RedState assisted in sponsoring [mc_name name='Rep. Steve King (R-IA)' chamber='house' mcid='K000362' ]'s event in Iowa this past weekend. I did not go, but made sure to pay attention to what was going on and who said what.

As I have previously written, this is the most substantive field of Republican contenders since 1980. The number of Governors, Senators, and others who are running gives the GOP a deeper bench than any the Democrats can or will muster. They also agree on most topics and are trying to nuance themselves into unique positions.

I appreciate Governor Perry's desire to paint a vision for the country. I want all the candidates at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta this year not to beat up Obama, but paint their vision for the future. What will the country look like in 2020 as they being re-election.

Here are some quick notes on the candidates.

First, Jeb Bush was not there and got dinged quite a bit. The field showed itself to both be willing to have "adult conversations" and also showed substantive resume bullet points. That is going to make it harder for Bush, who still needs to explain why he is more qualified than these guys.

On the other hand, in 2008 the GOP nominated [mc_name name='Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)' chamber='senate' mcid='M000303' ] despite the base not liking him and in 2012 the GOP nominated Mitt Romney after searching for an alternative. Bush is raising money at a furious pace, the establishment and donors like him, he had a conservative governing record, and he cannot be dismissed just because vocal elements of the base dislike him.

Second, Scott Walker was most impressive. I worry about some holding it against him that he does not have a college degree. I think he can overcome it, but I think it could be an issue. His speech was fantastic. He definitely was not the second coming of Tim Pawlenty as some thought it could be. He's going to surprise a lot of people.

Third, both Texas candidates are great. Cruz knows how to make the base eat from the palm of his hand. He is skilled at these sorts of events with a rock star status others only wish they had. Perry is going to have to show he can get beyond his 2012 performance. His speech cast him as a mature official with the experience to lead and he focused on vision, which I like.

I was surprised at the forceful populism from Carly Fiorina. She struck me as a candidate getting in to run for Vice President, but her speech certainly suggests she is in it to win it. She upstaged Sarah Palin who followed Fiorina and whose speech is best left uncommented on. Let's hope this report of a TelePrompter malfunction is true, though I should note it makes all those jokes about the President relying on one look bad.

Chris Christie wins points just by showing up. He also wins points for doing something entirely different. He did not throw red meat after red meat to the crowd. I think everyone expected he would given his performances in New Jersey. He really impressed me just by showing up to a crowd that could have been hostile and impressed me further with what he said.

Bobby Jindal did not show up, but certainly stole press from the event. He is definitely making a faith ploy for evangelicals, which could cut into both Huckabee and Santorum. Therein lies the problem for the conservatives. There are a lot of people fighting over that part of the base. Jindal, for two years, has been sounding notes on religion and he is getting good at getting press for it. But I'm not sure about his fundraising potential.

All in all, it was a good event with good speeches to kick off 2016. I have to reiterate one point. There are candidates who took the stage who I did not think could hold their own. But they did. That is encouraging.

I cannot wait to get them all in Atlanta in August once they've had a time to really formulate their vision for America.