6:30 p.m. (EDT)
For many of the presidential hopefuls on stage Saturday for the South Carolina Freedom Summit, their parents are never far from their thoughts.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tells of his parents leaving India to go to Baton Rouge. “The first time they ever got on a plane was to come to America,” he says. Turning to some friendly ribbing, he describes his father as a miserly taskmaster. “Try to get an allowance out of a father like that,” he says.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has his father on hand for the event. Cruz notes that his dad, Rafael Cruz, is a Cuban political refugee. The elder Cruz, a pastor, has sometimes been a source of controversy, particularly with harsh critiques of the Obama administration and the gay rights movement. But he’s also an asset to the senator, sometimes accompanying Cruz on campaign trips and even traveling independently to promote his son.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has his own family story about parents who left Cuba for a better life. He recounts how they emigrated from Cuba, worked hard at menial jobs and still managed to raised four children and buy their own home.
“They were never rich or famous,” Rubio says, “but they were successful.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also points to his working-class upbringing. Recalling the public debate over his push for laws to weaken public employee unions, he says, “My parents even got grief at our home in Wauwatosa.”
5:35 p.m. (EDT)
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO turned Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is keeping up her criticism of Democratic favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton at the South Carolina Freedom Summit.
“Like Hillary Clinton, I too am running for president of the United States,” Fiorina says. “But unlike Hillary Clinton, I’m not afraid to answer questions about my track record or my accomplishments or my principles.”
She says Clinton has not been accessible enough to voters and the media.
“She is not trustworthy, and she does not have a record of accomplishment,” Fiorina says of the former first lady and secretary of state.
Fiorina tells activists that her business record sets her apart from other Republicans in the race. She also points to her opposition to abortion rights, noting that she espoused the same views in her unsuccessful Senate race in California in 2010.
Though she rose to prominence in the Fortune 500 world, Fiorina says she is running out of concern for small businesses and rank-and-file Americans who are falling behind.
“I sense a deep disquiet,” she says. “It is not political. It is not partisan. … They fear we are losing that sense of limitless possibility.”
The culprit, she says, is too much government regulation, and specifically cites the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, blaming it for community bank closures even as new mergers of the largest financial institutions create even larger national banks.
Fiorina did not explain that preventing such mergers would require federal regulators to block them.
5:15 p.m. (EDT)
Retired doctor Ben Carson is telling a crowd of conservative voters in South Carolina that there’s a crucial difference between him and the other Republican candidates running for president in 2016. “I’m not a politician. That’s what sets me apart,” he says.
The former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Carson got into the race this past week, announcing his candidacy in his hometown of Detroit. He tells the crowd in Greenville, South Carolina, that while he didn’t have much growing up in the downtrodden city, his mother “absolutely refused to feel sorry for herself.”
“The family is such an important pillar of strength for this country and it’s been under attack in this country for decades,” he says.
Carson says the government has created programs over the years that have kept people in “a state of dependency” instead of “lifting people out of poverty.”
Carson says he doesn’t want to get rid of every government program. Instead, he says, “I want to create an environment where you don’t need all the safety-net programs.”
4:50 p.m. (EDT)
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is delighting activists at a conservative rally in South Carolina with his critiques of President Barack Obama. “He’s trying to turn the American dream into a European nightmare,” Jindal says.
Jindal also drew applause with his extended remarks on religious liberty, which he says is under assault from supporters of same-sex marriage. The political left, he says, “tolerate everybody except those who have the temerity to disagree with them.”
He adds, “The United States of America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America.”
3:35 p.m. (EDT)
As he does at many of his campaign stops, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is using humor at a conservative rally in South Carolina to help make the pitch that he’s the most consistent conservative in the Republican race for president.
Recounting that his young daughters were recently talking to each other about what they want to do when they grow up, Cruz said one of the girls declared the conversation pointless because, “Daddy will be dead by then.”
“I kind of wonder if Caroline had been speaking with Republican leadership,” he cracked. “Maybe she knows something I don’t know.”
Cruz’s wasn’t just aiming for a laugh. The tea party favorite who helped engineer a partial government shutdown in 2013 used the story to trumpet his unapologetic approach to politics. He told activists that they should compare his style with that of his rivals, all of whom insist they are conservative.
He said: “Have you had anyone up here today say, ‘I’m an establishment moderate who stands for nothing?’ So how do you tell the difference? The scriptures tell us, ‘You shall know them by their fruits.”
He said that that means asking candidates, “You say you believe these principles. When have you fought for them?”
3:05 p.m. (EDT)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spoke only briefly Saturday, taking just a few minutes on stage before conservative activists in South Carolina to share the story of his family’s immigration to the United States.
“I have a debt to America that I will never be able to repay,” he said.
Rubio recounted how his parents emigrated from Cuba and worked menial jobs after their arrival in this county. But he praised them for saving their money, raising four children, buying a home and living the “American dream.”
He said: “They were never rich or famous, but they were successful,” and added that his parents had “limited skills,” but “it paid enough for them to get a better life.”
Rubio, who declared his candidacy for president last month, said Saturday that people are now wondering if those days are over. He said the U.S. economy is still struggling and America is being challenged all over the word — by Iran, Russia and China.
He said: “There are questions about whether the American dream will survive much longer.”
1:35 p.m. (EDT)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is making President Barack Obama the center of attention and offering some withering criticism during his time on stage before conservative activists in South Carolina. He was drawing cheers from the crowd with each broadside.
Perry said he told the president last summer, “if you don’t secure the border, Texas will.” Perry said. He was referring to his decision to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.- Mexico border. Perry said: It’s time for Washington to do its job and secure the border.
He was critical of Obama on areas ranging from the Affordable Care Act to foreign policy and the Islamic State group to the federal budget.
On the federal budget: “We’ve watched our economy descend into record debt. … We need a recovery of record proportions.”
And Perry’s bottom line: “We’ve seen gross incompetence. We’re here to declare that we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Perry isn’t yet in the 2016 race, but is expected to launch his campaign later this year. He dropped out of the 2012 race before the South Carolina primary, and has said in recent months he was unprepared to run for president while he still served as governor.
12:50 p.m. (EDT)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says: “The American dream is out of reach.” In his comments Saturday, he was trumpeting a theme he’s touched on during his earlier visits to South Carolina.
Scott said: “It’s not out of reach because of Wall Street. It’s out of reach because of K Street”
The “K Street” reference was shorthand for lobbyists in Washington.
He said government needs to get of the way and power needs to be put back in the hands of the American people.
Walker hasn’t yet declared his candidacy for president in 2016, but with an active political organization and repeated visits to the early voting states, he’s all but sure to get into the race later this year.
He’s already a popular figure among many in South Carolina for his efforts as governor to weaken Wisconsin’s public employee unions.
This state’s GOP governor, Nikki Haley, has been a fierce critic of organized labor during her efforts to recruit major manufacturing plants from the automobile and aeronautics industry to South Carolina.
Walker planned to leave from South Carolina for what he described as “an educational trip” to Israel. He will be there until Thursday.
12:15 p.m. (EDT)
Rick Santorum hinted Saturday in South Carolina that he is close to announcing whether he will again run for president, telling a gathering of conservative activists he’s driven by what he called President Barack Obama’s failures on national security.
“Russia, China and yes, radical Islam, is threatening our country,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “Heck, I would just be happy if our president would be able to tell the difference between our friends and enemies.
“Let me give our president a primer: Iran, enemy. Israel, friend.”
Santorum said he had the experience to articulate a “vision of keeping America strong.”
He told the crowd: “I’ve been clear about the threat of radical Islam. This isn’t a war on terror. It’s a war on radical Islam.”
And he offered a solution: “Here’s what we need to do. If these people want to bring back a 7th century version of Islam, my suggestion is to load our bombers up and bomb them back to the 7th century.”
Santorum, who narrowly won the lead-off Iowa caucuses in 2012, also touted his connections to South Carolina, the third state to cast ballots in the presidential primaries. Two of his sons attended The Citadel in Charleston, and he has a niece graduating Saturday from the University of South Carolina.
11:30 a.m. (EDT)
Former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina is the last presidential candidate on Saturday’s schedule of conservative activists at a rally in South Carolina. That left time for her in the morning to talk to graduates of Southern New Hampshire University at the school’s commencement.
She said: “I’d like to make this as painless for all of you as possible so you can get to what you really came here for. But I hope that you will remember something, maybe just one thing of what I have to say today.”
Fiorina acknowledged that she wasn’t and couldn’t be the center of the graduates’ attention, mentioning her run for the presidency directly just once. But she still laced her speech with messages from the early days of her campaign.
The first “lesson” she delivered for graduates: America is the greatest nation on Earth. Fiorina often weaves her personal bio into that idea, speaking about her rise from a secretary in a small real estate agency to the leader of a Fortune 50 company. Fiorina shared her views on the difference between managers and leaders — a familiar talking point on the campaign trail.
But she also addressed her own challenges with breast cancer, a daughter who died from drug overdose and her ouster from Hewlett-Packard. These personal struggles are not always a piece of her political message.
10:55 a.m. (EDT)
While most of the Republican presidential field is in South Carolina for Saturday’s meeting of conservative activists, Jeb Bush is delivering the commencement address at Liberty University in Virginia.
The former Florida governor told a crowd of roughly 34,000 people that “the Christian voice” isn’t heard enough in the world. And he touched on his family name, considered both his greatest political challenge and strength as he readies a 2016 presidential bid.
In particular, Bush said he enjoyed meeting Jonathan Falwell, a pastor whose father and brother served as presidents of the Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Bush noted he wasn’t the first member of the Bush family to appear at a Liberty University commencement. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, received an honorary degree at the Christian university 25 years ago.
10:25 a.m. (EDT)
Before the first presidential contender takes the stage in South Carolina, the state’s former senator, Jim DeMint, is talking about the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
The future of the bank has become an important cause for some conservatives, including DeMint, the head of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. On Saturday, he called the bank “a big crony boondoggle.”
Washington, he said, is “there for the ‘bigs'” in business and government. “None of this stuff is for the little guy,” he said, adding that “too many of our Republican friends” perpetuate that system.
DeMint said conservatives should judge presidential candidates by whether they are willing to stand against “cronyism” such as energy subsidies in Iowa, the nation’s first caucus state, or support for the Ex-Im Bank. The bank’s charter runs out in June.
The bank helps finance exports of U.S. products such as jetliners, including those manufactured by Boeing Co., which has a plant in South Carolina. Some conservative Republicans say it finances too many questionable projects and favors some businesses over others, but it enjoys sweeping support among Democrats, business group and some GOP lawmakers who argue it sustains jobs.
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