Republicans seeking their party’s 2016 presidential nomination have the challenging task of trying to stand out among the 17 candidates in the race, and Thursday’s televised debate was the first opportunity for the party to start whittling down its choices. So it’s no surprise that the candidates had a vested interest in puffing up their own records as governors, senators and public figures.
Some of the claims in the Cleveland debate and how they compare with the facts:
DONALD TRUMP: “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.”
THE FACTS: Republicans have been talking about immigration for years, including former President George W. Bush and the Republican field in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
Trump also promoted his concept of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Under Bush’s administration, hundreds of miles of fencing was built along the border. At the time, the administration ran into a variety of challenges to the fence, including private property owners who fought to keep the government from forcing them to sell property along the border. Bush also faced a variety of environmental challenges and was forced to build the fence off the border in some locations.
Republican debate about immigration has only intensified in the wake of President Barack Obama’s sweeping executive action shielding from deportation millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: “We brought the budget into balance with no tax increases.”
THE FACTS: Not exactly.
As New Jersey’s governor, Christie in his first term cut the earned income tax credit, which largely benefits low-income workers, from 25 percent of the federal credit to 20 percent. He surprised Democrats this summer by proposing to bring it up to 30 percent. Democrats quickly approved the change.
Christie also repeatedly delayed implementing the Homestead credit program, which grants property tax relief, angering elderly and low-income homeowners, even as he capped property tax increases overall. He also extended the sales tax on online purchases to out-of-state retailers and pushed for higher taxes on e-cigarettes, but failed.
To be sure, Christie has vetoed a number of proposed tax increases, but his record is not free of raising taxes or their close cousin, fees.
JEB BUSH: “During my eight years in office, 1.3 million jobs were created, and we left the state better off.”
FACT CHECK: Yes, but by December 2009, 900,000 of those 1.3 million jobs had been eliminated.
During Bush’s tenure as Florida’s governor, the state benefited from a huge housing bubble that then burst just as he left the governor’s mansion. Florida was one of several “sun and sand” states where home prices soared during last decade’s housing mania even more than they did nationwide. Home prices jumped 160 percent in Florida from 1999 through 2006, more than double the national increase of 74 percent, according to real estate data provider Zillow.
That growth fueled a 50 percent jump in construction jobs, and the boost to home values made many Floridians feel wealthier, leading them to spend more. Home prices started to fall in 2006, Bush’s last year in the governor’s mansion.
MARCO RUBIO: “The largest retailer in the country, in the world today, doesn’t even own a single store.”
THE FACTS: Rubio said he was referring to Amazon, the online retailer. He was using the example to argue that the economy under Obama has undergone a radical transformation that the next president needs to address.
It’s true that Amazon is the largest online retailer, but it’s not the largest retailer in the U.S. or worldwide, according to the National Retail Federation. That distinction rests with Wal-Mart.
The National Retail Federation’s chart of the top 100 retailers lists Wal-Mart’s retail sales in the U.S. at $334 billion, compared to Amazon’s $44 billion. Wal-Mart’s global retail sales were listed at $474 billion, compared to Amazon’s $78 billion.