On a cold and snowy November night in Iowa, seven Republican presidential contenders showed unexpected warmth as they courted evangelical Christian voters with stories of their personal faith and struggles.
The format of the Presidential Family Forum - in the style of a "Thanksgiving dinner" with candidates seated around a table featuring decorative gourds— offered up heartfelt answers to open-ended questions, with no time limit, NBC News reported.
And for a slate of candidates who've spent much of the past six months trading sharper and sharper jabs, Friday night's group was notably amicable. Rand Paul at one point slapped Rick Santorum on the back in laughter.
Recent terror attacks also cast a pall over the forum. At least one third of the discussion centered on national security and foreign policy, with candidates offering both specifics and broad viewpoints on how to tackle ISIS.
Sen. Ted Cruz had the sharpest remarks of the night when he accused President Obama of "serving as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism."