14 GOP Candidates (No Donald Trump) To Square Off At 'Voters First' Forum

Aug 3, 2015

Fourteen Republican presidential candidates are taking part in Monday night’s Voters First Forum at St. Anselm College.

You can listen live to the forum on NHPR at 7 PM by clicking right here. 

That may sound like a lot, but organizers say it’s all about staying true to the spirit of the primary process.

Media outlets in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina organized the forum in response to networks shutting out low-polling candidates in nationally-televised debates.

You can hear the two-hour forum live on NHPR, starting at 7 p.m.

Trent Spiner is executive editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader, one of the co-sponsors of the forum. He joined Morning Edition to talk about the event.

The forum comes just three days before the Fox News debate that set things in motion. Fox News announced it would use national polling data to choose only 10 Republican candidates to invite.

What was the reaction here in New Hampshire when that was announced?

Local Republicans were upset that only the top 10 candidates in national polls were being considered for this very first debate. We heard from Republicans across the state, as well as Iowa and South Carolina, who said they wanted an opportunity to meet all of the candidates. We felt as a news organization that Fox News is not providing some critical information that readers and listeners and viewers are interested in, so we’re going to step in and fill that hole.

How much planning went into this?

The amount of planning that went into this event was incredible. We have 14 candidates, more than 500 people in the audience, not to mention two hours’ worth of very informative questions. To put this all together in just a matter of weeks took a lot of help from our partners and also a lot of excellent members of the Union Leader staff. The campaigns were incredibly helpful through all of this. They were very understanding of what we were trying to do and they did not have any major demands. They’re committed. They want to win Iowa. They want to win New Hampshire. They want to do what’s right and they want this opportunity to speak directly to the voters.

We should make clear this is a forum, not a debate. So candidates will be speaking, but they won’t be addressing each other.

Right, this is a forum, so each candidate will have his or her own time on the stage. There will be two rounds and each candidate will have about seven minutes total on stage. We created the questions asking readers in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire to send us the topics they’d like to hear about. We got thousands of responses; people who want to hear about immigration, national debt, college debt, health care. We used those topics to inform our questions and what you’ll see hopefully is the questions that we ask will help people understand how these candidates are different on some topics.

Nearly every major Republican candidate is taking part, except for the one currently at the top of the New Hampshire polls: Donald Trump. He chose not to take part. What was his reason?

Let me bring you behind the scenes on that. Donald Trump sent a letter to the publisher. He was upset about a tongue-in-cheek editorial in the Union Leader basically calling Donald Trump a hero. It was sarcastic, and it came after he said Sen. John McCain was not a war hero. So Trump sent a letter to the publisher signed, “Donald.” It said he’s a businessman, he’s got billions, and his instinct was telling him he’s not going to get the endorsement of Joe McQuaid, so he’s out.