If you want to know where many of the major Republican candidates stand on the issues this election season, simply turn to Regent University. Over the span of six days in February, three top contenders for the GOP presidential nomination visited the campus.
Frontrunner Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz and former Regent trustee Dr. Ben Carson chose the final days before the important Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses on March 1 to make their case to voters by appearing at separate Presidential Candidate Forums. The university welcomed former candidate and Florida governor Jeb Bush in October, and current candidate and Ohio governor John Kasich in November.
As part of Regent’s popular Executive Leadership Series, these events, presented as a joint effort with CBN News, provide White House hopefuls from both parties with the opportunity to share political ideas and campaign platforms in a balanced, non-debate format. The university’s goal is to engage these leaders, one of whom could be America’s next president, in constructive and compelling civil discourse, regardless of their party affiliation. To that end, Regent has extended invitations to every major candidate, Republican and Democrat.
“I feel privileged to be a part of this Regent University series,” says Regent Founder, Chancellor and CEO Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson. “This effort has met with universal acclaim from all who participated. The candidates were enormously impressed with the professionalism of our staff; the audience was enlightened as to the issues confronting our nation; and Regent was well-served by being a leader in contemporary thought.”
“It was very exciting having three leading Republican presidential candidates in six days,” says Regent Vice President for Advancement Ann LeBlanc. “The demands on their schedules at this point in the race were extraordinary. Two of the three had Secret Service details. Getting everyone cleared through the prescreening process, then having the metal detectors for the whole audience, added quite a bit to our logistic setup. It was definitely worth it.”
Trump’s visit to campus on the afternoon of February 24, less than 24 hours after winning the Nevada caucus, saw the Regent Theatre filled to capacity, while an overflow crowd packed the CBN/Regent University Chapel next door. The real-estate billionaire, while sticking to his call to “Make America Great Again,” was reserved and reverent as he addressed the audience.
Trump delivered 20 minutes of prepared remarks and then participated in a one-on-one interview with Robertson and an audience Q&A session moderated by David Brody, chief political correspondent for CBN News. During all of that, the former reality-TV star boldly and succinctly tackled America’s $19-trillion deficit, illegal immigration, Obamacare, the Iraq war, the Iran nuclear deal, Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court nominees, his perception of current dysfunction in our nation’s capital and other issues.
“You’re supposed to get the congressmen in, the senators in; you’re supposed to make deals,” he insisted. “I have never seen division like you have now. … The country is so divided, whether it’s African American, white … Democrat, Republican. I mean it’s just like we have a whole divided country. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Two days later, it was Cruz’s turn. His appearance on Friday, February 26, was hosted by Regent trustee Dr. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. The Texas lawmaker, currently running second in most national polls, spoke of the need for the next president to invest the political capital necessary to seat conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
He told the assembled crowd, “We are one liberal justice away from a five-justice Left-wing majority, the likes of which this country has never seen, that will undermine our basic [constitutional] rights.”
Cruz promised that, on his first day in office as Commander-in-Chief, he would undo President Obama’s executive actions, order prosecutions of Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton, and “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal. … And likewise on day one, I intend to begin the process of moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital.”
“The forums are the latest evidence that Regent offers a high level of hospitality across political lines and provides opportunities for students and the community to connect to important national issues.”
Dr. Ben Carson has since suspended his presidential campaign, but on Monday, February 29 — just one day before critical Super Tuesday votes — the retired pediatric neurosurgeon was optimistic about his chances to make a strong showing. In his sit-down interview with Robertson, Carson talked about what he sensed after spending months on the campaign trail.
“I think people in America are frightened,” he said. “And I think they’re angry. They’re frightened because they recognize there are global, radical, Islamic terrorists who want to destroy us, and they don’t get the impression that our government recognizes the seriousness of the situation.”
In addition to terrorism, Carson also took on illegal immigration, Obamacare and returning power to the people: “The original intent … was to have the people at the pinnacle, with the government there to help facilitate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must return the structure to the original intent and once again put the people at the pinnacle.”
Dr. Eric Patterson, dean of the Robertson School of Government, says the series is at the heart of the university’s mission and purpose: “The forums are the latest evidence that Regent offers a high level of hospitality across political lines and provides opportunities for students and the community to connect to important national issues.”
“It was an honor to host each of these fine men in a noncombative environment with an interview format and a bit of town hall thrown in,” LeBlanc adds. “We were truly able to hear more on specific issues than at any time during the network debates. Our hope is that these Presidential Candidate Forums make it much easier for people to come to a voting decision by giving them a glimpse into the candidates’ true stance on issues.”
Note: Regent University does not endorse candidates for public office.
Watch the archived Presidential Candidate Forums at regent.edu/candidatesforum.