Republicans seeking to replace President Obama this year seized on his final State of the Union as fresh fodder for their campaigns.
“I’m going to try and make it a little shorter,” the president joked Tuesday night with an eye to the many campaigns. “I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.”
The 2016 GOP candidates largely argued that Obama’s narrative of successes and economic growth was a false one. “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” Obama said.
Republican candidates looking to replace him disagreed: ”Anyone claiming a rosy picture of economy recovery is peddling fiction,” Dr. Ben Carson fired back in a Facebook post.
“This is a guy who lives in a world he wishes it was,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday morning.
Sen. Ted Cruz declared Obama to be “out of touch,” calling the speech a “state of denial,” and arguing that he “refused to acknowledge the very real challenges this country faces.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said in a statement sent to reporters that the president “pats himself on the back” and “glows and grins” about his record while he “refuses to accept an ounce of responsibility” for his failures.
“What we saw was a leader with a record of failure in search of any meaningful positive legacy,” Sen. Rand Paul said in video released after the address. “The state of the union affirms one thing: we’re ready for a new president”
Many of the candidates focused on how the president handled the threat of ISIS and national security.
“As we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped,” Obama said, according to a transcript. “But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.”
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“He talked about the policy in Syria working well, ask the 250,000 dead Syrians if they think the policy is working,” Gov. Chris Christie argued.
“While the president suggests that ISIS is not a threat – that they’re not going to invade us in the traditional sense – they are trying to undermine our way of life, they are trying to attack our vulnerability which is our freedom, they will do it any chance that they have,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said.
National front-runner Donald Trump, who was one of a targets of both the president’s address and the Republican response by Gov. Nikki Haley, skipped policy and went straight for style, declaring the address “lethargic.”