Reporting courtesy of CUI staffers: Lorelle Lynch, Andrew Haubner, Noelle Coultrip, Jake Mauff, Sydney Worth, Nicole McNulty, Maggie Wagner, Sarah Zahra, Diego Romero, Nicolas Sanchez and Graham Crawford.
As the frontrunner, Carson had a large portion of speaking time in the first segment of the GOP debate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In his opening remarks, when asked about his greatest weakness, he responded that he wouldn’t see himself as president until hundreds of thousands of people told him to do it.
He also reiterated his tax plan — a flat tax plan based on tithing, which is prominently featured in the Bible. He was challenged by CNBC moderator Becky Quick on whether or not this was even feasible without leaving the United States racked with debt. Carson struggled and stumbled in his response, trying to defend the plan. He stated that he would cut hundreds of government agencies and eliminate deductions and loopholes.
“Anybody who tells me we need every penny in every one of those [agencies] is in a fantasy world,” contended Carson.
While the rate of tax is going to be “closer to 15 percent,” Carson argued that a smaller tax that is flat for everyone will help stimulate the economy, which he described as the real “growth engines.”
Starting the debate on a personal note, Trump explained that his biggest weakness is being too trusting. “When [people] let me down, I never forgive,” Trump said. He claimed that deception cuts deepest. Honing in on the relevant issues, the moderators asked questions about his tax plan, asking if it could be called a “comic book version” of a campaign. Trump stood by his tax plan. He emphasized bringing money from outside of the U.S. back into the country. He still wants to cut taxes, promising that the cuts won’t increase the deficit, a promise the moderators took issue with based on the input of economic advisors.
Trump also reiterated his plan to build a wall across the Mexican border, emphasizing that the Mexican people will pay for the wall. “A politician cannot get them to pay – I can,” said Trump. Also important to note is that Trump does plan to let Mexicans across the border, as long as it’s legal. Regardless of opinions on his plans, Trump held himself to his campaign agenda.
Kasich spent his first 30 seconds floundering, rather than directly identifying his greatest weakness. Kasich described the ideal leader, espousing fears about the U.S.’s people choosing the wrong leader. He outlined a future filled with split families and tax schemes that are contradictory, a future that would be a reality if another candidate is elected. In terms of the tax issues at hand, Kasich boasted being the only person present at the debate who was hands-on in the effort to balance the federal budget. He thinks of himself as a realist, which will allegedly come through in his plan to create jobs, cut taxes and balance the budget. Kasich believes that the U.S. needs someone who has experience in the field, and he stated that he can offer that to the country.
Huckabee maneuvered around the presidential candidacy with a strict moral lens. His views on critical issues in the U.S. are heavily affected by this push for fairness. In his opening statement, he mentioned that his biggest weakness would be his desire to follow the rules. This ideal followed him in his economic policies. Huckabee’s desire to abolish the IRS falls in line with his hope to create a more “moral” government. The first 20 minutes quickly turned into a cage match between Kasich and Trump. Huckabee’s supporters may have be wondering where their guy went. His moral lens may not be a helpful choice of weapon in the battle for presidency.
Paul failed to mention a personal weakness when asked. A former physician, he said he left his medical practice and decided to run for office because he was concerned about the $18 trillion national debt. He also said that tomorrow, he plans to filibuster the bill in Congress that would “explode the deficit,” and allow Obama to borrow unlimited money. “Enough’s enough. No more debt,” Paul said.
Rubio said his greatest flaw was having a sense of optimism for the future. He doesn’t know if that could be considered a flaw, but he feels that that is his main problem. Compared to his Republican counterparts, Rubio took a much more positive and hopeful outlook.
Rubio continued with his hopeful rhetoric when addressing why he doesn’t slow down in politics. Rubio stated that America doesn’t have time to wait for change.
Firing back against Jeb Bush, Rubio played peacemaker saying, “I am not running against anyone on this stage, I’m running for president.”
Cruz calls his tax plan the “Simple Flat Tax.” There would be no taxes on the first $36,000 earned by families of four. There would be a 10 percent tax on all other individual income and investing.
Cruz would implement a 16 percent business tax, eliminating the current payroll tax and the corporate income tax. The 16 percent would be taxed on the company’s gross receipts.
Cruz finally released his official economic plan. He briefly mentioned it, but he wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal illustrating all of it. A flat tax was the main issue he mentioned, but he did have two different percentages for companies and people. Surprisingly, he did not mention the IRS and what he plans to do with the institution.
Bush admitted that he is impatient and cannot feign anger, relating these weaknesses to his goals of taking care of the people as president. After Rubio defended his poll status in Florida, Bush stepped in and urged him to “show up to work,” to fill the role of leader who will fight for the voters. Though Bush’s popularity has fallen, he assures the audience that, with him as president, the political culture found in Washington, D.C. today will change with him fighting for the people.
Fiorina said her biggest weakness is that, as she has been told, she “doesn’t smile enough,” as she laughed. Out of all the candidates, Fiorina got the biggest applause after this comment, and she went on to describe how she would support the lower class in a change from a government who only supports the big and wealthy. Later, she broke up a fight between Kasich, Trump and Carson regarding tax reform, where she promised to reduce the 73,000-page tax code to a three-page code that everyone can understand.
When asked about being fired from Hewlett-Packard, she calmly answered, stating that she saved 80,000 jobs and how she had to make tough calls. She went on to explain that her past employer Tom Perkins admitted it was wrong to fire her, and that she would make a great president now. She explained that she thinks the office needs someone who will make tough calls and that she is the only person to do this. “I will run on my record all day long, and I believe people are ready for a leader who will make tough calls and be held accountable.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie started the debate with a clever opening statement, praising his fellow Republican candidates while calling out one Democratic candidate in particular: Hillary Clinton. Christie said that he doesn’t see a lot of weaknesses from his fellow Republicans on the stage, but he sees major weaknesses in the “socialist, isolationist and pessimist” candidates of the Democratic party.
Christie directly attacked Clinton by calling her the pessimist of the party, and doubting her chance at the presidency. If Hillary is the pessimist, then Christie must be calling the other two front runners, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, the socialist and the isolationist. Strong fighting words for the first 30 seconds.