Perry, Paul and Carson take 2016 star turns at AFP conference

Rick Perry spoke Friday at the Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream summit in Dallas, Tex., where he slammed President Obama over his handling of the ongoing crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. (The Washington Post)

DALLAS, TX — Gov. Rick Perry (R) -- one of three presidential contenders to take the stage on the first day of the Americans for Prosperity summit -- got a hero's welcome Friday from the crowd here in his home state.

Offering a red-meat attack on the Obama presidency, Perry backed the House Republican’s plans to sue the president, telling the crowd “we still love democracy in this country” and “Obama has an appointment in January with the constitutional limits.”

He drew cheers over his decision to roll out the National Guard to police the border. “Washington ignores their basic responsibilities, such as the crisis on the southern border,” he said. “If Washington will not do its job to secure the border, Texas will.”

And continuing the tough foreign policy of recent weeks, Perry said President Obama had abandoned his duties on the world stage. “The world needs a president who is not one step behind, who is lurching from crisis to crisis, who is always playing catch-up,” he said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who took the stage soon after, also attacked the Obama administration's foreign policy record -- questioning the competence of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling her role in the Benghazi affair the “tip of the iceberg.”

"If Hillary worked for Bill Clinton," he said, "she'd be fired by now."

Dr. Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon and grassroots conservative favorite, offered a mix of folksy tales and sound bites -- though his low-key style drew a more muted response from the crowd than Perry or Paul had. On foreign affairs, Carson deferred to Rick Perry, saying he'd covered it amply but added “when we get through with ISIS, it should it IS-was.” He summed up his approach as “we need a return of the can-do attitude in American, not what you can do for me."

As Carson left the stage to pounding music, cheers came from the crowd of “Run Ben Run" and banners were help up with the same message.

Also pushing that message: a visible volunteer presence. There's only one candidate super PAC with a stand reaching out to the 3,000 activists the at the Defending the American Dream summit this weekend: the one calling for Carson to run for the Republican nomination in 2016.

Sebastian Payne is a national reporter with The Washington Post. He is the Post’s 35th Laurence Stern fellow.
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