At an event attended by hundreds of conservatives in New Hampshire Saturday, three 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls blasted President Obama's signature healthcare law and shared their views on the party's future.
The coming together of and speeches by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Rand Paul of Ky. and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the Freedom Summit in Manchester, N.H., Saturday was seen by some as the 2016 campaign's unofficial start.
Hosted by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Citizens United, the event was attended by more than 700 Republicans.
Referring to the recent resignation of the embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Cruz said just one official's departure won't do. "We are going to repeal every single word of Obamacare."
Obama announced on Friday that Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office and Management and Budget, is his nominee to replace Sibelius.
Cruz also suggested a way for the GOP to win support from more Americans. "Every Republican should have two words tattooed on their hands: growth and opportunity," he said. "In fact, I got so inspired by you all that I might get an eagle tattooed on my chest."
Cruz called for the broadening of the party's appeal to see growth. "You want to know why people are frustrated out of their mind in Washington? The biggest divide we have is not between Democrats and Republicans. It's between entrenched politicians in both parties, and the American people," he said.
Paul slammed the notion that Republicans needed to "dilute our message."
"You think that's a good idea? Hogwash. It's exactly the wrong thing to do. Our problem isn't that we are too bold. Our problem is that we are too timid," Paul said.
Paul also talked about making the party more inclusive. "The door's not going to open up to the African-American community, to the Hispanic community, until we have something to offer."
He added that Republicans should care more that minorities are so overrepresented in the prison population. "But your kids and grandkids aren't perfect either" he said. "The police don't come to your neighborhoods. You get a better lawyer. These are some injustices. We've got to be concerned about people who may not be part of our group, who may not be here today."
Huckabee warned against any hurried and premature attempts to identify a frontrunner for the 2016 race, pointing out that last time "it turned out a lot different than they thought."
Huckabee added that candidates should not shy away from discussing social issues. It is "nonsense" to presume that an issue such as abortion or gay marriage would drive away voters, he said.
"My gosh, I'm beginning to think that there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States," the former governor said. "When I go to the airport, I have to get in the surrender position, people put hands all over me, and I have to provide photo ID and a couple of different forms and prove that I really am not going to terrorize the airplane – but if I want to go vote I don't need a thing."