Gov. Rick Perry (left) and Sen. Rick Santorum

SPEAKERS IN OKC

Gov. Rick Perry (left) and Sen. Rick Santorum: At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, both take the president to task for policies in the Middle East.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Republican presidential hopefuls threw out lots of red meat for conservatives on Thursday in Oklahoma City, where the most enthusiastic responses came to remarks slamming the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East.

“We need a president who understands who our enemies are and who our friends are,” former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. “It’s pretty easy. Iran is an enemy, and Israel is a friend, and we should start treating them that way.”

Santorum, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke on the first day of the conference, which runs through Saturday at the Cox Convention Center downtown. It appeared late Thursday that three U.S. senators on the agenda for Friday might have to cancel their appearances because of votes on the trade bill.

Gov. Mary Fallin welcomed Republican attendees, assuring them that they were in “the reddest state in the nation. You’re in friendly territory.”


What they said

Here are excerpts of speeches made by potential GOP presidential candidates at the conference Thursday:

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania:

"We can beat up on the president. And it's fun. It's easy by and large. But it's not going to win hearts and minds. It's not going to be the decisive thing that wins us this election in 2016. We're going to need to have sound policies. We have to be clear-eyed about what ISIS is. … This is not a war on terror. I said 10 years ago and I've said every year since: This is a war on radical Islam, and we have to name the enemy in order to have policies that can defeat them."

"I know the country is war weary. I am. The last thing I want to do is put our men and women in uniform in any kind of harm's way. Yesterday I dropped my son off on his way to Maxwell Air Force Base to begin his field training in the Air Force. This is not just a theoretical thing for the Santorum family."

"There are people who are going to be up on this stage — they probably won't say it — who are for doubling and tripling that number (of legal immigrants) and suggest that anybody who is for lowering it is anti-immigrant. I'm for what's best for American workers and wages so families can provide for themselves."

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry:

"Americans see this rigged game being played, where insiders get rich and the middle class gets to pay for it. There's something wrong when the Dow Jones is near record levels and a small business can't get a loan because of the regulatory climate.

"The perspective of that leads me to ask this question: Since when did capitalism involve the elimination of risks for our biggest banks while regulations strangle our community banks? Capitalism is not corporatism. It's not about Wall Street at the expense of Main Street."

"Leadership's not a speech on the Senate floor. It's a record of action. It's not what you say. It's what you do."

"Executive experience matters. A record of signing balanced budgets, creating jobs, overseeing military forces. All of that matters."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

"I was just in Israel about a week ago, and it's amazing. We met not only with Netanyahu but with political leaders across the spectrum. To a person, they are distraught about this Iran deal."

"Once and for all, we need going forward a commander in chief in this country who will tell it like it is and lay out that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to us all and we're going to do something to stop it. We need to acknowledge that Israel is an ally of the United States and start treating them as such."

"There's a lot of great people out there who are thinking about or are currently in the race for president on the Republican side. There's some of those folks, particularly folks in Washington, who are really good fighters. They're fighting the good fight; they're waving the flag; they're carrying the banner. But they haven't won a whole lot of victories yet."

— CHRIS CASTEEL, The Oklahoman