Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback called for reforming the tax code Friday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A group that promotes fiscal conservatism gave a warm welcome to a partial field of Republican presidential hopefuls at a candidate forum Friday.
Rudy Guiliani drew the biggest applause after he and four GOP rivals each spoke during the "Defending the American Dream Summit" organized by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Guiliani opened the forum with a combination of humor and barbs, while citing his practical fiscal experience as New York City mayor. Unemployment offices became “job centers,” he noted, and said the Democratic candidates had better realize their proposals will cost money.
As an example, he said Sen. Hillary Clinton's proposal to give each child a $5,000 savings bond would cost $20 billion a year.
"You and Bill can't afford that!" he said and noted taxpayers would have to pay for it. The bonds, he joked, would have Hillary's picture on them.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, called for reform of the nation's income tax laws, saying, "When you can't fix it with duct tape and WD-40, it can't be fixed." He later told reporters his rivals should be worried that his fundraising is nearly as strong as theirs, and has seen growth every quarter. Huckabee raised $1 million from July through September compared to roughly $10 million each for Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the same period.
Fred Thompson seemed awkwardly unrehearsed as he began his remarks, but that may have endeared him to the crowd as it gave him one of the biggest rounds of applause.
When he first came to Washington as a new U.S. Senator, Thompson acknowledged he made mistakes.
"I accidentally spent some of my own money," Thompson said, as the crowd laughed, "but I quickly recovered."
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback brought two large, hardbound books to the stage and with a weighty thump on the lectern used them as a prop to call for reform of the tax code.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul ran long and organizers gave him a not-so-subtle cue to wrap it up by briefly playing political rally music over the public address system, nearly drowning out his remarks. The crowd cheered his vow to get rid of the federal income tax if elected.
Romney was scheduled to address the group Friday night. Among other declared GOP candidates, Sen. John McCain spoke Thursday at a Capitol Hill gathering of the group's delegates. Friday's audience of more than a thousand people represented grassroots chapters in 17 states.
"We invited all the candidates," said spokeswoman Annie Patnaude. She could not explain why none of the Democrats came to the event and said no additional summit was planned for them.
– From CNN's Paul Courson