One day after President Obama offered a stern defense of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, some Republican presidential hopefuls reiterated their pledges during Thursday night's debate to scrap the accord on their first days in office.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he would not only reinstate sanctions on Iran's economy that would be waived under the agreement, but put in place "even more crippling" ones and lobby America's allies to do the same. The deal, he said, was "yet another example of the failed foreign policy of the Obama-Clinton doctrine," an attempt to tie Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to an accord unpopular among Republican voters.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he supported the idea of diplomatic negotiations with Iran but said Obama didn't "negotiate from a position of strength."
"President Obama gave away too much, too early," he said. "If there's going to be a negotiation, you're going to have to believe somehow that the Iranians are going to comply."
Obama has argued that the deal, which denies Iran the ability to produce fuel for a nuclear bomb in exchange for an easing of the sanctions that have deeply impaired its economy, is the best possible alternative to war in the Middle East.
Mike Huckabee, who recently accused Obama of leading Israelis to "the oven" by agreeing to the deal with Iran, whose leaders periodically call for the destruction of Israel, used less provocative rhetoric Thursday.
"What the Iranians have said is, 'We will wipe Israel off the face of the map, and we will bring death to America.' When someone points a gun at your head and loads it, by God, you ought to take them seriously, and we need to take that seriously," he said.
Beyond Donald Trump, who said that if Iran were a stock, he would advise that "folks should go out and buy it," few of the other leading candidates addressed the deal, let alone offered an alternative, which Obama has challenged critics of the deal to do.
In the day's earlier forum for lower-tier candidates, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said Obama "broke every rule of negotiation," and would seek to make it "as difficult as possible" for Iran to access capital around the world. But as president, she said she would immediately convene a summit of Gulf nations -- not on Iran but on the fight against the Islamic State. "You know, Obama has presented the American people with a false choice every time. It's what I've done or not done, or it's war," she said.
The main challenge to the White House on Thursday came not from Republicans but from two prominent Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer, likely to be the next party leader in the Senate, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, both said they would oppose the deal when it comes to a vote in September.
Both announced their decision during the GOP debate, when the eyes of the political world were looking away from Washington.