The wide-open, potentially divisive nature of the 2016 Republican presidential race is on full display this week on a ballroom stage outside Washington.
Five potential candidates wooed the party’s base yesterday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and four more did so today. None is an obvious favorite in the party’s early race for the nomination, a rare case for Republicans.
A year from now, those who push forward in the White House contest will be traveling to early primary states to compete for attention, campaign leadership and money. For now, they’re courting the party’s base and fleshing out their messages.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who drew the largest crowd of any of the potential candidates appearing at the convention of party activists in Oxon Hill, Maryland, said in his speech today that “lovers of liberty” can’t always walk in step with the Republican Party.
“It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils,” Paul also said. “We must elect men and women of principle and conviction and action who will lead us back to greatness.”
Other possible contenders who spoke today were former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Texas Governor Rick Perry. The convention heard yesterday from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee.