RLC DAY 1: Presidential candidates address crowd of GOP activists

James Plummer Contributor
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NEW ORLEANS – Republican presidential candidates, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke Thursday, day one of the three-day Republican Leadership Convention.

Johnson emphasized his two electoral victories in a state dominated by Democrats, as well as his 750 vetoes, saying “actions speak louder than words.”

Pledging to submit a balanced 2013 budget to Congress if elected, Johnson advocated state block-grants for Medicare and Medicaid, an end to foreign aid, and the expansion of domestic energy production.

The former New Mexico governor said he opposed cap-and-trade, favored the issuance of more work visas with background checks and the legalization of marijuana to reduce border violence.

Johnson drew at least one loud “Boo!” and some applause with “Let’s get out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow.”

RLC delegate Jake Schnapp, told The Daily Caller that Johnson is “all right, but you got to have someone with balls, you need someone to get in their face and say this isn’t working.”

Later, Johnson conceded that his action-over-words philosophy was, perhaps, too subtle a campaign strategy.

Gingrich pledged to sign scores of executive orders on Inauguration Day, including some suggested by online visitors to his campaign website, as well as others to reinstate pro-life policies and recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel.

He made no mention of Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya.

The former speaker called for tax cuts, and generally criticized President Barack Obama as America’s “purchasing agent” for having granted loans to offshore drilling operations in Brazil while closing the Louisiana coast to drilling.

A call from Gingrich to “audit the Federal Reserve” drew so boisterous a response that it was nearly impossible to hear what he was saying about it.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rep. Ron Paul, Gov. Buddy Roemer and Sen. Rick Santorum are all slated to make appearances at the event. Ambassador John Huntsman has canceled a Friday appearance for health reasons.