TIME 2016 Election

GOP Donors Buoyant About 2016 Prospects at Retreat

Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

Good news for the GOP, bad news for Hillary Clinton

Republican donors gathered at an exclusive retreat this weekend to compare notes on the 2016 presidential field and hear the candidates’ pitches directly.

The celebratory mood was palpable, buoyed by another strong fundraising month for the party, the impending launch of the primary contest and a spate of negative stories about Hillary Clinton.

Donors in custom pins designed by the party backslapped their way through the pinkish walls of the Waldorf Astoria Resort and Club, as many of the candidates they elected in 2014, and the ones they are hoping to elect in 2016 preened for their support. Sean Spicer, the RNC’s chief strategist and communications director, said it was the “largest pre-nomination retreat in terms of both donor attendance and speakers.”

Throughout the weekend, the presidential contenders held private meetings with the assembled donors, broken into classes like “Eagles” ($15,000+), “Regents” ($60,000+), and “Team 100” ($100,000+). New this year, thanks to congressional action dramatically increasing donation limits to national parties, were the members of the “RNC Trust,” who have pledged to give the more than $330,000 legal limit annually.

The lavish resort is nestled between a golf course and a marina and across a sound from the beach, though the 36-hour conference was jammed with sessions on party data and messaging. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sought to leverage the celebrity and celebration to plug the more mundane mechanics, as party staffers held briefings on technology and field program advances in the GOP since 2012. Pollster Frank Luntz held court in a session and Republican senators held a closed-door panel where they laid into the emerging nuclear deal with Iran.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio delivered well-regarded remarks Friday evening, highlighting their domestic themes of growing the party and criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy. Each, attendees said, was interrupted by multiple rounds of applause. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker focused his remarks on the economy, delivering, like the others, a modified version of his stump speech for the well-heeled audience.

On Saturday evening, New Jersey Gov. Christie called on the party to avoid flip-floppers in a pre-dinner reception before joining the Team 100 dinner, along with a coterie of Republican members of Congress. Texas Gov. Rick Perry rotated among the class dinners, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addressed the post-dinner dessert. Former Sen. Rick Santorum and former New York Gov. George Pataki attended the weekend gathering, as well as businessman Donald Trump, who spoke Friday evening and, according to multiple attendees, spent much of his speech trying to show off his connections to the assembled donors.

Among the members of Congress in attendance for the weekend were Sens. Cory Gardner, Pat Roberts, Mike Rounds, Thom Tillis, David Perdue and Deb Fischer and Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Renee Elmers.

A large number of benefactors remain on the fence, according to party and campaign sources, using the meetings to grill candidates on the issues important to them. In the hallways, donors shared notes from their private meetings, gossiping about Walker’s flip-flop on immigration reform, the burdens of Bush’s family name and Christie’s narrowing path to the nomination.

One donor, who has pledged five-figure sums to groups affiliated with at least three GOP candidates, said he and many of his peers believe it’s still a wide-open field.

“You want to get in on the ground floor,” said the donor, who didn’t want his name used to avoid attracting more suitors, “and so many of these guys can go all the way.”

TIME 2016 Election

Netanyahu Speech Becomes Applause Line for 2016 Republicans

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Travels To United States
Amos Ben Gershom—GPO/Getty Images In this handout photo provided by the Israeli Government Press Office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah leave Tel Aviv on their way to Washington DC, on March 1, 2015.

Republican presidential candidates are using Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress as a cudgel against the White House.

The presidential candidates who are in Congress are all attending the speech, unlike Vice President Joe Biden and some Democratic lawmakers. Those who aren’t in Congress aren’t changing up their schedules to attend as private citizens but say they will watch it on television.

Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress just two weeks before the Israeli election has caused a partisan rift, with the Republicans lawmakers who invited Netanyahu on one side, and the White House and many allied Democrats on the other. Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the ongoing P5+1 Iran nuclear talks, is expected to warn against the emerging agreement.

Meanwhile neither President Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with the Israeli leader on his visit to the U.S., as National Security Advisor Susan Rice condemned the visit as “destructive.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington last week, speaker after speaker criticized the White House approach to Netanyahu.

“We need a leader who understands that when the Prime Minister and leader of our longtime ally asks to come to Congress to share his concerns about Iran, we should show him and his country our respect,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said. On Monday, Walker penned an op-ed accused Obama of making the visit a “political football.”

Last month, in a foreign policy address in Chicago, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed the Netanyahu address, earning a thank-you tweet from Netanyahu. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper last week, he called Obama’s behavior toward Israel “completely inappropriate.”

And over the weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Netanyahu’s treatment a “national disgrace.”

Aides to Walker, Bush, Christie, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said their bosses have out-of-town commitments and cannot attend the address, but will watch Netanyahu’s remarks on television. Aides to other candidates not currently serving in Congress did not respond to a request for comment about their bosses’ plans.

“I will be there in the front row,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday. Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are also likely running for president, will also attend.

Attendance at the speech became a partisan lightning rod as Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is set to receive an award from EMILY’s List Tuesday night in Washington, came under attack this weekend in an ad from the conservative Emergency Committee For Israel questioning her commitment to the American ally.

“Does she support the boycotters, or is she too afraid to stand up to them?” the ad states, asking whether she will attend. Clinton’s plan for the speech are not yet clear.

TIME 2016 Election

Gay Rights Activists Fire Early Shot At GOP Field

Governor Chris Christie in NH
Rick Friedman—Corbis N.J. Governor Chris Christie speaks at the Concord and Merrimack County GOP's 3rd Annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Concord, N.H. on Feb. 16, 2015.

The Human Rights Campaign is firing an early shot at the emerging presidential field, releasing polling and research highlighting their opposition to same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, the group unveiled a micro-site highlighting GOP rhetoric on LGBT issues, including their positions on marriage, conversion therapy and bullying. The launch is pegged to this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which has blocked the sponsorship of the GOP gay group Log Cabin Republicans. (Although the group will participate in a panel discussion.)

The group is highlighting the results of a survey it commissioned of 1,000 self-identified LGBT voters showing that few would even consider supporting Republican candidates. Only 15 percent would consider New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; 12 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; 9 percent, Sen. Rand Paul; 9 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio; and 5 percent former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For those committed to LGBT equality, actions speak louder than words,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that a field with so many Republican candidates is so united against basic LGBT rights, from marriage equality to protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination.”

Among a sub-sample of 120 self-identified Republicans a majority say they would not back either Paul or Santorum, while the remaining candidates poll within the margin of error.

The GOP’s autopsy into the 2012 election found that gay rights issues are a gateway subject for LGBT voters, but also for young voters of all stripes. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the Growth and Opportunity Project report stated. But while a number of Republican governors have dropped opposition to same-sex marriage in their states after court rulings, none have personally said they are supportive of such unions. The issue is a litmus test for many conservative voters in Iowa, and is set to be injected into the political debate once again as the Supreme Court ways the issue nationally.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the Human Rights Campaign by surveying 1,000 self-identifying lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals on Jan. 25-31. The full sample has a margin of error of ±3.1 percent, while the small sample of Republicans has a margin of error of ±8.28 percent.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized the Log Cabin Republican’s involvement in CPAC. The group was invited to participate in the conference.

TIME People

Why Republicans Run in Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots are stylish. They give you a little extra height. And they're a good way of signifying that you "get" rural voters. Perhaps that's why they're so popular with Republican politicians.

TIME 2016 Election

The Revealing Titles of 7 Upcoming Books by Presidential Contenders

US-POLITICS-CLINTON-BOOK-ILLUSTRATION
Eva Hambach—AFP/Getty Images Hillary Clinton's memoir titled "Hard Choices" after its release on June 9, 2014 in Washington.

The titles tell you all you need to know

You can tell a lot about a politician from how they name their memoir. The title is a giveaway for whether the book is a look back at their career or a sales pitch for its next phase. Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices managed to do both at once, promising a look at the decisions she made as Secretary of State while also keying up her one of her 2016 campaign themes. (Still, it was generic enough that it had already been used.)

Next year will bring a bumper crop of new political memoirs, including a few by some potential presidential contenders. Here’s what we can tell about those books from their titles alone.

“God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy,” Mike Huckabee

Back in the Reagan era, Republican consultants used to say that they could win campaigns with “gays, guns and God” — the so-called three G’s. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and former governor, looks to be aiming to modify that culture warrior stance a little. Few political books are titled this bluntly.

“American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone,” Marco Rubio

This title is so cliched it’s surprising that it hasn’t been used by more politicians. It seems a safe bet that this book will couple the Florida senator’s compelling family story with a broad-brush set of conservative policy proposals aimed at helping middle-class voters.

“Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America,” Rand Paul

This book’s title and its subtitle are at war with each other. (Taking a stand usually means choosing sides, not bringing them together.) That seems appropriate, though, as the Kentucky senator tries to square his image as a political outsider with the goal of becoming the ultimate D.C. insider, the president of the United States.

“Bella’s Gift: How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family And Inspired A Nation,” Rick and Karen Santorum

The title indicates that this political memoir will be heavy on the memoir and light on the politics. The former Pennsylvania senator and his wife appear to be hoping that a personal look at their special-needs child will soften his political image as well as tell an uplifting story.

“You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.,” Ben Carson

From the use of the second-person to the eight-point mnemonic in the subtitle, this is the only book by a potential presidential contender that looks like it could sit comfortably on the shelf of motivational business books for sale at a FedEx Office store.

“Untitled,” Ted Cruz

The fact that this memoir doesn’t have a title yet is intriguing. Will he go for something provocative, like many of the conservative stands he’s taken as Texas senator? Or will he put something more prim, foreshadowing a more restrained presidential campaign? And will he resist the urge to use a “Cruz/cruise” pun?

“Untitled,” Jeb Bush

The former Florida governor and son and brother of former presidents also hasn’t named his upcoming e-book, but that doesn’t mean much since he’s had much less time to think about it than Cruz. Whether he comes up with a title that will sell well in e-book marketplaces will be a test of how he’s adapted to technology.

TIME 2016 Election

The Starting Gun: Your Guide to the 2016 GOP Primary Field

Too soon? The candidates have been preparing campaigns for months

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has been working for years to bring order to the 2016 nominating process. He’s increased penalties for states that try to move up their primaries and caucuses, threatened to punish candidates who participate in debates not sanctioned by the party, and moved the convention to mid-summer, allowing for a longer general election season.

But Priebus has no control over who decides to run. And as the starting gun sounds on 2016, all signs point to another unwieldy pack of candidates competing, in many cases, for the same segments of their party.

Here is a look at the top contenders openly considering a run.

Jeb Bush: The Other Son

Jeb Bush
Wilfredo Lee—APFormer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Hollywood, Fla. on Jan. 29, 2014.

At a recent event in Washington, former President George W. Bush made a pitch for his brother’s candidacy before a group of skeptical GOP donors. “What’s the difference if it’s Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton or Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Bush?” he said. That’s the question many Republicans are asking as they look to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to enter the race. His family is rallying around. His donor ties remain deep. The question is whether he has a path to the nomination. Out of office for more than a decade, the avowed immigration and education reformer now finds himself out of step with his party’s most conservative voters. But he has a case to make that he was born to take on Hillary Clinton.

Scott Walker: The Main Street Fighter

Scott Walker
Jeffrey Phelps—APWisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Milwaukee on May 3, 2014.

No one got louder cheers at the 2012 Republican convention than Wisconsin Gov. Walker, the man who had taken on what he likes to call the “big government union bosses” in his state and won. Collective bargaining rights were curtailed for state teachers and other workers, and Walker survived a union-backed effort to recall him. This year’s reelection tight at times, but he pulled off a victory. Now he can focus on the message he has been trying to hone as a candidate on the national level. He will present himself as a common-sense Republican from Main Street—far from the dysfunction of Washington.

Rand Paul: The Reinventor

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Jessica McGowan—Getty ImagesSen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to an audience of supporters of Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue during a campaign stop in McDonough, Ga. on Oct. 24, 2014.

No modern Republican nomination fight would be complete without a Paul on the stage, but the next generation of the political dynasty doesn’t look or talk like the last. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been touring the country with his new vision for growing the party with “libertarianish” ideas that appeal beyond the current GOP base. “The Republican Party brand sucks,” he said on a recent visit to Detroit, a line that is certain to reemerge again. His father, Ron Paul, ran as a principled prophet, uninterested in doing the difficult work of building a winning coalition. The same cannot be said for the son.

Mike Pence: The Stalwart

Mike Pence
Michael Conroy—AP9, 2014, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence answers questions in Indianapolis on Sept. 9, 2014.

A Midwestern governor with years in House leadership under his belt, Pence has standing with social conservatives, fiscal credibility and deep ties to the party’s money men, especially the Koch fundraising network. He’s also got a feel for the national mood—note his quick and early decision to pull Indiana out of the Common Core state standards—and a slashing style on the stump honed by stints in talk radio. Pence would have to overcome questions about his decision to expand Medicaid in Indiana, but count him as a sleeper threat.

Rick Santorum: The Believer

Rick Santorum
Charlie Neibergall—APFormer Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on Aug. 9, 2014.

With little money, no pollster and few staff, Santorum spent months crisscrossing Iowa in 2011, fueled by faith that his candidacy would catch on. And it did. The former Pennsylvania senator pulled an upset in the caucuses and went on to win 11 states, finishing runner-up in the nominating contest to Mitt Romney. Now Santorum, who’s been running a Christian movie studio, sounds ready to try again with a campaign that would marry his religious conservatism to an economic message geared toward blue-collar populists. Pundits have written him off again, but there is no sign his faith is wavering.

Ted Cruz: The Evangelist

Values Voters Summit
Mark Peterson/ReduxSen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas) at the 2014 Value Voters Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014.

Blessed with a supple mind and silver tongue, the Texas freshman became the Senate’s foremost spokesman for Tea Party values after he won election in 2012. A push to defund Obamacare made Cruz a superstar in conservative circles, and he’s been touring the country for more than a year, laying the groundwork for his next campaign. He sells a back-to-basics, no-apology conservatism, with policies wrapped in the rhetoric of right and wrong. And he trashes his Republican colleagues almost as much as Democrats. The fiery rhetoric has burned some of the bridges he’ll need on the way to the nomination, but nobody is better at preaching to the frustrated party faithful. The question now is whether he can convert unbelievers as well.

Chris Christie: The Tough Talker

Governor Chris Christie is Reelected to a Second Term
Brooks Kraft—CorbisNew Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie celebrates his reelection in Asbury Park, N.J. on Nov. 5, 2013.

After a 2013 landslide reelection election in a blue state, the take-no-bull governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was considered a frontrunner. He had taken on teacher’s unions and public pensions while balancing the budget and creating jobs. Then allegations surfaced that his staff closed down lanes on the George Washington Bridge for political retribution, and ratings agencies started delivering bad news about his state’s finances. Christie never stopped trudging forward, and he has yet to curb his abrasive stump persona, which could become a problem in the heckler-filled primary state. But as Chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, with lots of New York area donors in his pocket, he will certainly be a contender.

Rick Perry: The Do-Over

Rick Perry
Gerry Broome—APTexas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a conservative rally in Smithfield, N.C. on Oct. 24, 2014.

“Oops.” That one word killed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign, a clumsy, last-minute shot at the nomination from the start. But he has persevered, making repeated trips to the early primary states as his governorship winds down. This time around, with a new pair of glasses, Perry is out to show that he’s smarter than you may think. Thus far he’s been winning rave reviews, despite a recent indictment on two felony charges for allegedly abusing his power in pressuring a local district attorney to resign. Perry’s a long shot in 2016, but he’s keen to rewrite his political obituary.

Marco Rubio: The Next Generation

Senator Rubio speaks on the economy
Brooks Kraft—CorbisU.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaks on strategies for sparking economic growth in Washington on March 10, 2014.

Marco Rubio has made a career as the fresh face with an all-American story, the “son of exiles” who lived the dream of hard work and upward mobility. In 2010, that message won statewide in Florida, and Rubio has been carefully building the legislative record of a presidential candidate. He backed bipartisan immigration reform, before blaming its failure on Democrats, and has spent months laying out a hawkish vision of foreign policy far closer to John McCain than Rand Paul. Whether he makes a comeback depends on which end of the Republican Party wins its existential struggle on immigration reform. But Rubio remains popular with young and minority voters that other Republicans struggle to reach.

Mike Huckabee: The Pastor

Conservative Political Action Conference
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty ImagesFormer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., March 7, 2014.

Eight years ago, Mike Huckabee was an Arkansas Governor with no money or political machine, betting bible-belt charisma and conservative populism could make him President. His 2008 campaign won Iowa, showed in New Hampshire and placed in South Carolina. It also earned him a TV show on Fox News, which Republican primary voters have been watching each Saturday nights for six years. With the new national profile and a heap of lessons learned, he has begun to bring his hardscrabble campaign crew back together, with an eye at trying again, this time with the money and organization he needs. He spent his youth as a radio and television broadcaster, and few are more comfortable before a camera. Watch for him in the debates.

Bobby Jindal: The Wonk

Bobby Jindal
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty ImagesLouisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Oct. 6, 2014.

The fast-talking Louisiana Gov. got off to a rough start on the national stage in 2009, when he delivered a lumbering response to President Barack Obama’s first address to the nation. But Jindal is hoping to reintroduce himself to the nation as the party’s ideas man. Warning that the GOP needs to stop being the “stupid party,” Jindal has been most aggressive among 2016 contenders at putting policy proposals up front, and has proven to be an influencer with GOP candidates nationwide. In moves meant to please the base Jindal embraced the cast of Duck Dynasty and flip-flopped on Common Core education standards. Look for him to push his opponents to lay out specific policy plans—if he can get noticed.

John Kasich: The Pragmatist

John Kasich
Al Behrman—APOhio Gov. John Kasich speaks to supporters at Darke County GOP headquarters in Greenville, Ohio on Oct. 13, 2014.

Just two years ago, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was politically down for the count. His popularity plummeted as he tried to revamp the state’s collective bargaining rules and he earned the ire of conservatives for embracing Medicaid expansion from Obamacare. But on Tuesday, Kasich, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, pulled off a massive victory in the swingiest of swing states that has the 2016 bells ringing. Kasich made an early unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2000, and is likely to let the field develop this time around before making any decisions. If he does run, expect him to highlight his state’s economic recovery and his education reform plans.

TIME Foreign Policy

Ted Cruz: Obama Must Seek Congressional Authorization For Iraq Strikes

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall—AP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Saturday that President Barack Obama must seek congressional authorization for U.S. strikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) if they continue.

Speaking to reporters following a speech to Iowa conservatives, Cruz declared the rise of the islamist militant group “the latest manifestation of the failures of the Obama-Clinton foreign policies.”

While Obama has said the strikes are “limited” to protect American forces and personnel, as well as vulnerable Iraqi refugees, Cruz said Obama had yet to articulate a “clear military objective” for the strikes, calling on the president to focus on U.S. national security interests instead of trying to solve a “sectarian civil war that has been waging for over 1,500-years” between Sunnis and Shiites, calling political reconciliation in Iraq something that doesn’t “makes any sense.”

Cruz said he does not believe the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq or the War Power Act provide Obama the authority to continue airstrikes against ISIS. “I believe initiating new military hostilities in a sustained basis in Iraq obligates the president to go back to Congress and to make the case and to seek congressional authorization,” Cruz said. “I hope that if he intends to continue this that he does that.”

Most Republicans in Congress, including conservatives like Cruz, have been largely supportive of the administration’s bombing and humanitarian campaign to protect U.S. forces and assist tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees surrounded on Mount Sinjar, but Republicans have called on Obama to outline a broader plan for the region. “”I am glad that President Obama is finally beginning to take the threat of ISIS seriously,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s criticism topped off a day-long barrage from conservatives at the Iowa Family Leader Summit in Ames, where several 2016 presidential contenders sought to appeal to the early-state grassroots with critiques of Obama’s handling of the situation in Iraq. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal applauded Obama for launching the campaign against ISIS, but said Obama must outline a broader vision to rout ISIS forces from Iraq and Syria. “I think he owes it to the American people, he owes it to our troops in uniform to define what the strategic vision is, what the strategic plan is,” Jindal said. “I believe it is unacceptable to allow ISIS to occupy territory in Iraq, in Syria, to continue to grow in strength.”

“These are terrorists who disagree with our fundamental values and our beliefs,” Jindal said. “This is a group that will, if it has the capabilities, bring that fight to us.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, said Obama should not stop with bombing the group, but should finally arm Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and endorse the creation of an independent Kurdish state. ““If we had good sense, we would arm the Kurds as we said we would,” Huckabee said.

Obama has offered “A foreign policy that is absolutely—it’s not distinguishable from anything,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, adding, “we have to get Washington back.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum criticized Obama for removing all U.S. troops in Iraq in 2011, saying he should have used his “eloquence” to win over Iraqi leaders to support a status of forces agreement. “It’s stunning that they fall back on that it wasn’t their fault,” Santorum said. “That’s false.”

TIME

Santorum Film: American Believers Could Face Nazi Fate

Rick Santorum is bringing the nationwide fight over religious liberty to the big screen, and it is chilling.

As the Supreme Court weighs the Hobby Lobby case and activists at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference denounce the war on Christianity in America, Christian movie company EchoLight Studios, of which Rich Santorum is CEO, is preparing to release One Generation Away: the Erosion of Religious Liberty. The trailer, above, shows just how seriously Santorum and many fellow conservatives are taking the issue: if the United States continues down a path that erodes religious freedom, the country could be headed toward Nazi Germany. (That punch comes around minute 1:41.)

One Generation Away is a documentary-style film slated to release September 1. The film focuses on seven ongoing cases studies of religious freedom across the country: Mt. Soledad in San Diego, wedding service providers in Oregon and Washington, Hobby Lobby, chaplaincy in the military, two education cases with a collegiate counseling program, and high school cheerleaders in Koontz, Texas. “The fight to protect our religious freedom is paramount to our country’s future prosperity,” Santorum says. “Taking that fight to the big screen and impacting the culture along the way allows us to inform on this critical subject in a meaningful and entertaining way.”

The film will include interviews with more than 40 political, business and religious leaders, including Steve and David Green of Hobby Lobby, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Jennifer Marshall of Heritage Foundation, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association. “The tone and message of One Generation is that freedom must be available for all to be effective,” Jeff Sheets, president of EchoLight Studios and founder of Abington Ridge Films, explains. “Our intended goal is to promote ongoing, civil dialogue that respects each other even while at times disagreeing.”

The trailer makes the film’s overall position clear: religious freedom in the U.S. is under attack. A famous Ronald Reagan quote frames the trailer: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Reagan says in the trailer. “And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” (The original quote comes from Reagan’s 1961 speech arguing to block the passage of Medicare. Sarah Palin revived the quote in her closing remarks in the 2008 vice-presidential debate.)

The comparison to Nazi Germany is bound to raise eyebrows, if not criticism. It is not an uncommon analogy for Santorum—as Dana Milbank wrote in 2012, “Santorum sees Nazis everywhere: in the Middle East, in doctor’s offices and medical labs, in the Democratic Party, and now in the White House.” Sheets explains the inclusion of the Nazi comparison this way: “This example was used to illustrate the extreme consequences that can occur when freedoms begin to erode unchecked. The ‘Church’ in Germany sat by as their freedoms and the freedoms of the Jews were restricted. By the time they woke up, it was too late. America is NOT Nazi Germany nor is there an inference in the movie that our government is taking that extremist position.”

One Generation Away will be shown in churches as the premier of EchoLight’s new plan to take advantage of their theater-like setup and built-in audiences.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Interview: Rick Santorum Eyes 2016

Rick Santorum takes the stage to speak during day two of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.
Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME Rick Santorum takes the stage to speak during day two of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., March 7, 2014.

In an interview with TIME, the former Pennsylvania senator who finished second to Romney in 2012 says he's sure he would have defeated Obama had he won the GOP nomination. He also previews some of the themes he might emphasize should he run for president in 2016

Two years after finishing second to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Rick Santorum sounds like he’s ready to try again.

In a wide-ranging interview with TIME on Thursday, the former Pennsylvania senator said he was sure he would have defeated Barack Obama had he won the Republican nomination, panned the President’s foreign policy (“what he’s done is start a nuclear arms race”) and offered a preview of a potential 2016 message that might help Republicans connect with “the average guy.”

Santorum, a longtime social-issues warrior who won 11 primary and caucus states two years ago, said he won’t have to talk as much about them if he runs again, because his conservative positions are well known to the GOP’s base. “This time around I don’t have to go out and prove by bona fides on being a conservative,” he says. “I can focus in on how I differentiate myself from the rest of the field and how I think we can develop a winning message for the fall.”

Even Santorum’s current gig as CEO of the Christian movie company Echolight Studios serves, in some ways, as preparation for another try at the GOP nomination. “I’m a storyteller. I see this in some respects as refining my craft,” he says. “Reagan did it the other way, right?”

Below are excerpts of the conversation, condensed and edited for clarity:

Have you gotten the itch to get back into politics?

Absolutely. I can’t sit here and watch our country decline in stature as dramatically as it has in the last five years and not be concerned about the future of America. I just look at the overall culture of the country and see a lot of people who are fearful, don’t believe that good times are coming, feel like there are people out there left behind. That’s a very dangerous thing for a democracy.

With regard to Crimea, what would you do differently than Obama?

It’s really important to understand this situation didn’t happen overnight. This was five years in the making. Year one, we pull our missile defense system out of Poland and the Czech Republic. So we send a signal: we’re going to reset with Russia, and Putin is going to work with us. What do we get for that? Virtually nothing.

So you go through a whole variety of other things—from what we did in Iran during the revolution, which was nothing; turning our back on Mubarak; what we did in Syria. I would not have drawn a red line on chemical weapons. I thought it was a mistake to do it. But he did. And he didn’t follow through. He punted to Putin. What we’ve seen over time is the President serially deferring, backing away from red lines or lines in the sand, saying that the US needs not to be involved in all these things. You send a signal.

This president has singlehandedly elevated Vladimir Putin from a babysitter over a bunch of oligarchs to a world leader who’s now grabbing territory with no consequence. What can you do now given this? Well, you can try to repair an image, to show you mean what you say and you will stand by the countries that we have promised to stand by. We have not done so in Ukraine. So now what do you think if you’re Lithuania, Estonia, Poland? What do you think if you’re Georgia? You think the U.S.’s commitments aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. And as a result of that, you start having to make deals with the devil. And then things really get out of hand.

Here’s a president whose main goal is stopping nuclear proliferation, to get a deal with the Russians, which was a bad deal that gave the Russians a decided edge in nuclear weapons – that was his big thing, START II. And what he’s done is start a nuclear arms race because the U.S. is not standing by its commitments.

It’s not only Barack Obama who has been advocating a more cautious foreign policy. It’s also Republicans.

Agreed. You’ve seen me out there taking on the Paul faction. I did during the campaign. I took on Ron Paul at debate after debate on Iran, on Pakistan. I see the Rand Paul wing of the Republican Party for what it is: allied with Barack Obama’s foreign policy. I think that’s a very serious threat to our own security.

How do you convince the young voters this faction is reaching out to that this is the wrong course?

What we have to do is have the people who believe in the conservative message go out and articulate a positive vision for the country based on those principles. You can deliver a positive message for the country on national security without saying we need to be in a war in every country. Which of course we can’t do, and we wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean we need to disengage. There’s a cost to disengagement.

There was a lot of soul-searching within the party after Romney lost. What’s the best thing the GOP has done since, and what has been the worst?

In both cases, Obamacare. The objective of focusing on Obamacare is the right thing; the tactics [that led to the shutdown] were not well thought-out. And the problem is it created a division within the Republican Party that doesn’t do us any good. It created a black hole right before their black hole, which was the implementation of Obamacare. Why would you create that moment right before it becomes apparent to the American public that you were right?

Do you think you would have beaten Obama?

Without a doubt.

Why?

Because I would have been able to attract the voters in the states that mattered. Romney would probably do better than me in New Jersey and California and New York. But I’d do better in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia—in the states that were going to decide the election. Look at how we did in Ohio in the primary. We got outspent by huge amounts. I didn’t run a single ad in the Cleveland market, and we still almost beat him in Ohio.

If you ran again in two years, how would you do things differently?

I’d raise a lot more money. We’d have to have a stronger team, and a stronger fundraising base. [In 2012,] I had to establish myself in the conservative world as sort of the authentic conservative across the board, including moral and cultural issues. A lot of people didn’t know that much about me and my positions on those issues. So I had to, on occasion, talk about it. And of course any time I did, there’s Santorum out there talking about social issues.

By the time it got down to me and Romney, I talked mostly about Obamacare on the campaign trail. But I was able to talk more about the blue-collar stuff, energy and manufacturing. Things like that really started to create some momentum for us. But by then, I was the social conservative candidate, the alternative to Romney. And what I said and the policies that I put forward, they just didn’t get any coverage. This time around I don’t have to go out and prove by bona fides on being a conservative. I can focus in on how I differentiate myself from the rest of the field and how I think we can develop a winning message for the fall.

What’s your sense of the 2016 field?

I’m the guy that sat there last time and watched seven people go to the top of the pack and fall.

There might be twelve this time.

You know what, they can get to the top of the pack and fall too. One of the things I know is that when I got to the top of the pack I didn’t fall. I ran out of money, and I ran out of time. And the forces were against me. It’s tough running against City Hall.

The amazing thing, here we are looking at 2016, and many of the national polls don’t even put my name on the list. They review the candidates, and I’m not included on the list of people who they look at, which I sort of get a kick out of. It’s sort of been my strength over the course of my political career that I’m always underestimated. Always. The Democrats did that for a long time and I won four straight races. And now it’s happening on the Republican side.

What lessons does Pope Francis offer to conservatives?

There have been a lot of people who have been led astray, doctrinally and otherwise, by the liberalism of the Church, the scandals within the Church. And what Francis is saying is look, what they just need to hear is the good news. They need to hear that God loves them, and that here’s the Gospel and the Gospel’s for you. And so he’s tried to focus his message on the average guy. And so I think that’s a good message for Republicans.

TIME Election 2016

Rand Paul Tops Conservative Straw Poll

Rand Paul CPAC
Lexey Swall—GRAIN for TIME Rand Paul supporters stand and cheer when the results of a straw poll show Rand Paul winning the GOP Presidential nomination during the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

Sen. Rand Paul finished again first among conservative activists for the 2016 presidential nomination in a straw poll at the three-day conference, with tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz coming in at a distant second

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul repeated his first-place finish as the preference of conservative activists for the 2016 presidential nomination Saturday, finishing with 31 percent of the vote at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Paul drew a large crowd of supporters to the three-day conference and drew the largest and most enthusiastic crowds with his speech on Friday rallying against the National Security Agency. The straw poll has been a poor predictor of future success, even among the conservatives who vote in it.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another tea party favorite, placed a distant second among the 2,459 votes cast in the annual measure of conference attendees, with 11 percent of the vote. Former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson placed third with 9 percent and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not invited to the conference last year, placed fourth with 8 percent.

The results highlight the fractured state of the Republican Party, with potential tea party and libertarian candidates drawing the energy of the party’s grassroots. Sen. Marco Rubio, who drew intense flack from the base for his support for immigration reform, saw his support drop from 23 percent second-place finish last year to just 6 percent, for a seventh place finish. Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate, saw his support cut in half from 6 percent to 3 percent, as he is increasingly viewed as being part of the party’s establishment.

For the first time, a majority of conference attendees, 51 percent, disapproved of the way Republicans in Congress are handling their jobs.

After his victory, Paul tweeted his thanks to his supporters:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com