The Ultimate NH Primary Cheat Sheet: Where The Candidates Stand on Economic Policy

League Of Women Voters Of California / Flickr

With the Iowa Caucus wrapped-up, the focus is on New Hampshire's First In The Nation primary

After months of political debates, ad buying, and hand-shaking, the New Hampshire Republican primary is finally upon us.  And not surprisingly, the latest WMUR Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows that the economy/jobs is the top issue for about 60 percent of the state’s voters.

The Iowa Caucuses have winnowed the field ever so slightly, with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann suspending her campaign. Texas Governor Rick Perry took a night to reassess his path forward and decided today he’s continuing on to South Carolina, despite a fifth place showing.

That still leaves a lot of research to be done for undecided voters.

StateImpact New Hampshire is dedicated to how government policy affects jobs and economy. So we’ve visited the candidates’ websites and done a spot of side research, examining their views on various economic policies.  And we’ve generated a bullet-pointed cheat sheet…kind of a basic guide to where the Republican presidential candidates stand on a number of key economy-related issues.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the candidates’ views.*  It’s an overview of major points they’ve cited in their campaign websites and the little things that caught our eye.

We aren’t looking at why the candidates are proposing what they are, the feasibility of their plans, or analyzing possible consequences.

That’s what months’ worth of national political coverage has been for.

Instead, we just want to give you a decent starting point as you prepare to vote in the primary, indulge in heated debates, listen to election coverage, plot your political strategy, or otherwise participate in this mainstay piece of election-year Americana.

Before we kick-off the candidate-by-candidate overview, here’s a brief list of some points we’ve found where the Republican contenders agree:

      • Repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka: “Obamacare” in conservative circles)
      • Repeal or defund the Dodd-Frank Act
      • Eliminate the estate tax (aka: “death tax” in conservative circles)
      • Eliminate or privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
      • Balance the budget (although the means vary)

So with all that in mind, we now present The Ultimate NH Primary Cheat Sheet:

Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

  • Personal Taxes: Make Bush tax cuts permanent.  Create 15 percent optional flat income tax, keeping deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving.
  • Corporate Taxes:  Cut income tax rate to 12.5 percent.  Allow companies to expense new equipment purchases.
  • Spending:  Of all the candidates, Gingrich remains the murkiest on where, exactly, he proposes spending cuts (although he says he supports them).  His campaign website offers no specifics.  After trolling the internet, we decided to check in with the conservative Cato Institute.  In a comparison of Republican candidates, they found one department–Education–that Gingrich appeared to be in favor of cutting.  They did not, however, find a specific dollar figure tied to that proposed cut.
  • Other: Repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. (The law was passed in response to a number of high-profile corporate scandals, including WorldCom and Enron.  Among other things, the act established new auditing standards for corporations.)

Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman

  • Personal Taxes: Eliminate deductions and credits for personal income tax and institute three rates, 8 percent, 14 percent, and 23 percent. Eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax.  Eliminate capital gains and dividends tax.
  • Corporate Taxes: Cut income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Tax American companies on what they earn domestically, not their overseas earnings (territorial tax system, rather than worldwide).
  • Spending: Huntsman’s campaign website doesn’t list spending as a specific issue.  But last spring, he endorsed Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  Among other things, the Ryan plan calls for: rolling back spending to pre-2008 levels and then freezing spending for five years.**
  • Other: “Enact comprehensive patent reform.”

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Texas Congressman Ron Paul

Ron Paul

  • Personal Taxes: Eliminate income and capital gains taxes.  Eliminate the IRS.  Eliminate taxes on personal savings.  Extend all Bush tax cuts.
  • Corporate Taxes: Cut income tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.  Tax American companies on what they earn domestically, not their overseas earnings (territorial tax system, rather than worldwide).
  • Spending:  Cut $1 trillion in first year, eliminate Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Education.  Eliminate Transportation Security Administration.  Roll most spending back to 2006 levels.  Cut 10 percent of the federal workforce.  Cut congressional pay.
  • Other:  Audit, then eliminate, the Federal Reserve.  Return currency to the gold standard. No more raising the debt ceiling.  Cut Defense spending by ending all foreign wars/engagements.  Repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (The law was passed in response to a number of high-profile corporate scandals, including WorldCom and Enron.  Among other things, the act established new auditing standards for corporations.)

Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Texas Governor Rick Perry

Rick Perry

  • Personal Taxes: 20 percent optional flat income tax, keeping some deductions, including “mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and state and local taxes.”  Eliminate taxes on dividends and long-term capital gains.  Eliminate Social Security Benefits Tax.
  • Corporate Taxes: Cut income tax from 35 percent to 20 percent, phase out corporate tax breaks and loopholes.  Tax American companies on what they earn domestically, not their overseas earnings (territorial tax system, rather than worldwide).
  • Spending: Federal spending capped at 18 percent of GDP, discretionary spending cut by $100 billion during first year, freeze hiring and salaries of federal civilian employees until budget balanced.
  • Other: Moratorium on new regulations and audit of all Obama-era business regulations, create automatic seven-year sunset on all new regulations (subject to congressional reauthorization).

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

  • Personal Taxes: Keep personal income, capital gains and dividends, and interest tax rates the same.  Eliminate interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes for people with adjusted gross income (AGI) below $200,000.
  • Corporate Taxes: Cut income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.  Tax American companies on what they earn domestically, not their overseas earnings (territorial tax system, rather than worldwide).
  • Spending: Federal spending capped at 20 percent GDP.  Cut “non-security” discretionary spending by 5 percent.  Cut federal jobs through attrition.  Bring federal workers’ wages and benefits in line “with market rates.”
  • Other: Roll back Obama-era labor laws and regulations, support Right-to-Work laws in states.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

  • Personal Taxes: Cut income tax rate to two tiers–10 percent and 28 percent. Eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax.  Lower capital gains and dividend tax rate to 12 percent.  Triple the tax deduction families can take for each child.
  • Corporate Taxes: Cut income tax rate in half, from 35 percent to 17.5 percent.  Increase Research and Development tax credit from 14 percent to 20 percent.
  • Spending: $5 trillion in spending cuts within five years.  Freeze non-defense federal employee wages, cut federal workforce by 10 percent, “and phase out defined benefit plans for newer workers.”   Institute five-year spending freeze on social programs, including: job training, education, Medicaid and food stamps.
  • Other: “Cut funding for National Labor Relations Board for decision preventing airplane factory in South Carolina.”

*Let’s say Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich agreed on a specific policy point during a debate…but if Gingrich has been shouting it out as a key part of his platform, and Santorum’s been pretty quiet about it, you’ll probably see it in Gingrich’s list, and not in the Santorum column.

**Yes, we know the Ryan Plan also calls for privatizing Medicare and turning Medicaid into a block grant program.  But we’re focusing on the broad strokes of Republican candidates’ policy positions vis-a-vis the economy, as opposed to dissecting their views on specific programs, like Medicare and Medicaid.


  • Darson

    I’ll pay more attention to this when Gary Johnson is added to the list.

    • Gary Johnson has pulled out of the Republican primary and plans to run as a third party Libertarian candidate. You should pay attention to this because it references the Republican primary only.

      • Darson

        Good point – I should have paid MORE attention.

  • Athensguy

    who is Gary Johnson?

    • Anonymous

      He’s a former governor of New Mexico who started out running as a Republican. He didn’t gain much traction, and eventually switched over to become a Libertarian candidate.

  • Anonymous

    I just went to the Rick Santorum website and found this link:

    It appears to be the official page for him. Hope this helps.

    (And yes, I spent all of thirty seconds there and will never return…)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks JakeSisco! Your link helped us “turn on the lights,” so to speak, for our Rick Santorum link section.

  • caroline

    How about Buddy Roemer!?

    • Anonymous

      I can see where you’re coming from there. But as with reporting anything else, sometimes, you have to draw some lines for the sake of time, if nothing else. In the Iowa Caucuses, Roemer pulled fewer votes than Herman Cain, who has actually suspended his campaign. For all practical intents and purposes, Cain isn’t running for president. And if we included Roemer, given his vote count, we would feel obligated to include Cain. And in NH, you can simply register to run in the primary and pay a fee. At that point, we’d have to include any number of minor candidates who would be running under the GOP label who, like Roemer, haven’t been a mainstay on the debate circuit.

      But, in the interest of due diligence, I’ll be happy to point folks in the direction of Roemer’s website if they’d like to check out his views:

  • Redefine

    The only sane Republican is Ron Paul. And he has a snowballs chance in hell.

    • CPO Sharkey

      There hasn’t been a sane republican (or for that matter a real republican) since Eisenhower.

      • Ddouin

        Time to spend some quality time reviewing what Ron Paul has said and done in the last 20 years my friend.

    • dfswe

      really… that guy is a total nutcase!

  • Jeanette Altimus

    thanks for this….neat cheat sheet!!!

    • Anonymous

      You’re welcome!

  • Amandalynn00200

    Both Bachmann and Santorum’s websites only allowed for donations or book purchases yesterday…convenient (Iowa Caucus day) and unusual. Why not loudly broadcast your platform for undecided Caucus voters?

  • Soccermom_liz

    Where is Buddy Roemer? Governor longer than Romney, Congressman, and private sector entrepeneur. He has more to say on the economy than the others combined!

  • Vhwink

    What about Buddy Roemer?

  • I’m not at all a fan of Candidate Rick Santorum, but his website can be found here (without the need to see a donation form):

    Vote Ron Paul!

  • Whaleofatail

    Honestly, this “cheat sheet” is useless.

    • Anonymous

      How so?

      My inspiration for this post was that I had yet to find a simple, streamlined, easy-to-compare rundown of each candidate’s basic positions on the economy. That’s what I was going for with this. But I’m always open to feedback, and would very much like to hear your ideas on how we could make future posts on economic issues more useful.

      • …why respond to someone like that at all?

        • Anonymous

          Mainly, it’s for purposes of diligence and engagement. Diligence because, well…if I really did get something (like a fact) wrong, or represented something in an unclear way, for ethical purposes, I should try to fix it. Based on the lack of response, it’s probably safe to chalk it up to a matter of taste, which is what I suspected.

          As for the engagement angle, I believe that if I respond to positive comments, I should make a point to respond to negative ones, too, as politely as possible, in the interest of keeping my little corner of the online community lively.

          • Andrew Riese

            Thanks for this, Ms. Loder. This is the first time I’ve seen a writer respond in such a democratic, respectful way on an internet message board. Very commendable. (And thanks for the article, too!)

  • fervently cavalier

    I switched from Libertarian to Republican just to vote for Ron Paul in the primary…When he doesn’t get the nod, back to Lib I go with Gary Johnson!

  • Matthew

    sitting watching Kennedy and reading this and everyone is talking about tax cuts, but if we are already in the red and all candidates talk about tax cuts, why don’t any of them lok at statistics and figures and give real proposals to face a global recession!

  • Amanda Loder – you are gorgeous! If I come to NH for the primary voting day, I’d love to meet you for dinner, coffee, or drinks, or a combination thereof.

    I like what you’ve done here – nicely done. I think it would be even more compelling in chart form…. It would make Ron Paul’s sane positions stand out even more. I did that in the 2004 caucuses here in WA-State and managed to get many people in the Kerry, Edwards, and Clark camps to change over to Dean. It was so much fun. hahah!

    Cheers! Maybe I’ll see you in NH.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the lovely comment!

  • Gary80

    What about plans to grow the economy ( I see only spending cuts)? What about investments in higher education and infrastructure?

    • Anonymous

      At the risk of oversimplification, the overarching Republican philosophy on how to fix the economy tends to be along the lines of “give the economy the tools and a lot of space away from government interference to heal itself.” And those “tools,” at least as far as this cycle’s slate of GOP candidates is concerned, are primarily tax cuts, spending cuts, and curbing various regulations on business. The belief is that the funds cut from government coffers will flow into the private sector, which will allow businesses greater access to capital to expand, hire more people, and thus grow the economy.

      That’s not to say that none of the GOP candidates have infrastructure or higher education funding plans. Rather, they didn’t fit into this particular post as the candidates didn’t really cite them as the main drivers in their economic recovery plans.

  • dianogas

    This is VERY helpful!!! Would you be able to put together a cheat sheet or overview of where they stand on key non-economic issues? Social issues, the military, education, etc? Wouldn’t need to be as detailed as this….

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the nice comment, dianogas! That is a good idea, but I’m afraid as a business/economy reporter, I’m pretty well tied to the economics beat. I’m glad you found the cheat sheet helpful, though!

  • Lets elect Gary Johnson for President. He supports the Fair Tax HR 25. This is the only hope for America. A simple, fair and transparent tax on consumption. Replaces all federal income tax and abolishes the IRS.

  • Clockrjoe

    I don’t see how you can give a clear picture of the candidates views if you dismiss that part of the Ryan Plan that ends Medicare “as we know it” and don’t get each candidates stance on that part of the plan.

  • BrianG

    Good on you, Amanda Loder…Helpful indeed. You should keep this as a “living” document and update when necessary.

  • Peter

    O has to go!!

  • GJ

    Ron Paul can beat Barack Obama in November !

  • Aphrodisiaciix

    I will vote for a candidate who would: 1. Eliminate personal income taxes completely and instead install a national sales tax – say at 5% – and a strict and robust property tax, which will heavily rated on luxury estates and goods. 2. Corporate taxes should be based on total earnings (domestically and internationally). 3. Take control of college tuition and prices of textbooks. 4. Take control of health costs and bust the strangle hold of pharmaceutical companies on drugs costs and monopoly. 5. Eliminate lobbyists and make it illegal for such activities. 6. Eliminate the Federal Reserve, DOE, TSA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac… and other obsolete or incompetent agencies. 7. Strict spending proportionately to our GDP and set a reachable goal for a balanced budget. 8. Make it illegal for the government to use Social Security money other than its defined purpose (i.e. to pay its citizens when it’s time for them to collect). 9. Stop using our military as an instrument of foreign policy. 10. Term limit for senators and representatives. Eliminate all absurd benefits and perks. Also, make it illegal for congress to give itself a raise. 11. All military personnel will be paid on par with their civilian counterparts. All military personnel will be with full benefits after serving actively for 4 years, whether during war time or not. Make it mandatory for all males and females under the age of 30 to serve for 2 years.

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