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Baker's Dozen Plus One: Republican Candidates Meet For Forum Before Debate

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Facebook: C-SPAN
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Most members of the long roster of Republican presidential candidates participated in a forum in New Hampshire Monday night. The quick-fire questions and answers came days before the first debate Thursday in Cleveland.Fourteen Republicans tried to express their thoughts and ideas in a two-hour forum at St. Anselm College. Each had two chances to talk either on stage or for Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, via video link from Washington. They stayed on Capitol Hill for a vote to defund Planned Parenthood. The Republican-led effort failed in the Senate by seven votes. Among the forum’s fray was former New York Governor George Pataki. Having led the Empire State from 1995 to 2006, Pataki says he’s never seen Americans as divided as they are now.

“We need to win this election, but we need to do it not by polarizing for political reasons, but by uniting the American people behind good, intelligent, conservative, limited government policies,” Pataki said. “I know I can do that because I did it three times in the state of New York, the most blue state in America.”

It’s unlikely Pataki will be included in Thursday’s main debate, which is limited to the top 10 candidates based on national poll results. It will be televised on Fox News starting at 9 p.m. A secondary debate will be held at 5 o’clock for the candidates who don’t make the cut. Pataki says the Affordable Care Act and Common Core should be repealed while the federal workforce should be reduced by at least 15 percent. He says Obamacare should be replaced with a system that empowers the patient.

“Not only can it be repealed, I think it has to repealed,” Pataki said. “It’s just going to get worse and worse. Not only it is hurting healthcare for Americans from all across the economic spectrum, it is also one of the reasons our economy is not growing. I cannot tell you the number of employers I know who said ‘We’re going to keep our workforce down below 50 so we’re out from under Obamacare. There are millions and millions of Americans working 28 or 29 hours a week because Obamacare would kick in if they worked 30.”

Pataki says he would lower the manufacturing tax rate to 12 percent, reform veterans’ healthcare and do more to address their mental health. Touching on the debate recently reignited by undercover videos released by an anti-abortion group showing Planned Parenthood officials talking about selling aborted fetal tissue, Pataki says taxpayer money should not fund the organization.

“The videos just point out quite clearly that Planned Parenthood has a horrific, disregard for basic human life,” Pataki said. “I think they should be defunded and the funds reprogrammed for other women’s healthcare services.”

Directed by questions and prompts, the candidates talked about the economy, immigration, ISIS and other issues.  Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina delivered some of the most memorable lines in challenging Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“As to the Clintons…I’ve been dealing with this crowd for 20 years,” Graham said. “I’m fluent in Clinton-speak. When Bill says ‘I didn’t have sex with that woman’…he did. When she [Hillary] says ‘I’ll tell you about building the pipeline when I get to be president’…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.”

Missing from Monday’s forum were former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore and national poll frontrunner Donald Trump. The billionaire real-estate magnate refused to participate because one of the forum’s sponsors, the New Hampshire Union Leader, has been critical of his candidacy. Gilmore did not announce early enough to be included.

New Hampshire’s primary is February 9th, eight days after Iowa’s first- in-the-nation caucuses.

Click here to watch the entire forum on C-SPAN.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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