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
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Did these losers also praise Reagan for all the times he raised taxes? No they did not even speak of it. A lot of Reagan is just myth. I lived through the Reagan years and he was an OK President, but he was not the GOD that Republicans make him out to be.
It's time for the candidates to stop the domestic violence and point out the differences in their personal beliefs and plans for the restoration of America and the policies of Obama.
Yesterday the Repubs erected a $1 MILLION statue (one of several this year) to honor their false prophet who started the economic destruction of the middle-class with his voodoo of “trickle down” economics – Regan.
I wonder how many school lunches could $1 million buy? Total waste of tax payer money!
What did Regan give us – raising taxes ELEVEN times – Iran Contra scandal? And NO he didn't win the Cold War he was our President when over fifty years of "war" ended with the end of the Soviet Union.
I am so SICK of the GOP with this Ronald Reagan was the best thing since slice bread!!! HE WAS NOT!!!! The man was an ACTOR and he used it to his advantage!!! JEEZ!!!
It figures their hero would be Reagan the government-hating criminal cut and runner who was weak on terrorism, cut taxes for the rich and raised em on everyone else.
As the American people are finally figuring out that Reagonics was the beginning of the debacle we are in today, and the beginning of the money grab by the rich at the expense of the working middle-class Americans, I would be a little hesitate about aligning myself to closely with Reagan. But than again Republicans are pretty much out of touch lately with REAL AMERICANS.