Voters First Presidential Forum - 2016 GOP (Candidate Grades)

Republicans kicked off the 2016 Presidential contest with the Voters First Presidential Forum.  Here is how the candidates did.


The 14 candidates were selected at random, and the list below is presented in that order.

of 14

Rick Perry (Former Governor, Texas)

Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to the National Right to Life convention in 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. Stewart F. House/Getty Images

Rick Perry answered questions on immigration and the economy. He was ready to go this time, unlike his 2012 (failure to) launch. He was on fire in round two and really energetic with his closing speech.

Grade: A-

of 14

Rick Santorum (Former US Senator, Pennsylvania)

Rick Santorum Campaigns in Iowa. Courtesy Gage Skidmore

Rick Santorum spoke way to fast. He tossed out far too many numbers far too quickly to the point you couldn't hear the point he was trying to make. Came off as more angry than likable.

Grade: C-

of 14

John Kasich (Governor, Ohio)

John Kasich talked about his time in the US Congress, and mostly talked about a balanced budget. It's hard to stand out in a forum like this, and Kasich did not do much to eat into the Jeb vote.


Grade: C

of 14

Lindsey Graham (US Senator, South Carolina)

Lindsey Graham, US Senator
Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla

Despite his unpopularity with the base, Graham actually came out as the first "authentic" sounding candidate of the evening. His remarks were not canned (the other candidate's had a paragraph they wanted to squeeze in no matter what.)

Grade: B+

of 14

Chris Christie (Governor, New Jersey)

Chris Christie got a no-brainer question on negotiating with terrorists (no) and questions on entitlement reform. He favors raising the retirement age by 2 years over 25 years. Christie also had a solid answer on drugs and prison reform.


Grade: B+

of 14

Dr. Ben Carson (Neurosurgeon)

Getty Images

Carson's understated manner was perfect for this forum.  The former Doctor was asked about Obamacare and pretty much ran with the question to the point he didn't get another question. But, most importantly, it's easy to see how he connects.


Grade: A

of 14

Jeb Bush (Former Governor, Florida)

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Jeb Bush seemed a little nervous and had a few verbal stumbled, and he was mostly saddled with foreign policy questions. He was clearly more interested in talking economic policy and he perked up quite a bit when given the chance to talk the economy. (Again, he joined most of the other candidates with over-relying on numbers and facts).


Grade: B-

of 14

Carly Fiorina (Business Executive)

Carly Fiorina Speaks at CPAC. Getty Images

Fiorina asked about a failure and what she learned. She avoided the question (twice) but there's a comfortable easiness about her delivery. When given the opportunity to take on Hillary Clinton, she did not hold back.


Grade: A-

of 14

Bobby Jindal (Governor, Louisiana)

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Asked how he could unify the country, he comes out against hyphenated-Americans. He really seemed to miss an opportunity to address the race issue on a deeper level. He still talks too fast overall, perhaps


Grade: B-

of 14

Scott Walker (Governor, Wisconsin)

Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images

Scott Walker got the global warming question and, honestly, did a great job talking about love for the environment but rationally dealing with environmental policy. Like most governors tonight, when given the opportunity he started ticking off his accomplishments. Unfortunately, when he turned in recite-mode he lost a bit of conversational appeal.


Grade: B-

of 14

George Pataki (Former Governor, New York)

Scott Wintrow/Getty Images

Pataki was seen studying note-cards prior to his turn, and he was apparently determined to say whatever was on those cards no matter what question was asked.

Grade: D-

of 14

Rand Paul (US Senator, Kentucky)

Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the Freedom Summit in Manchester, New Hampshire in 2014. Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Rand Paul was bombarded with foreign policy and privacy questions. His answers were mostly unobjectionable, but seemed a bit at odds to his previous positions. He hit on the work he has done working with minority communities, a strong plus.

Grade: B

of 14

Ted Cruz (US Senator, Texas)

Mark Wilson - Getty Images News

Ted Cruz's style is very hit/miss. He changes emotions with easy depending on what he is talking about, but it often comes out as very stage-crafty and melodramatic. He is clearly knowledgeable but does he have wide appeal?

Grade: B-

of 14

Marco Rubio (US Senator, Florida)

US Senator Marco Rubio. Chip Somodeville - Getty Images

Marco Rubio comes out against marijuana, but seems okay with actual medical marijuana that goes through the FDA process. He also gets an immigration question. He comes out against comprehensive immigration reform, a standard position since his failed Gang of Eight package. He also did a good job bringing up Amazon and Uber in a continuation of his generational pitch. His close was standard/solid American Dream fare.

Grade: B

Closing Thoughts

The governors were big on details and facts, but it was the non-politicians who seemed most able to connect with the viewer. Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson stood out likability-wise, while holding their own policy-wise. Of the politicians, Governor Perry stood out with his unmatched energy.