(CNN) - Traveling to the first caucus state of 2016, where presidential candidates will meet a much-anticipated test, three potential Republican candidates took the stage Saturday at the Iowa GOP state convention to tout conservative principles and a new GOP message.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, declared that if the GOP sticks to conservative principles, it will “be the dominant party again.”
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“You’ve got to believe in … what we once believed in,” Paul said at the Iowa conference in Des Moines.
Acknowledging the foothold the president has had in the state, Paul said that his party needs to tackle a new strategy to reach out to voters, while staying true to conservative roots.
“You guys have a strong force here, but frankly, the president won Iowa twice. So we can’t do the same old, same old,” Paul said. “The real question we have as a party is we have to decide: Can we be true to our purpose, true to our core, true to our message and figure out how to reach out to people? That’s what we have to do.”
At a pivotal time for right wing of the conservative party, Paul argued that the party shouldn’t become ‘Democrat lite’ in order to pick up votes in swing states like Iowa. “I think the core of our message - We could even be more bold, more honest, more forthright.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal echoed Paul’s sentiment, focusing his remarks on preserving conservative values such as religious liberty, small government and abortion.
“The United States of America did not create religious liberty. Religious liberty created the United States of America,” he said. “It is the reason we live in this great country.” Jindal touted signing a recent bill that he says will ensure Louisiana’s record “for being the most pro-life state in the country.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum preached revival of the GOP’s message should focus on appealing to average working Americans.
“Ladies and gentleman, we have a message for average working Americans,” Santorum said. “We are the party of average working Americas. We need to be that party not just in theory. But we need to talk about it, we need to campaign on it ... The people of America - the workers of America - know that President Obama’s policies have let them down.”
Rand Paul also slammed a potential 2016 rival, recalling a story where he told Hillary Clinton toward the end of her service as secretary of state that if he were president he would’ve asked for her resignation.