Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – On Friday evening in Iowa, five Republican presidential candidates spoke to a gathering of Republicans and followed a similar tack: speak well of Ronald Reagan and speak ill of President Barack Obama's leadership and policies.
The occasion: the Iowa Republican Party's Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, the group's largest annual fundraiser. Attendees paid between $75 for general seating and up to $1,500 for a VIP table of 10.
"Sixty days from right now we start the process of choosing Barack Obama's Republican successor and it starts here in Iowa," state GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said in his opening remarks, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucus is on January 3.
Following Strawn was GOP Sen. Rand Paul, who addressed the crowd by video message.
"America will thrive again when we have a leader who embraces and extols the greatness of our founding documents, the greatness of capitalism and the unlimited potential of freedom," the Kentucky senator said. "I think that leader is my father. And I hope you will give him your consideration."
With that, the father took to the stage. Texas Rep. Ron Paul opened his speech with high praise of the nation's 40th president.
"Of all the presidents that I have met over the many decades, President Reagan was the one I knew the best and visited with the most and had the most in common," Paul said.
Conservatives have previously criticized Paul for his past comments about Reagan. In 1987, Paul disassociated himself from the GOP out of frustration with Reagan administration policies. Texas Gov. Rick Perry needled Paul on that issue during a GOP debate at the Reagan Library on Sept. 7.
"I strongly supported Ronald Reagan," Paul said in response to Perry at the debate.
"I supported him all along ... But in the 1980's we spent too much, we taxed too much, we built up our deficits. And it was a bad scene."
At the dinner, Perry followed Paul. Among other comments, the Texas governor reiterated some action items he'd take as president: imposing a pay freeze for Congress and federal employees – "outside of the military and the public safety areas" - until the budget was balanced; taking a "wrecking ball" to runaway government spending and regulation; and grasping bold reforms.
"I happen to believe there's a clear choice in this race: between the status quo tinkerers who represent the establishment. My approach is to break up the Washington establishment with fundamental reform of the tax code," Perry said.
The governor also elicited a laugh with a reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"You might say we're involved in a project called 'Operation Occupy the White House,'" Perry said.
Michele Bachmann, speaking after the Texas governor, laid out her messages using optimistic words. At one point, she even borrowed Obama's 2008 campaign message.
"As I look out at all of you, what I see is the epicenter of hope and change for our country," Bachmann said. "That's the Republican Party of Iowa."
The Minnesota congresswoman also praised Reagan.
"We have to have a commitment that is absolutely grounded in cement that our nominee will be an individual who will stand strong and make sure that there is no compromise with repealing 'Obamacare' 100%. No compromise with repealing Dodd-Frank - the jobs and housing destruction act - 100%. No compromise abolishing the tax code and creating it with a Ronald Reagan style pro-growth tax code. No compromise with liberty, no compromise," Bachmann told the crowd.
As he often does, Rick Santorum highlighted his faith and family values. The former Pennsylvania senator also reiterated a common criticism of conservatives.
"We want to take all the regulations that the Obama administration has put into place that costs businesses over a $100 million and repeal them," Santorum said.
"Those that we can't repeal permanently, we'll replace them with ones that are more friendly to business. And we will send a message, day one, that manufacturers and processors and all businesses are welcome back here in America to grow our economy."
Newt Gingrich was the last GOP candidate to speak. The former House Speaker has recently chastised Mitt Romney and Perry for squabbling during debates, recently comparing the two men to "kids" on a playground.
At the dinner, there was no such language from Gingrich. Instead, he called the field his "competitors" – with the president being his only "opponent."
Gingrich did highlight his differences from others in the field, however.
"I am the only candidate in this race who, at a national level, has balanced the budget four consecutive years, led an effort across the system for the first tax cuts in 16 years, led an effort which led unemployment to drop 5.6% to 2.4%, and created a national majority for the first time in 40 years," Gingrich said.
–Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN