On Oct. 18, 2015, Republican presidential candidates gathered for the North Texas Presidential Forum at the Prestonwood Baptist Church. Candidates in attendance included Carly Fiorina, Senator Ted Cruz, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Governor Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson and former Governor Jeb Bush.
The forum was facilitated by Jack Graham, the pastor of the 40,000-member church. Approximately 6,000 people were in attendance and over 10,200 watched the live stream on the church’s website.
Each candidate was allotted approximately 30 minutes. Half of this time was designated towards an introductory statement followed by a Q&A and a session with Graham. Candidates discussed their political views, milestones in their political and executive careers, current political issues, the role of religion in their lives and personal faith-related stories.
Carly Fiorina was the first to take the stage. In addition to discussing her views on the right to life as well as her personal struggle on not being able to have children, Fiorina touched on her views on leadership and taking initiative.
“Having started as a secretary and going on to becoming chief executive of what we turned into the largest technology company in the world, I actually do understand how the economy works,” she said. “But I also understand what it is to make a tough call, in a tough time and stand up and be held accountable. [I] think we need more decisions to be made from [the] leaders who are prepared to be held to account.”
When asked about her experience on a global level, Fiorina discussed her worldly perspective in comparison to her opponents.
“I also have spent a lot of time [around] the world,” she said. “I know more world leaders on the stage than anyone running, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton. Only I don’t do photo-ops, I had private meetings about business and charity and policy.”
Ted Cruz was received with a warm welcome, including an audience member screaming “I love you, Ted Cruz.” Cruz discussed his long-established ties with the religious community and his introductory speech began with criticizing the current upholders of government in Washington D.C., for which he received a standing ovation.
“If you look to the etymology of politics, there are two parts. Poly, meaning many and tics meaning blood sucking parasites. And that is a fairly accurate description of Washington D.C.,” Cruz said. “We all came out here this afternoon because I think we recognize that our country is in crisis. I don’t believe this is a typical time in politics, a typical time in our country. We are bankrupting our kids and grandkids. Our constitutional rights are under assault each and every day.”
In his speech to the audience, Rick Santorum discussed his success on welfare reform after the president had vetoed the bill twice, which he believed led to “poverty in America [being] the lowest level ever measured.”
“Every single one of the groups that criticized me, every single one, they now [talk about] it as the greatest conservative success in the last twenty-five years,” Santorum said.
He claimed himself to be a candidate who is in the good books of the demographic that is “looking for a leader who is a principal conservative and has a track record to prove it.”
“Any of you have a health savings account? Raise your hand if you have a health savings account? You’re welcome,” Santorum said. “Ladies and gentleman, Washington can work again. Washington can work again. And we don’t have to elect someone who is not principled, who’s not someone who believes in what you believe. The commander-in-chief is not an entry level position. The White House is no place for on the job training. We need someone with experience who can lead this country.”
Huckabee, whom Graham had endorsed during his presidential campaign two cycles ago, stated that he was “not here to fight other Republican candidates.” He also received a round of applause when discussing the Islamic State.
“You have to defeat them or they will kill us,” he said.
Carson’s speech primarily centered on faith and religion. He shared childhood stories on how religion played a role throughout his life. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of discussing issues such as religion and the government’s fiscal responsibility.
“It’s time for us to bring God back to our country. The President says that we are not a Judeo-Christian nation, but he doesn’t get to decide. We get to decide,” Carson said. “I’m going to talk about not Democrat things or Republican things. I’m going to talk about American things.”
The last presidential candidate to take the stage was Bush. He emphasized the reforms and actions he accomplished as governor.
“We de-funded plant parenthood when I was governor. We banned partial birth abortion. We were the first state to have a choose life license plate to make sure that there was more money going to adoptions. We required parental notification of abortions to make sure families were part of a really traumatic decision,” Bush said. “We turned a system that was about ready to be taken over into a system that was the envy of the United States.”