Fox News' Megyn Kelly hosted an exclusive two-hour town hall event Wednesday evening, where she sat down with Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The format was simple: Kelly asked the Republican presidential candidate a question, followed by a few from the audience. Donald Trump could not make it.
Ted Cruz, The Martian Compromiser– The Texas senator was the first to take the stage, with Kelly asking him whether history is still a guide regarding the GOP primary. No Republican has lost the nomination after winning both New Hampshire and South Carolina in past elections. Cruz responded by saying there has never been a candidate, like Trump, in recent memory, which drew some laughter from the audience–while adding that some rules go out the window. Most Republicans don’t think Trump is the best to take on the Democrats in November; he has a low ceiling of around 35-40 percent; and we need a president who we can trust. We don’t know what to expect from a Trump administration, which is something Cruz made explicitly clear.
Cruz’s questions involved how to would he restore the Supreme Court’s ability to respect our constitutional rights, his opposition to having women applying for the selective service, possibly pardoning the makers of the Planned Parenthood videos, his ability to compromise, and his message to undecided Hispanic voters.
He said it was a privilege to know Justice Scalia for 20 years, adding that he was a brilliant jurist and devoted to the Bill of Rights. His passing has underscored the importance of this election. We’re just one justice away from having our fundamental rights undermined, which is why he supports not confirming any nominee until the election is over and the people have spoken. Regarding compromise, he said he would compromise with Martians if it were to lead the nation in the right direction; a talking point he made last year. His presidency would be interested in fixing problems, but he’s not willing to compromise on core principles or fundamental beliefs.
“When someone offers you half a loaf, you take it,” he said. You could always come back for more.
As for women being possibly drafted through the selective service, he doesn’t feel that should be mandatory, nor should we risk putting women in unfair situations concerning close combat in the event we do get involved in a war. He noted that Sen. Marco Rubio supported letting women join, but later supported a bill pushed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that would have banned women from enrolling.
Cruz also said that he would certainly pardon David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, which released a series of graphic undercover videos that reportedly show the illegal trafficking of human body parts from aborted babies. He would also launch a formal investigation into Planned Parenthood.
As for convincing undecided Hispanics, Cruz said that he’s proud to have garnered 40 percent of the Latino vote during his Texas senate race. The Lone Star State is a minority majority state, but he added that legal immigrants don’t like illegal immigrants flooding across the border and taking their jobs. Legal immigrants don’t favor open borders, and reiterate the values of faith, family, and patriotism.
Kelly added that Mitt Romney has refused to endorse anyone who hasn’t released tax returns. Cruz said that he’d release the remainder of his tax returns this week. They already have disclosed five years' worth so far.
Mr. Kasich’s Opus– The Ohio governor’s appearance at the town hall, which was via satellite, was a bit awkward. Kasich was expressing his confidence that he could beat Trump in Ohio, and how he’s running even with everyone in the race. He also touched on the point that he’s beating the Donald by 18 points if it were a head-to-head matchup. He’s on the ballot in 40 states, and he’s putting time in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Virginia. In the general, he claims to be beating Clinton by more than 11 points in a hypothetical matchup.
Yet, Kelly pressed him on his figures, and his overall candidacy, by saying that he’s been scrapping at the bottom of the barrel recently, which could mean he’s siphoning much needed support to the candidates who have a shot at overtaking Trump in the primary.
Kasich was visibly annoyed by the question, adding that we shall see what happens when the contest shifts northwards (but Trump is leading big in Massachusetts). He also declared that they’re going to perform better in Mississippi than most people expect. It’s about nabbing delegates, touting his endorsement from former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, and the support from people in the financial sector.
He also reiterated the salient point that some are making, which is if he gets out, Trump wins Ohio. That could be the ballgame, especially if he beats Cruz in Texas and Rubio in Florida. Kasich was adamant that he’s not giving up, and he’s not kowtowing to the Beltway crowd.
Kelly, pressed for time, interrupted the governor since she wanted to move onto questions, but Kasich would have given us a thorough analysis of his campaign.
Since the governor gobbled up a lot of time with his introduction, making health care more affordable, how to convince pro-liberty Rand Paul Republicans to back him, bringing the country together, and his favorite founding father were his questions.
On health care, Kasich was said he would repeal Obamacare, though he expanded Medicaid in his state, which is a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. He would have block grants for the states for health care programs, and he would use the market to limit the massive increases in costs concerning care.
For Rand supporters, he said that he’s always believed in smaller government, noting that the numbers of state workers in Ohio are at their lowest levels in 30 years. Again, he would transfer a lot of the responsibilities to the states, citing his desire to “uber-ize” the government. Concerning data collection, a big issue with civil libertarians, he voiced his support for the Insertion a judge in the process of obtaining that information if needed.
Kasich admires George Washington because he didn’t want to be a king, even though he could have been president for the remainder of his life. He noted how he stepped away from government for a decade and learned to become a better leader while in the private sector.
He added that when it comes to uniting the country, we need to remember that we’re Americans first and Democrats and Republicans second. Kasich touted his time in Congress negotiating with the Clinton administration, where he got tax cuts and economic growth. As governor, he says he works with everyone in Ohio. If we don’t find areas of agreement, we won’t find solutions to anything. That only leads to problems getting kicked down the road. In short, he said that his version of bringing the nation together was akin to an orchestra. I’ll set the tune, but the Democrats are welcome to join and play.
Mr. Kasich said he would release his tax returns soon.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Mr. Unity– Sen. Marco Rubio also joined via satellite, where Kelly asked him when he was going to start winning some primary contests.
Rubio noted that he’s been an underdog his whole life, which is why he’s been hit by over $40 million in attack ads by the establishment. Moreover, we’re not going to allow the party, and the movement, to be defined by someone who isn’t a conservative. Once the race narrows, support will consolidate.
Kelly pressed again about changes needed for his campaign, which the Florida senator said that his greatest strength is that he can grow this party. He claimed that the Democrats are scared to run against him. They’re attacking him hard, but no one is going to out-work his campaign.
His questions surrounded making college more affordable, closing Gitmo, making health care more affordable, prison reform, his supposed moderate stripes, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and stem cell research.
Rubio prided himself in the fact that he’s the only candidate running that discusses student loan debt. He still had loans after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He wants to provide alternative ways to obtain college credit that could open a door for someone to gain a higher education. On loans, it should be an income-based assessment. The senator added that he’d rather get $20 per payment period than a default, which ruins credit ratings.
On health care, Rubio said he would repeal Obamacare, but acknowledged that the old system didn’t work either. Millions remained uninsured. He wants to allow us to control our own health care spending, give employers the ability to give extra money to their employees, who can’t be fully covered due to overhead, for health care-related expenditures. It would be pre-taxed. Similar to George Bush’s initiative for small businesses, he would allow them to pool their resources and expand their options and purchasing power on health care plans. More competition will drive down costs.
On prison reform, Rubio was open to having more latitude on the sentencing of juveniles, first time offenders, and drug users, but staunchly supported mandatory minimums for violent offenders.
On stem cell research, Rubio was not for creating an industry where stem cells can be harvested from embryos that were created solely for that purpose. Kelly asked him about discarded ones, in which the senator responded that it’s tricky since many people can claim the embryo was discarded. It’s hard to police. Yet, he supports stem cell research from umbilical cord blood, but realized that this is a complicated matter. It sets two rights, the life of the child and the right to choose what happens to your body, in direct conflict. Rubio feels that the rights of everyone should be protected, including the child. He would support an abortion law, with exceptions, since his goal is to save as many lives as possible.
Regarding anti-Muslim rhetoric, one questioner mentioned the gun range that bars Muslims from entering the facility, calling it a Muslim-free zone. Rubio plainly said that it’s wrong; it’s immoral; and we shouldn't be doing that to people in this country. There are millions of patriotic Muslim Americans. Our war is against radical Islam that threatens the West and fellow Muslims. ISIS has said that they will kill anyone who does not agree with their doomsday interpretation of Islam. We have to recognize that radical Islam is a threat. As for the rhetoric specifically; Rubio said we're capable of differentiating the threat of radical Islam and those patriotic Americans who follow Islam.
Unlike Obama, a Rubio administration would keep Guantanamo Bay open since it’s not just a prison for terrorists, but also a naval installation. If elected, Rubio said we’re going to be sending captured terrorists there, not releasing them.
Kelly asked him about interrogation methods, which Rubio stepped back from, saying he doesn’t want to discuss techniques to prevent terrorists from adapting.
He added that we have the capability to gather information without employing the controversial measures of the past.
The last question regarding electability and values struck at the heart of what many see Rubio becoming, a politician who rode on the Tea Party wave who caught Potomac syndrome.
The Florida senator added that you don’t have to compromise between values and electability. He urged people to look at his record. It’s one of limited government. In Florida, he touted balancing the budget, cutting taxes, and establishing a school curriculum without Common Core. He said he has a conservative record that can grow the party, and possibly convince people who probably have never voted Republican.
Rubio plans to release his tax returns in the coming days, but added that most are public due to Senate financial disclosures. He added that they’re not “exotic.”
Dr. Ben Carson, Still Waiting To Hit It Out Of the Park– Dr. Carson opened up with a baseball analogy, saying that him dropping out would be akin to giving up before the game is over. He added that the political establishment likes to think they’re in control, but it’s “we the people” who should be taking the helm. He added that the nation is in critical condition because we have allowed so many people to be controlled like puppets. This is why Carson, like Sanders in some ways, does not accept money from special interests or billionaires.
Dr. Carson was asked about how the party’s hard stances on social issues could be alienating the GOP; how he would fix the Department of Veterans Affairs; how to convince black voters that you understand their issues; his supposed weakness on foreign policy; religious tests being factors of risk when entering the U.S.; restoring the Constitution; and convincing Millennials that they’re better off with Republicans in charge.
As for Republicans who are fiscally conservative and socially libertarian, Carson said there should be room for them in the party. He got into the race because he’s concerned about the future of the next generation, citing the crippling national debt.
Concerning the VA, Carson suggested having an attachment group for those in military service who would remain in contact with one another through active duty and three to five years after discharge. This is where signs of post-traumatic stress disorder arise. He also touted his health empowerment accounts that are subsidized to obtain health care through any facility in the country.
Dr. Carson also said that it’s key to discuss faith and family when it comes to addressing black voters. Both of those institutions served as the bedrock that got blacks through slavery, Jim Crowe, racism, and segregation. He also advocated creating support groups to help disadvantaged women in black communities, which could help them obtain a GED, provide adequate childcare, and break the cycle of poverty. He mentioned his six-year hiatus on corporate taxes, where he would repatriate over $2 trillion in overseas money, of which 10 percent would be used to invest in enterprise zones and people who are underemployed or on welfare. It’s a stimulus without wasting the taxpayers’ money. He added that government has done a terrible job combating poverty and taking care of those less fortunate. It’s our responsibility as citizens.
With regard to his weakness on foreign policy, he noted that he held a town hall event, where the media wrote one story that expressed shock at how well informed he was on the issues. He joked that the other outlets didn’t write anything because they couldn’t think of anything bad to say.
Carson is not for religious tests, but he’s for common sense. He said that Syrian refugees don’t want to be here, or in Europe; they want to be back home. And we may need an international force to accomplish that. Yet, he added that radical Islamic terrorists are embedding themselves with the refugees. It would be “jihadist malpractice” for them not to do so.
As for restoring the Constitution, Carson said the people should stop listening to the pundits and start thinking on their own. We don’t need a revolution if we choose someone who is part of “we the people,” instead of “they the politicians.”
When it comes to convincing Millennials that they better vote Republican, Carson would first explain to them what Socialism really means–a utopian graveyard where government takes care of you cradle to grave, which usually results in the system running out of money and collapsing. He would show them what happens when you have a climate of entrepreneurial risk taking and investment–and the consequences of regulations.
He’s also going to release his tax returns, adding that he’s got nothing to hide; there are no scandals.