Former GOP presidential hopefuls emerge at CPAC with an eye on 2016

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's 2012 presidential bid started to fall apart when he forgot on the debate stage which three federal agencies he wanted to eliminate. That "oops" moment, however, hasn't stopped him from thinking about making another run for the White House, and he proved Friday that he can still fire up a crowd.

"It's time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas," Perry said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) just outside of Washington. Perry received an enthusiastic response from the conservative activists at the annual gathering by hailing the success of Republican-led states and decrying the growth of the federal government.

"Nowhere does the Constitution say we should federalize classrooms," he said. "Nowhere does it give federal officials primary responsibility over the air we breathe, the land we farm, the water we drink. And nowhere does it say Congress has the right to federalize health care."

The outgoing governor told CNN last month that he'll make a decision about 2016 "in about 18 months," but he's already laying the groundwork with trips to the critical early-voting state of Iowa.

Perry was just one former -- and perhaps future -- presidential candidate trying out new talking points in front of the conservative crowd Friday.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee railed against a government that "spies to its people and lies to its people" and intrudes in too many areas of life.

"Mothers and fathers raise better children than the government ever will," he said. "We don't need you picking everything from their menu to where they go to school."

Huckabee also took a jab at the Democrats' most likely 2016 presidential candidate.

"Four Americans were murdered in Benghazi, and our government lied to us about what happened," he said. "With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, it does make a difference why they died and who did it."

The former governor also slammed Mr. Obama's relationships with world leaders, remarking, "The only time Vladimir Putin shivers is when he has his shirt off." The Russian president, he said, is "not the least bit worried about what we think of him."

After running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, Huckabee passed on the opportunity to in 2012 but has made clear he's considering entering the 2016 race. Some polls have suggested he could have a shot -- a CNN poll released last month showed that 14 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents would support Huckabee if he were to run, putting him at the top of the list of potential GOP nominees.

Another past candidate eyeing a 2016 bid -- former Sen. Rick Santorum -- is slated to take the stage at CPAC later Friday. Santorum has been laying the groundwork for another campaign by visiting Iowa, keeping his former staffers close and maintaining an advocacy group that could help him get his campaign infrastructure up and running.

Potential presidential candidates aren't the only ones at CPAC slamming the Obama administration and hailing the virtues of small government.

Oliver North, a former United States Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and a Fox News political commentator, said that America has a "leadership deficit disorder."

U.S. troops, he said, "deserve better than a commander in chief... garbed as a Nobel laureate... kowtowing to foreign leaders and apologizing for America."

He added, "We don't know a head of state who guts our defenses and draws phony red lines with a pink crayon."

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