Primary Debates and Forums

        Voters First Forum

                                          P H O T O

Monday, August 3, 2015 in Dana Center at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH from 7:00-9:00 p.m. ET. 

Press Release  |  More Pre-Debate  |  Photos  |  Post-Debate

Sponsors:  New Hampshire Union Leader  |  C-SPAN  |   New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College  |  WGIR-AM Radio (Manchester) & I-Heart Networks  |  Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette  |  KCRG –TV (Cedar Rapids, IA)  |  Charleston SC Post & Courier  |  WLXT-TV (Columbia, SC).

Candidates:  Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker; and Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio via video.  [14 total...missing were Gilmore, Huckabee and Trump]*

Moderator:  Jack Heath of WGIR-AM in Manchester.

Audience:  A limited number of public tickets were available.  People could register for up to two tickets through a ticket lottery which ended on July 27.  Ticket holders were selected in a random drawing on July 29.

Broadcast:  C-SPAN TV, C-SPAN Radio and via livestream on  Hearst Television provided the C-SPAN telecast to its local stations reaching 21 million households in 27 markets.

Format:  "Each candidate will have approximately five minutes to answer questions individually on the stage."

Overview:  After the multitude of candidate forums and debates in 2011-12, the RNC established a Standing Committee on Presidential Primary Debates to limit the number of these event.  At its Winter Meeting in Jan. 2015 the party announced nine sanctioned debates between Aug. 2015 and March 1, 2016 (+). On May 6 FOX News Channel announced details of the first Republican presidential primary debate, to be held in Cleveland, OH on August 6.  FOX's criteria limiting the number of candidates to ten came under criticism.  For example, in a June 10 letter, New Hampshire Republican leaders wrote, "Historically, it has been the responsibility of early primary and caucus states to closely examine and winnow the field of candidates, and it is not in the electorate’s interest to have TV debate criteria supplant this solemn duty."  In response, in June FOX announced a second forum for those not qualifying for the debate. 

The forum came together relatively quickly.  In mid-July publishers of three early state newspapers--the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Charleston Post & Courier and th Cedar Rapids Gazette announced the Voters First Forum to provide voters "an opportunity to see the candidates together on a level playing field at this early stage."

*In a July 28 letter to Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid, Trump wrote “...knowing you as I do, I feel it is unlikely I will be getting the endorsement from you and the Union Leader. I have made a great fortune based on instinct and that, unfortunately, is my view. Therefore, and for other reasons including the fact that I feel there are too many people onstage to have a proper forum, I will not be attending.”
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A Huckabee spokesman cited a scheduling conflict.

The three Senators who appeared by video were in Washington, DC for a Senate vote.