avoid war and bring stability and peace to the world."

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, all likely to join the growing list of Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination, spoke to conservatives at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Friday.
Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Southern GOP conference, friday
Friday, 22 May 2015 10:41 PM
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