Voters First Forum: First Look at GOP Presidential Primary Hopefuls

PolitiChicks.comLast night I was extremely excited to cover the 2016 Republican Candidates “Voters First Forum” for PolitiChicks. Held in Manchester, New Hampshire, the “not-a-debate” forum featured 14 out of the 17 Republican candidates.  It was perhaps a preview of the upcoming official 2016 presidential debate this Thursday, August 6 in Cleveland, Ohio hosted by Fox News. What differentiated the forum from a debate was each candidate was interviewed individually rather than appearing together at the same time.

The Voters First forum was created in response to the decision by Fox News to cap the debates in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Iowa to only the top 10 leading candidates based on national polling numbers.  The forum is said to give all viable candidates who might not make the top ten a chance to be heard.

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Three candidates were missing Tuesday night:  Donald Trump, who declined the invitation due to an editorial from the New Hampshire Union Leader (one of the sponsors of the event) bashing his candidacy; Mike Huckabee; and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, who entered the race to late to make an appearance. Eleven candidates were in person to take turns to answer questions on stage, while Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio participated remotely from Washington D.C. because of the vote on defunding Planned Parenthood.

7:03 EST- Round One- Gov. Rick Perry kicks off #VotersFirstForum

Moderator Jack Heath first question to Perry was Immigration reform

Rick Perry: “It’s like a serious wound, you want to staunch the flow — and that’s not what’s happening right now. For anyone overstaying visas. You go find them, you pick them up and you send them back where they’re from.”

7:08- Sen. Rick Santorum on Welfare Reform.

Rick Santorum: “I led the welfare reform charge when I was in the House in 1996. We wanted to do two things on welfare- time limits and work requirements. We eliminated the only Federal entitlement program that has been eliminated and I was the leader of that.”

7:14- Governor John Kasich on Sanctuary Cities

Gov. John Kasich: “This is a Republican and Democrat agreement. In terms of immigration, obviously the border needs to be secured. There needs to be an expanded guest program so people can move in and out and support their family, but do it in a legal way. With the 12 million, if they are law-abiding, god-fearing folks, they will have to pay a penalty toward legalization and they will have to wait.”

7:19- Senator Lindsey Graham on China and Clinton

Lindsey Graham: “China is cheating, they manipulate their currency and we don’t do anything about it. They are building islands of resorts rich territory on by others because they can. They cyber attack us, steal our intellectual property, and nobody pushes back. Here’s my trade policy. A clenched fist and an open hand, you choose”

On Bill and Hillary Clinton

7:21- Lindsey Graham- “As to Hillary Clinton, the last person in the whirl you want to send into the reader with the Russians is Hillary Clinton. I have been dealing with this for 20 years. I’m fluent in Clinton speak. Do you want me to translate that? When Bill said, I didn’t have sex with that woman, he did. When she says I will tell you about building the pipeline when I get to be president, it means she won’t. And when she tells us, ‘Trust me, you’ve got all the emails that you need,’ we haven’t even scratched the surface. So I understand this crowd and I can beat them and if we can’t beat them it doesn’t matter.”

7:25- Governor Chris Christie- “The War on Drugs is a Failure”

Chris Christie: “The country needs to embrace people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs and provide rehabilitation instead of jail. My state was the first in the country to say for non-violent drug offenders no more prison. They’re going to mandatory in-patient drug treatment, because this is a disease. The war on drugs has been a failure, well intentioned, but a failure. Everyone makes mistakes and society needs to reach out and embrace those who are not violent offenders or dealing drugs to our children that we will get you treatment rather than prison. Addiction can hit anyone, it’s a disease and we need to fix it.”

7:29- Dr.Ben Carson on ObamaCare and Planned Parenthood

On Obamacare: “There is no question it needs to be replaced before you repeal it, because you don’t want to pull the safety net out from underneath people. The reason I don’t like Obamacare, first of all, it’s not so much because it doesn’t work, and not so much because it is not affordable. Obamacare comes along with the government saying; we don’t care what you, the people, think. We are shoving this down your throat, and if you don’t like it, too bad. That is completely antithetical to the founding of this country. I want something that puts the power back into the hands of consumers. Health savings account from the day you’re born until you die. We pay for it with the same dollars we use for traditional health care. And you give people the flexibility to actually move money within the family to cover almost anything.”

On Planned Parenthood: “Planned Parenthood absolutely should not receive taxpayer funding. These recent videos show the atrocity of that. And the level of depravity that we have sunk into as a nation. And we simply have to stop that. If people want to do it, let them take money out of their pocket, let them find other depraved individuals to help them.”

7:32- Governor Jeb Bush on ISIS and what compels him to run

On ISIS: “This is a war against western civilization. These are barbarians. ISIS stays in a caliphate literally the size of Indiana in two countries, doing nothing gives them a chance to send out 100,000 tweets a day to recruit people here in our own country. So we have a security threat that is real and we need to do what we should be doing, which is a strategy to take them out. Protecting the homeland is the first duty of the president of the United States.”

On running: “I think we can grow our economy at 4% instead of this anemic 2%. The fact that Paul Krugman disagrees with me warms my heart. The tax code, embracing the energy revolution with a North American strategy that will allow for highway jobs to be created in or on country, and fixing entitlement, along with moving from broken immigration system to an economic driver. All those things can allow us to grow at a faster rate and solve our entitlement challenges and many other things. We also need a secure world. I think I have the leadership skills based on my record to do that. We cut taxes totaling $19 billion; we created a triple A bond rating during my time. I left as governor with a $9 billion reserve for a rainy day for the next guy, and we created 1.3 million jobs during my time.”

7:37- Carly Fiorina Slams Hillary Clinton

Carly Fiorina: “Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi. She went to the American people and talks some fiction about videotape. She stood over the bodies of the fallen. She has as well lied about her servers and the kind of information she had on her server and why she kept everything on a single device. These go to the core of her character. In order to beat Hillary Clinton or whoever their nominee turns out to be, we have to have a nominee on our side who’s going to throw every punch. Because this is a fight for the future of this nation.”

7:41 Governor Bobby Jindal

“This president is trying to turn the American dream into the European nightmare. Give Bernie Sanders credit; at least he’s honest enough to call himself a socialist. Hillary Clinton and President Obama are not honest enough to call themselves socialists.”

7:45 Governor Scott Walker – “Are you Anti-Union or Anti-Worker”

“I am pro-worker and pro-taxpayer. We gave workers the freedom to choose. We made Wisconsin a right to work state. We gave workers the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a labor union or not. Many chose to keep that money they used to pay for union dues to pay for the kids’ college education or other things. All the power was concentrated in the hands of the elite union bosses. We redistributed that back to the hard-working taxpayers. In our schools, we no longer have seniority or tenure. We can hire and fire based on merit. That means we get the best and brightest in our classrooms. Graduation rates are up.”


7:48 Governor George Pataki on Veterans

“Our freedom depends on those who put their lives on the line to defend our country. To have a health care system that denies them service, where as many as one third of those waiting in line for treatment have die before they get there, an administration that lies about it is completely wrong. We have to reform the health care system for our veterans and do more for their mental health.”

7:55 Senator Rand Paul on College Debt

“I have a plan that would make it deductible. Right now there are limitations. Certain families cannot deduct it because of their income. I would say your interest and principal ought to be deducted over your entire working career. Essentially college is a working expense, so I would let you deducted as a working expense throughout your entire working career. I think it makes more sense than saying it’s going to be free. You cannot just offer free education.”

7:59 Senator Ted Cruz on Iran Deal and the Washington Cartel

On Iran deal: “I believe this Obama-Iranian nuclear deal is the single gravest national security threat facing America. It is a catastrophic deal. If this deal goes through, several things will happen. First of all, over $100 billion will flow into Iran. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. That money in turn, billions of it will go on to Hamas, to Hezbollah, to the Houthis.”

Washington Cartel: “What is the Washington Cartel? Its career politician in both parties who get in bed with lobbyist and special interest that grow and grow government. The American people are frustrated. We keep winning elections, in 2010 we won the house, in 2014 we won the Senate and we don’t have leaders who follow their commitments. My time in the Senate, what I try to do is two things; tell the truth and do what I said I would do. Stand against the Washington Cartel and stand for the 27 million Texans I was elected to represent.”

8:03: Senator Marco Rubio on Medical Marijuana and Immigration

On Marijuana: “I don’t support the legalization of marijuana. I understand individual states are going through the debate of additional purposes. As long as it truly for additional purpose and goes through the FDA process like medicine goes through and I’m willing to explore. What I don’t support is the legalization of marijuana as a way to get high or any other additional intoxicant. This country is already paying a significant price for illegal use of drugs.”

Immigration: “There is only one way forward, it will require three steeps and they have to happen in the following sequence. First, we have to prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control. Americans want to see the fence completed; they want to see more drones, cameras and ground sensor. Over 40% of the people entered here illegally overstay their visa. That’s why we need an electronic verification system that employers must comply with or they will be heavily fined. We need an entry-exit biometric system at our seaports and airports so we can identify who is overstaying their visa. That is the key that unlocks the ability to make progress on immigration. Once we have done that, the second step to modernize our legal immigration system. In the 21th century, legal immigration needs to be done by merit and what can you contribute economically. Basically whether if you are coming to be an American as opposed to just live in America. Once we done both things, then we can address it in a legal way to address the fact that you have 12 million illegal people in this country. They will have to pass a background check. They will have to pay a fine in exchange for that, what they will get is a work permit that allows them to legally work in the United States and travel and that is all they will have for an extended. Of time so that some point in the future we can have a conversation about whether they can apply for a green card. That is the only way forward at this point in this country.”

Round Two #VotersFirstForum – 30 Second Message to Voters

8:07 EST- Rand Paul Compared to his Father Rep. Ron Paul

“I am a constitutional conservative. I think the government ought to leave the people alone for the most part. That is what Reagan believed. I will do whatever it takes to defend the country.”

30 Seconds: “I am a different kind of republican. I am leading Hillary Clinton in five states won by President Obama because I’m going to places republicans have gone in years. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Ferguson with the message that low taxes will help poverty, joblessness, and that a low tax flat rate will bring jobs back. I think this message is resonating. I have also been for criminal justice reform. We have locked up way too many poor kids and what we need to do is have justice for everybody — justice where everybody is treated the same under the law. I have the only republican leading Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania and it is because I am different. We haven’t been winning if we keep trying the same thing over”


8:12- Ted Cruz on Obamacare

“I intend to make 2016 a referendum on repealing Obamacare and if I am elected we will repeal every word of Obamacare and we will pass commonsense health insurance reform to make health insurance personal and affordable”

30 seconds: “I believe in America and if we can believe again, if we can come back to the free market principles and constitutional liberties that made America great, we can turn this country around. I believe that 2016 is going to be an election like 1980 and we will win by painting with bold colors not pale pastels”

8:16- Marco Rubio on National Security

“As a member of the united states intelligence committee, almost on a daily basis I review the threats that are coming our country. Suffice it to say that we are living through a period that is more dangerous than any period we have lived through before. All these groups are actively engaging in trying to recruit and inspire radicals located within our own country to kill Americans and attack our interests here and abroad. These risks are serious, they are not a game. In my mind, it is not a question of if we are attacked but when. And when we are, the American people will want to know when we knew about it.

30 seconds: “The journey is the essence of the American dream. It is what makes America different, special. The reason that I am running for president is because I still want it to be that country. I still want us to be that country where people can do for their children what my parents did for me. That is why tonight, I ask everyone watching for your vote.”

8:19- Ben Carson on Supreme Court Judges

I would be extreme interest in what there past judicial history had been. Interestingly enough, you don’t have to be a lawyer or a judge to be Supreme Court justice. But, your history tells a great deal. Using litmus tests, using questioning will probably never get to where you need to be. Looking at what they have done before and making sure that they truly understand the constitution and what their role is in the judiciary would be very important.”

30 Seconds: “Our nation is in a lot of trouble. We have tremendous divisiveness going on. There is a war on women, racial wars, income wars, age wars, religious wars. We have fiscal irresponsibility that threatens to undermine our foundation and destroy the future for our children. We have the failure to lead, which allows other forces to get in there to grow and to threaten our future.”

8:22-Scott Walker on beating Hillary Clinton

“I won 3 elections in four years, the last two which were a lot of people were upset with the democrat side of things. I would love to go against whether it is Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. I am a new fresh face versus from a name of the past. Most of all, I have got things done in a blue state.”

30 seconds: “I want to say that we are blessed having a wonderful group of republicans running for president. Sometimes people ask me what makes me different. I thought and I won. I didn’t just win three elections in four years in a blue state, but we actually one of the big issues. We balance the budget; cut taxes, defunding Planned Parenthood. We went forward and took on the big government special interests.”

8:25- Rick Perry- “I’ve heard this question before.”

“Without cutting and without growing, those are the two things that we must do in this country and we have to cut spending. I know a little bit about cutting spending. We had a $10 billion budget shortfall in my home state in 2003 and we went in there and we made those cuts. We told people that we would do that as we realize this is exactly how you have to live your lives. The government has to learn to do that as well.”

30 seconds: “The greatest days of America are ahead of us. I am optimistic about this country because I have seen what we have done before. In 1979, this country was on its back. We had a president that was hollowing out its military. An embassy that been taken over in Tehran. 10 years later, we saw the berlin wall fall, we saw soviet communism on its way out because we elected a president that believed in this country and understood that when America was strong, the world is safer. We have made it through two world wars, a great depression, Jimmy Carter we will make it through Barack Obama, trust me.”

8:30- Bobby Jindal and Executive Orders

“The first thing we can do, even without Congress, is to get rid of this president’s unconstitutional executive orders granting amnesty. Second, I think it is important to get with our leaders and announced to the world that America is coming back. We will tell Iran it cannot become a nuclear power.”

30 Seconds: “This is the most important election of our lifetime. This is about the United States of America getting off the path to socialism. We already had a great talker in the white house. If talk were what we needed, we would be on easy street. We need a doer, not a talker. I have the experience, the bandwidth to get us through this. I and asking you to join a cause. Let us believe in America again.”

8:34- Lindsey Graham on Foreign Policy

We have a weak president who is more worried about campaign promises than dealing with the threats to our country. He was told by all of his commanders, don’t leave Iraq without a 10,000 residual force behind. John McCain and Lindsey graham begged him not to and everything we have said has happened. He was told by all his advisers that you need to help the free Syrian army while Assad was on the ropes. He said no thank you. He said ISIL was the JV team. He drew a redline against Assad, Assad crossed it, and everyone in the region thinks we are a joke. There is no ground component in Syria. We spent $500 million to train 60 people. I would go to the Turks, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, I would go to Saudi Arabia and say we are going to take your armies and integrate our forces and our armies and you are going to pay for this war. We are going to pull the caliphate by its roots and we are going to hold the territory to repair Syria. If we don’t, they are coming here.”

30 seconds: “The next president needs to have their act together. Three problems. Too many terrorists, too much debt, too few jobs. You need a strategy to put radical Islam in a box and mail it shut and I don’t think we are going to do it without more troops. The debt is driven by the 80 million baby boomers that are going to retire in mass and we are going wipe out social security and Medicare if we don’t do anything about it. I would do anything to save this program. I will do whatever it takes to save this country.”

8:39- Carly Fiorina on avoiding another Financial Crisis

“This is a classic case of where federal government failed. They have never been reformed. Democrats passed Dodd frank and it has caused 10 Wall Street banks to bring to fail to become five even bigger more powerful Wall Street banks and thousands of community banks have gone out of business. This is an example of crony capitalism. We need to repeal Dodd frank just like we need to repeal Obamacare. But we also need to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government should not be in the mortgage business. Government agencies that are supposed to be regulating the financial system and be competent not have federal regulators who are supposed to be monitoring the banking system watching pornography all day long. This isn’t rocket science; it just never seems to happen.

30 seconds: “I started out as a secretary in a little real estate firm, went on to lead the largest technology company in the world and went on to run for president. My story is only possible in the United States of America. Our nation is at a pivotal time. Whatever your issue or cause that you hope would be resolved; the political class has let you down. Margaret thatcher once said, I am not content to manage the decline of a great nation. And neither am I. we need a president understands the world economy, bureaucracy, how to hold them accountable and cut them down to size. WITH YOUR VOTE, I WILL LEAD THE RESURGENCE OF A GREAT NATION.” 

8:42- Rick Santorum on Internet Tax

“We don’t need is more government taxes. We have to do is do what I am suggesting, to put forth a dramatic simplification of the tax code, go to a flat rate, a certified system where you don’t have any of the bells and whistles. You don’t need incentives if you have a low, flat rate.

30 second: “I am the only person in this race who ran a presidential year but the president on the ticket lost the state and I won. President bush lost by 4 and I won by 5. None of these gentlemen, accomplished as they are, have never won in a presidential election year, particularly with the tide against you. If you want a winner, you have to have someone who will stand with the American people who has a record of reform and accomplishment to get things done and I have that record.”

8:46- John Kasich on Running for President

“Most of us here have been very blessed and when you get that what you have to figure out what your purposes in life to make the world a little better place. It took me a while to get in this race I got in his to win and if I didn’t think I could win I wouldn’t do it. The reason I am doing it is frankly that I have been a servant in terms of government responsibility a lot of my adult life. I had spent 10 years in the private sector. I got a calling to fix my state and guess what, we went from a loss of 350,000 jobs to a gain of it. People living in the shadows have hope. We cut taxes by almost $5 billion. We diversify our economy. The most important thing is to give people a sense that we get them, that everyone can be included, and that we can lift everybody.”

30 seconds: “We balance the budget. The economy was booming. It is not about what we think we can do, it is about what I have already done. I serve on the on services committee and have great respect for Senator Graham. I was there when we changed the way the military operates to get the services to work together and reform the pentagon. I have national security experiences. In Ohio, we went from $8 billion in the hole to $2 billion in the bank and hope has come back to the buckeye state.”

8:50- Chris Christie on Timing of Presidency Run

“No one should run for president of the united states until they can look in the mirror and say they are ready. People approach me four years ago, I looked at the mirror and I said I was not ready. I had been governor for about 16 months. I look this time four years later in the mirror and every thing that is happening last four years, both good and bad, have made be better prepared. So, the decision is about whether in your heart and your mind you’re ready to lead the greatest country in the world during some of the most difficult times we have ever faced? If the answer is not unequivocally yes, then you have no business going in front of the American people and asking for their vote? I’m ready”

30 seconds: “I come from one of the bluest states in America. It’s been 42 years since New Jersey elected a republican to the United States senate. Longest streak in any nation, but in 2009, against an incumbent that outspent me $33 million to $11 million, took on an eleven billion dollar deficit, balanced it, cut taxes $2.3 million dollars and now after eight years of no private sector job growth before I became governor, 192,000 new private sector jobs. Most important, the people of New Jersey know that when I say I’m going to do something, I do it. We need this clarity in the oval office.” 

8:54- George Pataki on September 11, 2001

“It changed my life completely. On September 11, I was the governor. I walked the streets of lower Manhattan, I felt the flames. I could taste the dust and the ash in the air. I vowed I would do, if I ever had the opportunity; I would do everything I could to protect us from radical Islam from another terrorist attack. Sadly we are not doing that today. Isis poses a very clear threat to us, not just with a major attack, but what they are doing here is tweeting, recruiting jihadists. We just have a tragic incident in Chattanooga and the Obama administration says that we are going to not have our marines put on arms; they’re going to take off their uniform. My view is very simple. We cannot bow down to radical Islam anywhere, certainly not in the United States”

30 seconds: “In my lifetime, I don’t think I have ever seen Americans more divided than today. Abraham Lincoln said a house divided against itself cannot stand. We have to win this election but we have to do it not by polarizing but by uniting the American people behind good, intelligent, conservative limited government strategies. I did it three times in the state of New York, the most blue state in America, with more than 3 million democrats. We can win this election by bringing the American people together behind us. If I run, I promise you I will do that and take Americans government back for the people”

Jeb Bush on being a Bush

“I have a different view from my brother. My dad is probably the most perfect man alive so it is hard for me to be critical of him. I have a t-shirt that says my dad is the greatest man alive, if you don’t like it, I will take you outside.”

30 seconds: “I am really impressed with the caliber of the people running for president. Every person participating in this debate is far better than any of the democrats running. I believe we are on the verge of the greatest time of being alive. We have to fix a few big complex things and if we do, this country will take off and I have the leadership skills to make that happen.”

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a PolitiChicks political reporter based in New York City covering politics and NYPD. She reports broadly on the 2016 campaign trail from the road and at home. Prior to joining PolitiChicks, Mona started with Wayne Dupree's WAAR where she covered NY politics, 2014 mid-term elections, and the NYPD. In 2015, DC Gazette considers Mona as one of the 20 rising Conservative stars. She was cited as "generally one of the most stunning women in political commentary with a huge future ahead of her, we’re pretty sure Mona Salama will soon easily be the next Andrea Tantaros and a common conservative household name." Currently she is finishing her Masters, all while at the same time covering the 2016 Presidential race, in Public Policy at John Jay College in New York City. Mona can be followed on twitter at @MonaSalama_ and email:

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