WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Republican presidential hopefuls spoke at a forum held by the Republican Jewish Coalition, and candidates kept it candid.
Much of the focus at the presidential candidates' forum was on Israel, the Iran nuclear deal and the Islamic State. However, some candidates did not waste opportunities to take stabs at their opponents.
Most candidates took aggressive positions at the Thursday forum. Leading the day was Sen. Ted Cruz, who called Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., possibly "yet another manifestation" of "radical Islamic terrorism."
Authorities have not disclosed whether they suspect a specific motive in the shooting. Two suspects were killed Wednesday: Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik.
"I believe this nation needs a war-time president to defend it," Cruz said to applause.
The proclamation was met with applause and cheers, along with claims that Cruz will repeal "every word" of Obamacare.
"I believe Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party's chance at winning an election we cannot afford to lose," he said. Graham's remarks trended on Twitter mid-morning, as he called for GOP candidates to be more moderate on social issues.
"It's not because of social issues that we will lose. It's positions we take regarding social issues that can disconnect us from America at large," he said. "If you're going to tell a woman whose been raped that she has to carry the child of the rapist, you're going to lose most Americans."
Rubio followed Graham. Rubio's speech dealt largely with protecting Israel's interests. Rubio vowed that if elected, he would reverse the nuclear deal with Iran.
— RJC National (@RJCHQ) December 3, 2015
"The days of giving the Ayatollah of Iran more respect than the Prime Minister of Israel will be over on my first day of office," said Rubio to a standing ovation.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki was next up at the podium. He echoed calls to roll back the Iran nuclear deal, and called Jerusalem the "eternal, undivided capitol of Israel." He said that as a Roman Catholic, anti-Semitism troubled him "enormously."
The candidate's campaign has been somewhat quiet, but he ended his speech with a Hebrew phrase that drew him thunderous applause.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was up next. Kasich has long positioned himself as a friend to Jews and to Israel, and told a personal anecdote about talking with Natan Sharansky, the Soviet dissident who now chairs the Jewish Agency for Israel. The story was well-received by the audience.
Next was Donald Trump, who received a standing ovation from about half the audience. Upon taking the podium, Trump joked: "You just like me because my daughter happens to be Jewish."
Trump went on to berate the Obama administration's foreign policy.
"Obama is the worst thing to happen to Israel," he told the crowd.
Later, Trump told audience members: "I would love your support, but I don't want your money." During the Q&A section, Trump was asked if he felt Jerusalem was the undisputed capitol of Israel, an issue that is dear to the RJC. Trump gave a murky answer and was met with booing.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson took the stage next, praising Israel as a good example of equal rights for women in the region. Carson looked down for much of his speech, reading his remarks from a piece of paper. His talk focused mostly on the history of Israel.
After a break, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took the stage and called for the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"Judaism is the foundation of everything I believe as an Evangelical," Huckabee said. The low-polling candidate received several standing ovations throughout his speech.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the stage after Huckabee, saying he'd like to blame America's "weakening" on President Obama, but he considers some of his fellow Republicans complicit. Christie told the audience he was convinced that Wednesday's shooting in San Bernardino was a terrorist attack. "We are in the next world war," he warned. He went on to detail his personal experience during the 9/11 attacks.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was scheduled to follow Christie, but Paul was delayed on Capitol Hill. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore took the podium in a last-minute schedule change. Gilmore has been largely invisible during the election cycle so far, not having participated in any televised debates.
Gilmore made the case for his experience, noting that besides Sen. Lindsey Graham, he is the only other veteran in the crowded GOP field. Gilmore served as a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent in Germany during the Vietnam war. In his speech, he warned repeatedly of the "savagery of radical Islam."
Ahead of his appearance at the forum, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush published an op-ed on Fox News' website. In it, he promises that as president, he would stand with Israel in the fight against terror.
Bush's team tweeted the piece shortly before he appeared at the forum. He took the podium after Gilmore, and asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence for the victims of Wednesday's shooting in California.
He went on to discuss terrorism, echoing sentiments from his op-ed. "It is Islamic terrorism...that has declared war on us, and we must declare war on them," he told the crowd.
Bush was the first candidate to wish the crowd a happy Hanukkah.
If he were to win the GOP nomination, Bush says he would "whoop" Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
"By the U.S. accepting refugees from the Middle East we help ISIS accomplish their goal," Santorum told the audience. Aaron Y. Zelin, of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has cataloged ISIS messaging that indicates that the terror cell actually wants Western countries to turn away Syrian refugees. Zelin writes: "The hostile reaction to refugees, therefore, only bolsters ISIS's contentions and risks spurring future, avoidable tensions."
The last candidate to take the stage was Carly Fiorina, who echoed her fellow candidates' claims that yesterday's shooting in California was terrorism.
"Hillary Clinton was tweeting while we were learning that radical Islamic terrorists are making pipe bombs," Fiorina said, seemingly making a reference to the discovery that the husband-and-wife attackers in Wednesday's shooting had pipe bombs in their home, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Authorities discovered the pipe bombs in the couple's home Thursday. Throughout the day, Clinton's tweets called for stricter gun control measures. By contrast, during Wednesday's shooting, Fiorina was at Twitter headquarters, fielding questions live on Periscope. Fiorina has not tweeted anything relating to Wednesday's shooting.
Moving on to the topic of Israel, Fiorina said her first call as president would be to Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu.
Continuing a familiar strategy, Fiorina positioned herself as a foil to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, telling the audience that Clinton "doesn't want to run on her record as Secretary of State," and that Fiorina would "force her to fight" on her track record.
USA Today reports The Republican Jewish Coalition has more than 40,000 members in 45 chapters across the nation.