Republican presidential candidates gathered at Saint Anselm’s college in Manchester, N.H., Monday night for the Voters First Forum.
The forum took place only days before the first national debate.
Participants included Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.
Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul participated via satellite.
Businessman Donald Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore did not participate.
Each candidate was given the opportunity to briefly answer questions submitted by voters.
Read below for the highlights from each candidate.
Perry said that any illegal immigration policy must begin with sealing the border.
He said lowering the corporate tax rate would increase wages and create jobs.
Perry was asked which federal agencies he would eliminate. “I’ve heard this question before,” he joked.
Santorum lamented a lack of manufacturing jobs. He proposed a 20-percent flat tax for individuals and corporations.
On immigration, he called for a 25-percent reduction in the “unskilled workforce” coming into the country.
He said the Supreme Court “abused its authority” in legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
Kasich said that sanctuary cities need to be eliminated. He said “law-abiding” immigrants in the country illegally should be allowed to pay a fine and stay.
He said cutting taxes and balancing the federal budget drives job creation. He proposed a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Graham said countries like Russia and China need to be shown a “clenched fist and an open hand.”
He said ISIS and radical Islam need to be defeated by any means necessary.
Christie said the U.S. must maintain a policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
He said the United States must honor a commitment the nation made to veterans, and work to ensure they receive proper health care.
He said that we need to invest in drug treatment programs.
Carson said Obamacare must be replaced before it is repealed. He said the Affordable Care Act “flies in the face of what we are as a nation.”
“I would replace it with something that puts the power back in the hands of consumers and providers,” Carson said.
He said that health savings accounts, shared among families, would be a good step towards a solution.
Carson believes that taxpayers should not fund Planned Parenthood.
His ideal tax rate, he said, would be between 10 and 15 percent with “no loopholes.”
Bush said ISIS is not a “JV” team, and the nation needs a serious strategy to confront it.
He said that as president, he would work toward a 4-percent economic growth rate.
Fiorina said leadership is “challenging the status quo.”
“Our government has gotten bigger and bigger every year for almost 50 years,” Fiorina said.
Fiorina believes that Planned Parenthood must be defunded.
She said that the Iranian agreement should have “actually” included “anytime, anywhere inspections.”
Jindal called for the military to be armed on military bases and for term limits for Congress.
He said the president’s Iranian nuclear agreement is a “bad deal.”
“He’s declared war on trans fats and [made] a deal with the largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Jindal said.
Walker criticized the president’s new regulations on carbon emissions.
“I want to balance a sustainable environment with a sustainable economy,” Walker said.
He said Planned Parenthood should be defunded.
“We defunded Planned Parenthood [in Wisconsin] long before these videos came out,” Walker said.
Pataki said Obamacare should be repealed, Common Core should be eliminated and the federal workforce should be reduced by 15 percent.
Paul said he is “the one candidate” who has stood up to the government’s “indiscriminate” collection of personal data.
He said the right to privacy doesn’t conflict with national security.
“We have a way to get information; it’s called the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said.
Cruz said that Planned Parenthood needs to be defunded, and that he hopes “that we see Republican leadership actually lead the effort” to defund it.
He called the president’s deal with Iran “catastrophic.”
He said Obamacare has been a “disaster,” and he’s been “proud to lead the fight against it.”
Cruz said Americans should be permitted to purchase health insurance across state lines, and that insurance should be “personal, portable and affordable.”
Rubio said many illegal immigrants overstay their once legal visas and that the U.S. must monitor their entry at airports and seaports. Employers, he said, must be required to use E-Verify.
Legal immigration must be based on “merit.”
He said the next president must understand the opportunities and challenges of the new century, such as changing economic prospects and national security threats.
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