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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactChecking the GOP Candidate Forum

Several Republican presidential candidates made false and exaggerated claims at a candidate forum in New Hampshire on Aug. 3.

Among them:

  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he cut the state budget by 26 percent, but that drop is due to a decline in federal funds.
  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he was “leading Hillary Clinton in five states won by President Obama.” His numbers are within the margin of error in all five states.
  • Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said workers’ wages “have flatlined for 20 years,” when the average real earnings for rank-and-file workers is up about 13 percent.

Most of the GOP field participated in the “Voters First Forum” held at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

Jindal on Cutting the Budget

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that he has “cut the size of our budget in Louisiana by 26 percent.” That cut, however, came from less federal aid, not less state spending, according to budget materials provided by the governor’s campaign.

Jindal, Aug. 3: We got a lot of talkers. We need a doer. So, we’ve reduced, we cut the size of our budget in Louisiana 26 percent.

This has been a common talking point for the governor, dating as far back as 2011. We asked Jindal’s campaign about the 26 percent cut, and we were referred to Jindal’s first budget proposal for fiscal year 2009 and his most recent budget proposal for fiscal 2016.

The 2009 budget (on pages 1 and 29) places the projected total budget expenditures for the fiscal year 2008 budget at $34.33 billion under the previous governor, Kathleen Blanco. A press release from the governor’s office shows the most recent budget under Jindal at $25.1 billion. That’s a difference of $9.23 billion, or 27 percent.

However, those same budget documents show the projected fiscal 2008 budget included $19.77 billion in federal funds, but there was only $9.73 billion in federal funding budgeted for fiscal 2016. That’s a difference of $10 billion — which accounts for the 26 percent decline in the budget.

The Times-Picayune wrote on Oct. 12, 2011, that “Jindal boasts of ‘cutting state spending 26 percent’ … but much of the state budget drop he touts is explained by waning hurricane recovery appropriations and the end of federal stimulus aid.”

Paul vs. Clinton

In making his case for being a “different Republican,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he is “actually leading Hillary Clinton in five states won by President Obama.”

Actually, he’s not. Paul’s poll numbers are within the margin of error in all five states. Paul was also wrong when he said he is the only Republican leading Clinton in Pennsylvania.

Paul has made this claim on other occasions, most recently on “Fox News Sunday.”  When we asked about it, the campaign provided us with polls from five states. But the survey data show Paul’s slight advantages in all five states are all within the margin of error (Colorado, 44-41; Iowa, 43-42; Ohio, 44-41; New Hampshire, 45-44; and Pennsylvania, 45-44).

The Iowa poll, which was released in April by Quinnipiac University, noted that “[e]very Republican is tied or close to Clinton in Iowa,” undercutting Paul’s claim that he is different from the rest of the field. Similarly, an April 27 press release on the New Hampshire poll, which was conducted by Gravis Marketing, said its head-to-head polling against Clinton “shows Republicans leading or in virtual ties” — specifically, Bush, Walker and Paul.

In Colorado, all the Republican candidates pitted against Clinton were tied or within the 3.3 percent margin of error. In Ohio, John Kasich, governor of Ohio, was the only Republican leading Clinton by more than the margin of error. “The general election match ups in Ohio are generally close with one exception — Kasich leads Clinton 47/40 in a hypothetical contest,” Public Policy Polling said in a June 10 release.

As for Pennsylvania, the Kentucky senator claimed to be the only Republican beating Clinton in the polls. However, the most recent Quinnipiac poll cited by the Paul campaign showed Paul and Rubio each had 1-point leads, which were within the 3.2 percent margin of error.

“Clinton finds herself in several tight races in Pennsylvania, including a matchup with Rubio, where he gets 44 percent to her 43 percent, and Paul, who gets 45 percent to her 44 percent,” according to a June 17 Quinnipiac University Poll press release.

Pataki’s Obamacare Claim

Former New York Gov. George Pataki said the Affordable Care Act is preventing economic growth, and forcing “millions and millions” of Americans to work only part time.

Pataki: [Obamacare is] one of the reasons our economy is not growing. … There are millions and millions of Americans working 28 or 29 hours a week because Obamacare would kick in if they worked 30.

Economic evidence is to the contrary.

Not only is the economy growing, but the total number of workers in the country who work part-time involuntarily — “for economic reasons” — was only 6.5 million in June, and headed down. That’s nearly 1 million lower than it was a year earlier, and 2.7 million lower than it was in March 2010, when President Obama signed the ACA into law.

We’ve debunked this GOP claim about part-time work before. As we said back then, there have been news reports of employers, particularly of low-wage workers, saying they might cut hours to avoid the ACA’s requirement that employers of 50 or more full-time workers provide health coverage or pay a fine. But despite those anecdotes, the data from the BLS show the trend is in the opposite direction of what Pataki and other Republicans would have voters believe.

Furthermore, the economy has been growing handily, despite Pataki’s claim that it is not. Real gross domestic product grew at a yearly rate of 2.3 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to a preliminary estimate by the Commerce Department released July 30. That figure could later be adjusted up or down, but final estimates show positive economic growth in eight of the nine previous quarters as well.

Meanwhile, the total number of jobs has gone up by 2.7 million in the most recent 12 months on record, and by nearly 6.6 million since the end of 2012.

Perry’s ‘More Jobs’ Claim

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry claimed his state created “more jobs than anybody in this room” while he was governor.

Perry: The state of Texas created more jobs than anybody in this room over the course of the time that I was governor.

That’s true as far as it goes. Total employment in Texas grew by 2,228,000 during the 14 years and one month Perry served as governor, from December 2000 to January of this year. That’s an increase of 23 percent.

But that’s partly due to the fact that Perry was in office longer than any of the other governors who were taking part in the debate.

Jeb Bush has an equally valid claim that Florida created more jobs than any other state — including Texas — during the eight years that he served as governor, ending in January 2007. During Bush’s much shorter tenure, Florida’s total employment rose by 1,328,400, or nearly 20 percent.

During the period when both men were in their respective offices (December 2000 to January 2007), Florida’s employment grew by 892,000, while Texas’ employment rose by 696,000. Florida’s job growth also led in percentage terms during this period, going up 12.5 percent, while Texas’ increased by 7.3 percent.

So in a head-to-head match during exactly comparable time periods, Bush can lay claim to greater job growth.

Santorum’s ‘Flatline’ Wage Claim

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said wages “have flatlined for 20 years.”

Santorum: The reality is, wages for those workers I’ve been talking about have been flatlined for 20 years. We have never seen such decrepit wage growth.

To be clear, Santorum had been talking about “working men and women” in general, not limited to some narrow group.

But the fact is, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that real (inflation-adjusted) weekly wages for rank-and-file workers (excluding management and supervisors) averaged a full 2 percent higher in June than what they had been a year earlier.

The average real earnings of these workers was also nearly 13 percent above what it was in June 1994, 20 years earlier.

Santorum may consider such growth to be “decrepit.” That’s a matter of opinion. (The word means “worn out or ruined because of age or neglect.”)

But the plain fact is that the line traced by the BLS data on average real weekly earnings is decidedly not flat.

Real Weekly Earnings

Christie on Job Growth 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie boasted that his state has created 192,000 private-sector jobs during his time as governor. He’s close enough on the number — it’s actually 181,100 — but the New Jersey job growth rate during his time in office ranks the state 44th out of 50 states.

New Jersey had 3,201,900 private sector jobs in January 2010 when Christie took office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of June, the state had 3,383,000 — a net gain of 181,100 jobs. That represents a job growth rate of 5.7 percent.

Only six states had a lower job growth rate during that time: West Virginia (1.8 percent), Maine (4.3), New Mexico (5.2), Wyoming (5.6), Mississippi (5.6) and Missouri (5.6).

New Jersey’s rate of growth was also less than half the U.S. private sector job growth rate, which was 11.9 percent during that time.

This is a popular Christie talking point, which we last wrote about in January when he used it in his State of the State address.

Perry on Securing the Border

Perry again took too much credit for the sharp decline in apprehensions of individuals illegally crossing from Mexico into the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas.

Perry: I know a little something about securing the border. As a matter of fact, last summer I looked in the president’s eye when he came to Dallas, Texas, and I said, “Mr. President, if you don’t secure the border, Texas will.” And that’s exactly what we did. We sent our Department of Public Safety, our Texas Rangers, our Parks and Wildlife wardens — put them literally in the river — and we also deployed our Texas National Guard. And because of that effort, we saw a 74 percent decrease in the number of apprehensions that were occurring in that part of the border.

Perry is referring to “Operation Strong Safety,” a state initiative started on June 23, 2014, by the Texas Department of Public Safety to combat criminal activity along the Texas-Mexico border. According to DPS, border apprehensions declined from 6,606 in week 1 of the operation at the end of June 2014, to less than 2,000 during week 11 in August. Weekly apprehensions remained around 2,000 during the first half of 2015.

But as we’ve written before, Perry can’t definitively say that the decline in apprehensions was because of the state initiative. News reports and migration experts largely attribute the decline to other factors, including increased enforcement in Mexico on migrants from Central America and a federal advertising campaign deterring migration to the U.S. The federal government also added about 265 border patrol agents in that region during that time.

In an email, Adam Isacson, a senior associate for regional security policy with the Washington Office of Latin America, a research and advocacy organization that promotes social and economic justice in the Americas, told FactCheck.org: “I’d say that Operation Strong Safety’s role is minimal at best.”

Correction, Aug. 4: We originally said that the Paul campaign cited Wisconsin as one of the five states where Paul was beating Clinton. That was wrong. It was New Hampshire. We updated the article to include the New Hampshire poll results cited by the campaign and to remove the Wisconsin poll results.

— Eugene Kiely, Brooks Jackson and D’Angelo Gore