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NASHUA, N.H. — On the first day of a summit sponsored by the New Hampshire GOP, Republican presidential candidates emphasized support for Israel, embraced get-tough policies at the U.S.-Mexico border and advocated for federal spending cuts.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis railed against "moral equivalence" about deaths in Gaza as Israel’s military strikes back after an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants. DeSantis also said when it comes to Mexican drug cartels, he would "shoot them stone cold dead right at the southern border."
Former South Carolina Gov. and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley took aim at Congressional Republicans, pointing to what she said is exorbitant spending on earmarks, a category where Republicans have outpaced Democrats.
Frontrunner and former President Donald Trump was the only leading candidate who didn’t make an appearance in Nashua. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie earned the day’s only chorus of boos when he called out Trump for promoting the false narrative that the 2020 election was rigged.
Vivek Ramaswamy joined other candidates in criticizing China. He said that we should "unshackle ourselves from the climate cult ... while leaving China unchained."
Adding an element of unexpected drama to the event, Ramaswamy walked to the podium with a Colonial-era fife and drum corps.
Here, we fact-check several of the candidates’ claims.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the press after his Oct. 13 speech at the GOP's First in the Nation Summit in Nashua, New Hampshire. (Samantha Putterman/PolitiFact)
DeSantis: "You have 7 million people coming into your country through the border illegally."
Haley: "6 million illegal immigrants have crossed that border."
This is Mostly False.
DeSantis and Haley misrepresent the data. Since Joe Biden took office in January 2021, U.S immigration authorities have encountered migrants about 7.2 million times at and between ports of entry. But that doesn’t mean that many migrants entered and remained in the U.S. That data shows events, not individuals, and one person can be recorded multiple times.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection data also shows that millions of those encounters led to removals.
DeSantis: Imposing a central bank digital currency would allow the government to "limit transactions for ammo and gas and all the things elites don’t like."
This is misleading.
When DeSantis made similar remarks in April, banking experts told PolitiFact that he overstated the likelihood that such a system is possible, much less likely, to emerge in the United States — for a variety of technical, legal and political reasons.
Experts said such surveillance may be technically possible. But in practice, U.S. laws do not permit the kinds of surveillance and control that DeSantis describes.
And even if it is technologically possible,"technology does not operate in a vacuum," said American University law professor Hilary J. Allen. Systems can achieve specific goals only "if the relevant social and legal institutions permitted such use."
Haley: "Let's claw back the $500 billion of unspent COVID funds that are still out there, instead of 87,000 IRS agents going after Middle America."
Government estimates show that more than $400 billion in pandemic relief money remained unspent as of Jan. 31. But a majority of the money has been allocated, meaning it’s earmarked to be spent and wouldn’t be eligible to be rescinded. Estimates about how much remains unspent and unallocated range from $70 billion to $90.5 billion.
The government injected more money into the IRS as part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. But the 87,000 figure includes all new hires — such as information technology experts and customer service representatives — not just enforcement staff. And many of those hires would go toward holding staff numbers steady in the face of budget cuts and retirements. About 7,000 new hires will focus on enforcement, making sure wealthy taxpayers and big corporations pay their taxes, according to an April 2023 IRS report.
Haley: "Congress has only put out a budget four times in 40 years on time."
This is correct. The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research group, wrote earlier this year that Congress has passed its required appropriations measures on time only four times in the modern budgeting era.
Those were in fiscal years 1977, 1989, 1995 and 1997.
Ramaswamy: "Government agencies that should not exist ... we will get in there and shut them down."
Ramaswamy repeated his promise to reduce the federal workforce by 75% during an eight-year presidency. Regardless of whether it’s a good or bad idea, he could be unable to carry it out on his own.
Legal experts said sweeping cuts must be approved by Congress, and cannot be accomplished by presidential action alone.
"The only way this could be changed would be for Congress to grant the president new reorganization authority," said Donald F. Kettl, the former dean of the University of Maryland’s public policy school. "That seems highly unlikely."
Anne Marie Lofaso, a West Virginia University law professor, said Ramaswamy is arguing that the president "can unilaterally repeal a statute that authorizes the establishment of a government agency. That would be a radical revision of presidential power and a likely violation of separation of powers."
GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the First in the Nation Summit on Oct. 13, 2023, in Nashua, N.H. (Louis Jacobson/PolitiFact)
DeSantis: In Florida, "we had an 18-month-old baby crawling on the carpet of an Airbnb rental, and presumably whoever had it before was doing drugs. There was fentanyl residue in the carpet. The baby came in contact with it. And the baby died."
That’s what a March lawsuit alleges.
Enora Lavenir, a 19-month-old visiting Wellington, Florida, died Aug. 7, 2021, at an Airbnb rental where her family was staying.
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office determined that the toddler died of acute fentanyl toxicity, NBC News reported when the lawsuit was filed. The family, who was visiting from France at the time of their Airbnb stay, filed a wrongful death lawsuit that said the property had a history of being used for parties.
NBC reported that a sheriff’s incident report showed investigators interviewed the prior renter, who said cocaine and marijuana were used during his stay, but not fentanyl. The sheriff’s office said the death is listed as accidental and the case is now closed.
Haley: "Only 29% of our eighth graders in our country are proficient in reading. Only 26% of our eighth graders are proficient in math."
This is accurate.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress report — known as the nation’s report card — tests fourth and eighth graders on key academic subjects. The 2022 report, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began, found that eighth grade reading scores declined in several states, and no state showed significant improvement, with an average 29% being proficient nationally. This continued a downward trend that predated the pandemic, but represented the largest average reading score decline since 1990.
The report also found that eighth grade math scores fell in nearly every state, with 26% rated as proficient, down from 34% in 2019.
DeSantis: "Places like California, they’re forcing all new cars, at a certain date, in the pretty close future, to be electric."
This is accurate.
Sources linked in article