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Heritage Action Candidate Forum


Last week in Greenville, South Carolina, Heritage Action hosted a Presidential Candidate Forum at which 10 of the Republican candidates participated. Unlike the two cable news debates, this event avoided pitting the candidates against each other, and actually focused on policy.

Heritage Action Sentinel Program

This forum occurred during the annual meeting of the Heritage Action Sentinel program, which is the grass-roots arm of the Heritage Foundation. Combining the think-tank and lobbyist muscle of Heritage with a nation-wide grass-roots army of Sentinels is becoming a very effective way of advancing the Conservative agenda. If you would like to become a Sentinel or learn more about the program, visit: heritageaction.com/sentinel/

Stretching from 4:00 in the afternoon to after 9:00pm with only a short break, each candidate was given about 20 minutes on stage, with questions provided from a panel of Heritage Sentinels and CEO Michael Needham. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley closed each session by providing a personal story about the candidate and asking them to expand on it. What came across was an in-depth look at their positions on issues, and a sampling of their human side – some that have not been seen before on the campaign trail.

From this unique format, a very good contrast can be found, and it is worth at least sampling the video from the candidates you are interested in. Links to those segments on the Heritage Action youtube channel can be found below.

Although all of the candidates were enthusiastically received by the audience of about 900 sentinels on the floor and over 10,000 more in the stands of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, two candidates really stood out.

Ted Cruz rallied the crowd with the theme of “don’t elect a President to manage the decline of America”, and was clearly the policy favorite with talk of judicial retention elections, a flat tax, and “breaking the cartel”. But it was Carly Fiorina, when asked by Governor Haley what her most difficult job as a leader has been, who spoke from the heart about the anguish that comes from having to fire a close associate who, although competent and a satisfactory performer, proved to be ethically challenged and could no longer be trusted. Her answer revealed a very admirable mix of courage, compassion and loyalty to the goals of the enterprise.

Following is a brief synopsis of the major points made by the candidates, in order of their appearance. Click on their picture to see the Heritage video of their segment.


Jeb Bush

  • Need for “disruption”, “change the culture”
  • Block grants to states for Medicaid, school vouchers, zero based budgeting
  • Gridlock is dangerous – Congress will come along with right leader
  • Energy – states should decide offshore drilling, expand leases, support XL
  • No federal control of education but states need high standards

Scott Walker

  • Cancel Iran Deal
  • Send power back to the states
  • Defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare
  • Refundable health tax credits, cross state lines, HSAs
  • Approve XL
  • Eliminate NLRB – make all states “right to work”

Ben Carson

  • Congress should call Obama’s bluff on Planned Parenthood
  • Seal the border, cut off the “goodies”, farms need workers but no citizenship
  • Eliminate regulations, implement a flat tax
  • Obama doesn’t get to decide if we are a Christian Nation
  • Was radical liberal until heard Reagan speak

Ted Cruz

  • Don’t need next president to manage the decline of America
  • Need someone as conservative as Obama is liberal to fix things
  • Break the “cartel”, repeal Obamacare, implement flat tax
  • Judicial retention elections to rein in rogue judges
  • School choice is civil rights issue of our time
  • Day of appeasement and apology for America must end

Rick Santorum

  • “Blue collar conservative”
  • Flat tax, stop illegal immigration, incentivise manufacturing
  • Supports Ex-Im bank, federal minimum wage
  • Refugees – all the Syrians are Muslim, where are the Christians?
  • Reform social security by indexing retirement age

Marco Rubio

  • Reform education – emphasize alternatives to college, trade schools, etc
  • Must address debt and deficit, reform social security by extending age for younger people
  • Moral clarity on foreign policy, expand military, take care of veterans
  • Immigration reform: close border, e-verify, visa tracking, entry based on merit not family
  • Need president with “sense of urgency”, term limits for Congress

Rand Paul

  • Lower taxes, less regulation, defend 2nd amendment
  • Take message to new audiences
  • Resist encroachments on religious liberty
  • Too many government agencies have swat teams
  • Reform social security and medicare with higher retirement age

Carly Fiorina

  • Fix tax code – make it 3 pages long
  • We never roll back regulations – just talk, want to do
  • After winning Senate – should have made a difference
  • Can lead congress through technology, public pressure
  • Core values matter

Bobby Jindal

  • Religious liberty created the USA
  • Need to fire everyone in DC to make things work
  • Don’t accept there is no way to end Obamacare with Obama in White House
  • If Republican party can’t do the job, create a new one that can
  • Education dollars should follow the children

Chris Christie

  • Make the GOP live up to its rhetoric
  • Entitlement reform – raise retirement age, eliminate for those >$400K retirement income
  • Freedom of religion not only for churches, but officials must follow the law
  • Would enforce federal marijuana laws on the states
  • Education – refinance loans, have national service option , colleges should itemize bills

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