Many Republican voters have lamented that the two presidential primary debates have so far offered little in the way of substantive discussion. Moderators instead have tended to pursue lines of questioning they think make for good TV—intraparty squabbles, past controversial statements and competitors’ grievances with each other.
Heritage Action on Friday offered a remedy. The group hosted a lengthy candidate forum in South Carolina, where Chief Executive Officer Michael A. Needham, Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) and a three-person panel posed challenging questions to the prospective nominees. They dug deeply into policy matters ranging from agricultural subsidies to Planned Parenthood. It was a refreshing change of pace, with each candidate offering his or her own direct appeal to voters without the melodrama of a debate stage.
With four televised debates scheduled ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, there is still time for networks, sponsors and moderators to get it right. I am especially elated to learn that CNBC, which will host the next debate scheduled for October 28 in Colorado, is committed to devoting theirs entirely to economics—a topic that most concerns Americans and has been woefully under-covered so far.
Here are some questions that Republican primary voters deserve to hear answered by each candidate in the debates ahead:
All of you say you want to repeal Obamacare. With what would you replace it? Are there any currently proposed pieces of legislation that you believe would expand access and reduce the costs of health care?
America has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world. Corporations are also double-taxed when they return income they’ve earned in foreign nations to the United States. What is the most reasonable corporate income tax rate and would you support the repatriation of corporate profits?
Should public-sector unions be illegal?
As long as abortions are legal in the United States, what limitations and regulations, if any, should be placed on the procedure?
Despite receiving an $11.2 billion taxpayer bailout, it is being reported that General Motors is considering manufacturing cars in China and exporting them to the United States by 2016. Without question, domestic manufacturing jobs would be lost. If you were president, would you do anything to stop this? If so, what?
Did you support the troop surge in Iraq? Knowing what we know now, do you think it was successful?
In its oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Obama administration indicated it would consider eliminating tax exemptions for religious organizations and institutions that oppose same-sex marriage. Should the federal government continue to allow religiously affiliated groups to receive tax-exempt status?
The costs to attend colleges and universities in the U.S. are skyrocketing. What should the federal government do to alleviate the burden of higher education costs and the mounting student debt saddled on the backs of graduates?
There are many different tax reform proposals supported by conservatives, such as the Flat Tax and the Fair Tax. If you were president, would you make tax reform a priority? If so, what would your reforms look like?
All of the Republican candidates oppose President Obama’s Iran deal, citing their belief that it would actually lead to Iran developing nuclear weapons. But what is the alternative for dealing with the mullahs?
With the national debt approaching $19 trillion, the American people are increasingly concerned about the fiscal stability of the country. How do you propose paying down the national debt?
During the past few years, U.S. economic growth has been relatively stagnant at around 2 percent. If you were president, what policies would you enact to grow the economy?
Leadership often requires admitting past errors in judgment and avoiding repeating them again. What is one vote or one decision that you regret, and how did you correct it for the future?
Other than Ronald Reagan, which civic or political leader has most influenced your principles and governing philosophy?
For the first time in history, Social Security is “in the red.” Many Americans under 40 simply assume they’ll never receive the money they paid into the system. Would you restructure the program to ensure its solvency, and if so, how?
Vladimir Putin is currently enjoying vast popularity in his country, making clear his ambition to restore Russia’s Soviet-era prowess. How should the U.S. respond to his foreign-policy aspirations in Europe and the world?
Many conservatives support a Balanced Budget Amendment, but when it comes time to govern, lawmakers balk at living by the budgetary constraints they claim the country needs. How quickly can and should our budget come into balance?
Do you believe the federal government should levy taxes on energy consumption? Are carbon taxes effective at discouraging the misuse of our natural resources and our environment?
What qualities are appealing to you in a running mate?
If you were the nominee, how would you expand the GOP’s reach into underserved communities—particularly African-American and Hispanic voters—to expand your voter base in the general election?
These are just 20, and I’m sure I could think of more. All of them are more substantive than what we’ve seen to date, and I’d venture most primary voters would appreciate answers to them.
Ellen Carmichael is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter at @ellencarmichael.