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Potential GOP Candidates Court Conservatives at CPAC

Rick Perry, Rand Paul and Jeb Bush spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday.
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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush defended his views on immigration and Common Core education standards during his highly anticipated CPAC appearance on Friday. Bush’s views on the two hot-button issues were at odds with most of the other potential 2016 presidential candidates who spoke, but all made it a point to slam Hillary Clinton and her tenure as secretary of state.

Here’s our recap of day two...And you can catch up on anything you missed yesterday here.

2:40pm ET: Jeb Bush's on-stage appearance was the most anticipated of the conservative conference because of uncertainty over how the younger, libertarian-leaning crowd would accept him. In the Q & A format, Bush was animated and energetic while defending his positions over immigration and Common Core that are unpopular among many conservatives. He spoke effortlessly about foreign policy and implored Republicans to "start being for things again."

"It's good to oppose the bad things, but we need to start being for things," Bush said.

Regarding immigration, Bush once took the again said the people living illegally in the U.S. should be given a path to legal status - a position not common in conservative circles.

"There is not plan to deport 11 million people," Bush said.

Bush also said it makes little sense for Congress to threaten withholding funding for the Department of Homeland Security over President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration because it would stop funding for the border. That's a stark contrast from Sen. Ted Cruz's position.

More on Bush's appearance here.

On education, he avoided the words "Common Core" and said "there's a risk" that the federal government will intrude in education but alluded that Common Core is not a federal intrusion. (In November he said “the debate over Common Core State Standards has been troubling" because, he says, it has been filled with misconceptions.)

Bush bragged about eliminating affirmative action as Florida gov and said he has no regrets in how he handled the Terry Schiavo case.

On the controversial upcoming visit by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bush said to loud applause that it is "very important."

1:05pm ET: Working to catch some steam for a second presidential run, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum reminded the audience at CPAC that he won 11 primary contests in 2012. He said political commentators said he lasted so long because he was "the last man standing."

"I won because I stood for someone - the little guy, the American worker," Santorum refuted in an off-handed jab at Mitt Romney who won the the nomination. "If we're going to win in 2016, we need to stand for the little guy, too."

Santorum quickly moved the direction of his speech from standing for the little guy to defeating the bad guys - ISIS. "Number one we need to put boots on the ground," Santorum said, specifying that 10,000 American troops are needed.

12:20pm ET: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul sought to address conservative concerns that his non-interventionist foreign policy would lack the teeth necessary to take on ISIS, declaring he supports an “unparalleled, undefeatable” national defense.

“Without question, we must be strong. Without question we must defend ourselves. I envision an America with a national defense unparalleled, undefeatable, and unencumbered by nation building,” Paul said.

Paul said he voted against arming Syrian rebels because he feared the weapons could fall into enemy hands.

“Within a year, that prediction came true...We must now fight against our own weapons,” Paul said.

The rest of Paul’s speech was focused on libertarian policies like standing up to National Security Agency surveillance tactics and replacing Obamacare with a system that gives patients more say in their health care.

And, what has been the case for nearly all the potential 2016 candidates addressing CPAC, Paul slammed Hillary Clinton for her record as secretary of state.

“I believe Hillary Clinton's abdication of responsibility, her refusal to provide an adequate defense for Benghazi, her dereliction of duty should forever preclude her from higher office,” he said.

12:10pm ET: Donald Trump spoke. He said: "A lot of people think I'm doing this for fun." He then said it's 75 or 80 percent that he's running. We'll be waiting on the edge of our seats.

11:45am ET: Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus said the GOP has taken control of presidential primary debates. "The days of the media calling the shots on our primary debates are over," Preibus said. The RNC recently passed rules aimed to cut down the primary season after a drawnout battle in 2012 that many Republicans feel hurt Mitt Romney.

11:20am ET: Fox News host Sean Hannity took the stage and asked the crowd who they support in 2016. Rand Paul and Scott Walker drew the loudest applause, while Jeb Bush and Chris Christie drew some boos.

10:45am ET: John Bolton, President George W. Bush’s UN ambassador, focused his remarks on Benghazi, the issue most conservatives cite as Hillary Clinton’s biggest failure as secretary of state.

“Under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton you can kill an American ambassador and do it with impunity,” Bolton said. He argued that the Obama administration has failed to hold those responsible for the attack accountable.

Clinton has called the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya her biggest regret during her time as head of the State Department.

9:40am ET: An animated Rick Perry stormed the CPAC stage Friday morning vowing to defeat ISIS, reduce carbon emissions and secure the border.

Like many of the other potential presidential candidates appearing at CPAC, the former Texas governor slammed President Barack Obama for not being tough enough on ISIS. He called it the "worst threat to freedom since Communism."

"Egypt and Jordan recognize that they are at war with radical Islam, isn’t it about time that our president proclaimed the same?" Perry rhetorically asked. "We didn’t start this war, nor did choose it, but we will have will to finish it."

Perry told MSNBC's Kasie Hunt Thursday that the U.S. should consider putting combat boots on the ground to fight ISIS.

During a brief question and answer session, Perry refused to say if he thinks global warming is caused by human activity, but he bragged about reducing carbon emissions in his state and said it should be the role of every state to create jobs and protect the environment. And, of course, that starts by building the Keystone XL pipeline.

On immigration, took credit for stemming the flow of undocumented minors coming into the U.S. last summer by deploying the state's national guard, saying he told the president: "Mr. President, if you don't secure this border, Texas will. And that's exactly what we did."

9:26am ET: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made an emotional pitch to CPAC attendees, describing his “debt” to America as the son of poor Cuban immigrants.

“For me, this is deeply personal. America doesn’t owe me anything, but I have a debt to America that I will never be able to repay,” he said, describing his parents’ arrival here with little money, limited education and few connections.

“This is the place that literally changed the history of my family,” he added.

Asked about his part support for comprehensive immigration reform, Rubio said that he learned during the legislative process that enforcement measures had to be put in place before addressing the undocumented population.

"You have ten or twelve million people in this country, many of whom have lived here for longer than a decade and have not otherwise violated our laws other than immigration laws, I get all that," he said. "But what I've learned is that you can't even have a conversation about that until people ... know, and it's proven to them, that future illegal immigration will be controlled."

Rubio also made a pointed reference to his opposition to Common Core, the educational standards backed by top 2016 candidate Jeb Bush. He suggested that the program is “a national school board that imposes a national curriculum on the whole country.”

8:41am ET: Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham took pointed and personal shots at Jeb Bush during her address to CPAC, including a reference about his wife Columba's reported large purchases of jewelry.

Joking that Bush could appeal to women voters, she added: "What woman does not like a man who gives her a blank check at Tiffany's?"

Ingraham, a staunch opponent of the immigration reforms Bush has favored, asked the crowd to raise their hands if they were skeptical of another Bush presidency, earning applause.

"Jeb and Hillary could run on the same ticket," she suggested later.

8:35am ET: Former House Speaker and onetime presidential candidate Newt Gingrich used his CPAC remarks to lambaste Hillary Clinton over reports that the Clinton Foundation has accepted millions of dollars from foreign governments, including several countries with complicated relationships with the United States.

“I am very uncomfortable when a former president or potential future president sits in a room with a dictator to get 10 or 15 or 20 million dollars and has a pleasant hour-long conversation, and we have no idea what they discussed," he said.

And he made a jab at Hillary Clinton’s comment last year that she and her husband were “dead broke” after leaving the White House.

“It’s clear to me that the Clinton Foundation is going to have to report in actual dollars every foreign contribution they’ve gotten, period,” he said. “And that includes, by the way, travel, yachts, mansions. I mean, the Clintons have a remarkable capacity to surround themselves with a middle class world in order to overcome the absence of money from which they have suffered for so much of their life. “

8:00am ET: Here are some of the highlights from today's schedule:

8:40 am ET: Marco Rubio

9:00 am: Rick Perry

10:20 am: Rand Paul

12:20 pm: Rick Santorum

1:40 pm: Jeb Bush

4:20 pm: John Bolton