The Race to the White House Continues at 2015 Sunshine Summit

In the nation’s largest swing state, The Republican Party of Florida hosted the first annual Sunshine Summit this past weekend at the Rosen Shingle Creek. The Summit hosted presidential candidates, federal elected officials, and state leaders who, over three days, addressed over 2,500 grassroots leaders, volunteers, GOP supporters, and activists from across the state, some of whom were first time voters.

The speakers were given an exclusive platform where they addressed their vision for our country, discussing issues that the American people are facing, while rallying support for the rapidly approaching 2016 Presidential Election.There was a strong presence from all demographics represented throughout the weekend, although the student population was the most prominent.

The myriad of contenders called for support for their individual campaign, and while there was somewhat of an ideological battle on display throughout the weekend, the overall emphasis of each speaker was on the vital importance of winning back the White House in 2016.

Despite the desire for each candidate to present their platform and policy ideals, candidates emphasized the importance of spreading the conservative message, focusing on values of limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, individual liberty, and strong national defense.

One of most the remarkable aspects of the weekend, though, was how, towards the later end of the weekend, many of speakers drastically altered the tone and content of their messages as a result of the tragic events in Paris on Friday evening.

When it was announced at the Summit that horror had struck in France, the crowd grew somber and left our nation in shock and mourning. The subsequent messages focused on the absolute failure and abomination that has ensued as a result of the inaction of the Obama Administration.

The consensus among conservatives and liberals alike is that our enemies no longer fear us, and our allies no longer trust us.

It is imperative that this changes.

Despite the ideological disputes, friendly rivalries, and mourning of those lost overseas, The Sunshine Summit played, and will continue to play, an instrumental role in the future of our country and how we are viewed on the world stage.

We must lead.

America has no other choice.

Annual Statesman’s Dinner

On Thursday night, The RPOF hosted their annual Statesmen’s fundraising dinner where former Vice President Dick Cheney headlined, followed by remarks from [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ].

As Cheney took the stage, he was triumphantly accompanied by the Imperial March, embracing his inner-Darth Vader but he wasted no time in his remarks of the incompetence of our current Commander-In-Chief and the clear ineptitude of former Secretary of State, both in regards to her tenure as Secretary of State and as a current Presidential contender for the Democratic nomination.

“As we look at the consequences of the Obama policies internationally, we see a significant increase, if you will, an enhancement of the threats around the world, of threats to the United States,” Cheney commented, “…growing threats, and, at the same time, a declining capability of the United States to deal with those threats.”

Cheney further opined, “It’s exactly the worst combination we could have.”

“That weakness is provocative and it’s being responded to by the likes of Putin, and ISIS and the Chinese with the kind of aggressive move that they’ve taken that begins to threaten our friends and allies.”

After dinner was served, Rubio spoke, employing various lines from speeches often used on the campaign trail, but his passion never ceased and he was genuine in his delivery. After joking about the difficult years in the 70s, referencing disco music, he turned to a more serious tone and captured the crowd with his remarks about our current president.

“I know that it is expected that in a Republican Party gathering we would be here to criticize the Democratic president, and the mistakes he’s made for seven years, but this is no ordinary Democratic president,” Rubio continued. “This is a disastrous seven-year record.”

“The last seven years have been a disaster for Americans that are trying to make it. The people that have already made it – they just want to be treated fairly and largely left alone,” said Rubio.

Shortly before concluding, Rubio articulated, “There’s another road before us, if we choose it.”

“Thank you tonight for your contributions,” Rubio said. “You’re not just involved in a political competition – you’re involved in a generational choice about the future of this country and it’s very identity.”

He succinctly concluded his remarks saying, “Let’s go win.”

Friday, November 13th

After the initial Sunshine Summit invocation on Friday Morning, Presentation of Colors, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem, RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia took the stage to give the opening remarks for the weekend.

In a press release, Ingoglia contributed, “At the beginning of this year the Republican Party of Florida made the commitment to build a turnkey grassroots and digital operation that will ensure that Florida turns red for all Republicans on the ticket – from the presidential nominee to local candidates and everyone in between.”

He continued, “The success of the Sunshine Summit is crystal clear and demonstrates that the State Party is continuing to build the needed grassroots and digital organization necessary to turn Florida red in 2016.”

Below are takeaways from each of the speaker’s remarks, including videos of their speeches, captured by CSPAN:

[mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]

Senator Rubio, the first presidential candidate to take the stage this weekend delivered his remarks, employing aspects of his typical stump speech where he mentioned the “lunatic” in Korea, “gangster” in Moscow, and the radical “Sharia cleric” in Iran, but the crowd received it enthusiastically, nonetheless.

He discussed national security, throwing out the Iran nuclear deal, repealing Obamacare, and his opposition to Common Core. While he didn’t specifically address immigration, highlights included discussing family values, his generational, “turn-the-page” argument, and the importance of a strong America.

He also introduced a newer line in his standard speech when he said, “There is no replacement for the family. It is the original government. It is the most important school you will ever attend.”

Click here to watch Senator Rubio’s remarks

[mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]

While Senator Cruz had a smaller crowd awaiting him, cheers and hollers exploded throughout his remarks.

He begun his speech by explaining, in detail, the items he would tackle each day of his first week in office. Some audience members joked that he was going to continue outlining every day of his first term.

His list of policy items included “ripping to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal,” “repealing every word of Obamacare,” and “finally, finally securing the borders and ending sanctuary cities.”

Cruz continually employed humor throughout his speech with one example being his duly denunciation of the IRS.

“There are about 90,000 employees at the IRS. We need to padlock that building, take all 90,000 and put them down at the southern border.”

He clearly set himself apart from the “rest of the world,” saying that the single biggest different between him and his rivals is “When I tell you I’m going to do something, I’m going to do exactly what I say I’m going to do.”

Click here to watch Senator Cruz’s remarks

[mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ]

Senator Graham’s speech was positioned, most likely strategically, around lunchtime, resulting in a crowd of less than 100 people. He stayed quite monotone throughout his remarks even when making “the ask” for votes:

Graham uninspiringly asked the audience “Are you ready to win an election we cannot afford to lose?” to which they responded with little enthusiasm.

He did speak, though, on the need for an experienced leader and criticized Obama’s foreign policy, the Iran nuclear deal, and Hillary Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attacks.

He asserted, “If we don’t change out foreign policy – soon – we’re going to pay a heavy price.”

His most memorable line was in regards to the safety of America – “I’ve never been more worried about another 9/11 than I am right now,” said Graham.

Click here to watch Senator Graham’s remarks 

Governor Mike Huckabee

Governor Huckabee delivered a stump speech in efforts to reignite his dwindling campaign, plagued even further by low poll numbers and his inability to participate in last week’s debate, due to the numbers aforementioned.

He did have a few memorable lines, though.

“If we don’t stop the corruption in our nation’s capitol, our great republic cannot survive,” claimed Huckabee.

His big “pledge” during his remarks was “As president, I will put the director of homeland security in Laredo, Texas and say ‘You’re not leaving until you secure the border.’ It’ll be secure in less than a year.”

Click here to watch Governor Huckabee’s remarks

Jeb Bush

As in most of his speeches and debates, Governor Bush focused mostly on his record as Governor, while not addressing his brother or father, which is usually routine for him on the campaign trail.

Bush told the audience to ignore “big personalities” who “trash talk” and focus on his conservative record:

“If you want a talker, maybe I’m not your guy. But if you want a doer, someone that’s done it, someone who has taken on the tough challenges, I’m your candidate,” Bush said.

Even after he concluded his remarks, he further addressed the “big personalities,” while still rallied support from the crowd, invoking the vision of the American dream:

“It’s not about the big personalities on the stage. It’s not about who can give the great quip. It’s not about that,” said Bush. “It’s about building a society that is loving, that is caring, that is aspirational, where people believe again in the American dream, where they have the tools to achieve earned success their own way.”

Click here to watch Governor Bush’s remarks

Donald Trump

In the typical arrogant Trump fashion, he began his remarks by reciting recent poll numbers, of which he still leads by a significant margin.

Despite his notorious egotistical personality, he had one of the largest showings at the Summit and he made sure everyone knew.

He discussed his position on issues that have put him atop in the polls – the military, immigration and anchor babies, our current leadership, and of course – “The Trump Wall.”

He concluded his remarks with his “win” pitch:

“We are going to win so much. You people are going to be so proud of your president,” he boasted.

“We’re going to win. We don’t win anymore. We’re going to win so much, and you’re going to be very, very proud.”

Click here to watch Donald Trump’s remarks

Dr. Ben Carson

Dr. Carson closed out the first day of the Summit with a low-key but powerful, moving speech. His passion for our country was clearly evident as he detailed his challenging upbringing and how his mother’s incredible dedication to him made him the person he is today.

“I was a terrible student. Everybody called me the dummy. But my mother was the only one who believed in me,” shared Carson.

Carson is a man of unwavering faith and he had no reservations when discussing his relationship with the Lord:

“You know, the good thing about God is you don’t have to have a PhD to talk to him. You just have to have faith.”

His most memorable line was about the American dream, though. While other candidates also cited the American Dream, Dr. Carson’s mentioning of it was unforgettable:

“Have you ever noticed there is such a thing as an American Dream? There’s not a Portuguese dream. Or a Swedish dream. There’s only an American Dream and there’s something incredibly special about our nation … and that’s why I’m in no hurry to give anything away for political correctness.”

Click here to watch Dr. Carson’s remarks

Saturday, November 14th

Senator Rick Santorum

The common theme of Senator Santorum’s speech was regarding ISIS, as he spoke the morning after the Paris attacks, blaming the rise of Islamic terrorist on President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“ISIS is creation of a political decision by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to abandon Iraq against all of our generals’ recommendations, against all of the policy recommendations,” said Santorum.

He also spoke about the need for an experienced leader in our country, quipping that only he and Graham have ample national security experience to be president, both of whom are polling at the very bottom of the 2016 electorate.

Santorum contributed, “Do we need another young, inexperienced president to come into office at a time when the world is on fire?”

Click here to watch Rick Santorum’s remarks

Jim Gilmore

Kyle Foley, writing for OUTSET Magazine, succinctly summarized Gilmore’s remarks saying, “Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, a presidential candidate polling so low that many did not know he was around, took the stage to make his case for the presidency.”

“Gilmore touted his record and experience in Virginia and spoke about how his experience after 9/11 as Governor of Virginia made him qualified to be president in a time when we are at war with radical Islam. Like Santorum, he had good things to say but in the end he will fade into obscurity (where he essentially is already),” added Foley.

Click here to watch Jim Gilmore’s remarks

Governor Bobby Jindal

Jindal’s speech was easily one of the more memorable and entertaining speeches of weekend. The Louisiana Governor spoke about issues ranging from the need to secure our borders, to criticizing Trump for his remarks about Carson, the radically divided college campuses across the nation, and also reflected on Friday’s Paris attacks.

His most memorable line from his remarks was his message to those who want to be Americans:

“Come legally, learn English and when you get here, roll up your sleeves and get to work.,” said Jindal.

Coupling his powerful presence at the Summit, his outstanding debate performances to date, and his strong, clear conservative message, it’s disconcerting that he isn’t polling higher.

Click here to watch Governor Jindal’s remarks

[mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ]

Senator Paul’s fan base made their appearance during his remarks when he spoke midway through the Summit on Saturday. He began his remarks contrasting the Jeffersonian and the Hamiltonian conservatives.

A significant portion of his speech, though, was dedicated to discussing immigration, the Paris attacks, and subsequently attacking Rubio and his “secret deal” with [mc_name name=’Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S000148′ ] to block conservative amendments to the 2013 immigration reform bill.

“One of the lessons we should learn from the tragedy in Paris is that we have to be very careful and very cautious, extraordinarily cautious, about who comes to visit, who emigrates here and who studies here,” said Paul.

Paul’s speech was somewhat disjointed but he still had a strong presence throughout the weekend, which carried his campaign. His speech didn’t really help him, but it didn’t hurt him either.

Click here to watch Senator Paul’s remarks

Governor Chris Christie

Governor Christie’s remarks were among the most memorable from the weekend. He began with a story about the somberness he found as the newly appointed U.S. attorney in New Jersey after 9/11 – a story that he often uses in debates and on the campaign trail, undoubtedly powerful, though, as it is time after time.

He then delivered a moving call for America to come together again.

“We have seen evil visited upon innocent people once again,” said Christie.

He further contributed, “We stand with [the people of France] and pray for them. Our outrage must turn into action and resolve. ISIS warned us they would commit unspeakable carnage and now they have.”

His most memorable moment was his declaration to the audience – “Please go home tonight and turn on the television and watch the news. The world is desperate for a strong, secure, smart and tested American president,” he declared.

“The hour is too late for people to be trained. We need a president who is ready to serve. And I will serve you,” said Christie.

Click here to watch Governor Christie’s remarks

Governor John Kasich

Kasich, unlike most candidates, decided to forego his stump speech and addressed the somber crowd, using less than 14 of his allotted 20 minutes to speak. He addressed America’s “unwillingness to lead” under the current administration and focused his remarks on the tragedies in Paris.

“Today is a much different day. It’s a somber day. It’s a tougher day. And for me it’s really not a day of politics or promoting a candidacy,” said Kasich

He further contributed, “I don’t know if this is a time for political criticism or the blame game, but I must say that we as a nation, the United States of America, have not shown leadership. We just have not shown leadership. We’ve had unwillingness, an unwillingness to lead.

His speech was memorable because of his decision to unite the party in lieu of political expediency this weekend. Kasich’s remarks were entirely genuine and heartfelt when he added near his close, “American is the hope of the world.”

Click here to watch Governor Kasich’s remarks

Carly Fiorina

Fiorina’s speech was easily the most memorable speech of the weekend. Closing the Sunshine Summit, she powerfully but angrily attacked the current Obama administration and Hillary Clinton regarding the ISIS attacks over the weekend.

“I am angry that just yesterday morning our president, against all evidence, declared ISIS contained and took a victory lap,” said Fiorina.

Calling for American leadership, she added, “We cannot be the world’s police, but we can be the world’s leader.”

“Despite our imperfections, we are still an exceptional nation,” Fiorina clearly articulated though.

Using the metaphor of The Statue of Liberty throughout her speech she said, “Lady Liberty is tall and strong and as a country, we must be too.”

Further, in regards to defeating ISIS, she said, “We must wage this war and we must win.”

She concluded her exceptional speech saying, “We have been managing the decline of this nation for far too long.”

Click here to watch Carly Fiorina’s remarks

U.S Senate Race

In addition to the Summit’s focus on the 2016 election, 2016 is also the year that Florida will select its next Senator, replacing current Presidential candidate [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ]. The four men currently vying for the Senator’s seat all had an evident presence this weekend.

Congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000621′ ], Congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. David Jolly (R-FL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’J000296′ ], Todd Wilcox, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera all gave remarks on the main stage throughout the weekend, but Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera clearly had the largest showing of support, with conservatives young and old rallying support for his campaign.

In addition to his remarks on the main stage, Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera held a round table discussion with the College and Young Republicans from Florida’s Universities where students had the opportunity to ask questions about his vision for Florida, which included his position on tax and spending reform, his support for school choice and non-traditional methods of education, and his dedication to the constituents of Florida, by, if elected, holding monthly town hall meetings and attending events throughout the state.

Other notable speakers throughout the weekend included Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Representative Jennifer Sullivan, Representative Mike Miller, and RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day.

The grand success of the Sunshine Summit demonstrated that the momentum and influence of the Republican Party is far from dead. Rather, the State party is growing even stronger and is fully capable of winning back the White House in 2016 through the empowering and mobilization of grassroots and digital organizations across the nation.