Kemp Forum

The Kemp Forum is a debate and discussion series providing a platform for the civil competition of ideas. Based on the premise that ideas, like athletes, become sharper in competition, the Kemp Forum examines cutting edge public policy questions through the kind of restless, spirited debate that Jack Kemp practiced from the heart.

Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity


House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) moderated the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity on January 9, 2016, in Columbia, South Carolina.

Panel One – featuring former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:

Panel Two – featuring former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee:

Panel Three – featuring South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

Panel Four – Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski host Ryan, Scott, Arthur Brooks and others:




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Media Coverage

The Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity received extensive news coverage. Here are just some of the stories:

the-new-york-timesThe New York Times, Republican Candidates, Minus Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Play Nice at Poverty Forum

“…After a week filled with attack ads and months of caustic debates, six of the Republicans running for president gathered in the same place on Saturday and showed they can, after all, get along. In contrast to some of their television personas, the Republican candidates who showed up to the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity here offered a cordial and substantive discussion about combating poverty, often agreeing with one another as they discussed issues including education reform, the role of states and how to better employ new technology.”


MSNBC, Morning Joe, Ryan: “We should not play identity politics”

“We should steer clear of that (identity politics) and get back to the Ronald Reagan Jack Kemp morning in America, optimism. These are universal principles. Lets not talk to people in ways that separate them from other people. Lets talk to people in ways that combine us, that include us, that are universal, that are unique to America’s founding. And that’s what I think people are yearning and hungry for. And that really is the essence, the guts, the tradition of the Republican party.”

photoCNN Politics, 5 takeaways from the Kemp forum on poverty held in South Carolina

Paul Ryan’s a star…

It would have been easy to mistake the recently minted House speaker as one of the candidates on Saturday, as he deftly prodded them on the issue of poverty. Ryan has long tried to make a Republican case on fighting poverty in the House, and he has built a reputation around being a policy wonk with command of the issues. That background was on full display as he engaged with the candidates on their ideas to lift up all Americans and gave an opening address setting the stage for the day.”


The Washington Post, Paul Ryan turns the GOP presidential race toward a forgotten issue: Poverty

“…Republican presidential candidates on Saturday turned their attention away from border walls and terrorist threats and birth certificates, if only for a day, to focus on a topic that is dear to the hearts of some leading conservative thinkers but has remained far from the center of the GOP race: poverty in America.”

WallStreetJournal-logoWall Street Journal
, Republicans Call for Helping Poor Through Family, Faith

“…Republican presidential candidates blamed a bloated and inept federal government for losing the “War on Poverty” begun a half century ago and called for helping the needy through family and faith. Appearances by six contenders at a forum on poverty on Saturday reflected the importance of this early-voting state in the nominating calendar and the political clout of newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee and a leading voice for revamping the government safety net. The event was sponsored by the Jack Kemp Foundation, named for Mr. Ryan’s mentor, the 1988 presidential candidate known for his efforts to revitalize poor communities, improve public housing and bring minorities into the GOP fold.”


MSNBC Morning Joe: John Hart “GOP Candidates Head to SC for Kemp Forum”

“MIKA: Joe and I are going to be moderating a panel with Speaker Ryan and Senator Scott….

“JOHN HART: In order for Republicans to succeed, we need to appeal to their aspirations, not their anxieties. And what the event tomorrow is, is a chance for Republicans to focus on solutions and what they’re for.”

dailybeast_logoDaily Beast, Can Paul Ryan Save the GOP from Itself?

“…In a cycle when the Republican presidential field has become mired in the nativist, the trivial, and the occasionally cruel, Ryan, along with Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, sat six presidential candidates down in Columbia, S.C., Saturday to talk about the struggles of poor Americans and ways to lift them people out of poverty.”

, Can A Party Dominated By Trump Convince America it Cares About Poverty?

“…Of course, there still is time for that dynamic to change. Many of the Kemp Forum’s organizers were heartened by the turnout: After all, corralling six presidential candidates — and 200 political reporters — for a Saturday morning discussion on poverty three weeks out from the Iowa caucuses is no easy feat.”

politico-logoPOLITICO Featured in

“…RYAN TRIES TO RE-BRAND GOP — “Ryan dreams of a kinder, more substantive GOP,” by Jake Sherman in Columbia, S.C.: “Ryan talked about the ills of the criminal-justice system. He … vowed that Republicans … could ‘make breakthroughs’ in the war on poverty. This is what Ryan wants his Republican Party to look like. But it bears little resemblance to the one on display in the presidential primary … So as Ryan tries to reassert the party’s substantive side with a series of policy rollouts in the coming months — a conservative replacement to Obamacare, tax reform, a criminal justice bill — he’s also looking to give the House GOP its own identity … insulation from the mess … on the national stage.”

unnamed-1Washington Post, Distinguished pols of the week

“In panels moderated by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), several GOP presidential candidates gathered at the Kemp Foundation in Columbia, S.C., to discuss poverty and conservative solutions to help 14.7 million people still mired in poverty….What ensued was a series of panels that restored one’s faith that there are sincere public servants looking to restore the American dream.”

og-nbcnews200x200NBC News
, Paul Ryan Was the Winner of GOP Presidential Poverty Forum“…

House Speaker Paul Ryan was the big winner at a Republican presidential forum on expanding opportunity on Saturday. He moderated the event in Columbia, South Carolina, where most of the seven presidential candidates who attended endorsed central components of his domestic policy agenda. While anti-establishment candidates, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, did not attend and are not seeking Ryan’s endorsement, seven others did and they would covet an endorsement by him. The support of the speaker, who is still popular among the raucous ranks of House Republicans in the infancy of his term, could bring with his endorsement a tremendous amount of political favor.”

National-ReviewNational Review, Paul Ryan, Haunted by the Past and Concerned for the GOP’s Future, Puts Poverty in the Spotlight

“…The culmination of those efforts was visible Saturday morning, in a ballroom here in the South Carolina capital, as Ryan teamed with Tim Scott, the state’s junior senator, to host a discussion on poverty with six presidential candidates in a forum sponsored by the Jack Kemp Foundation. In an interview with National Review the previous evening, Ryan made clear that he was trying not only to articulate a fresh vision for the GOP heading into 2016 but to settle unfinished business from 2012. “This is something I’ve always cared about. But it’s something that I think needed even more emphasis after my experience in 2012, because we have a bifurcated country, we have a polarized country,” Ryan says, sitting in a downtown hotel conference room. “One of the reasons I think it’s polarized is because of identity politics on the left. Now some on the right are playing it.”

Struggling GOP Contenders relish moment to ignore Trump

“…A hooting Donald Trump and hollering Ted Cruz overflow crowd this was not. As Trump packs stadiums across the country, and Cruz treks through Iowa expanding his lead, the rest of the Republican field – desperate for traction – debated the finer points of the earned-income tax credit, charter-school education and how the Republican Party can help alleviate poverty at the sedate — and serious — Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity.It was a welcome change for many of those running for the Republican Party’s nomination: No talk of banning Muslims from the country or arming elementary schools. And no request from the moderators to respond to any of Trump’s latest insults.”

NPR_Square-350x350NPR, Seeking To Expand Voter Reach, GOP Leaders Hold Poverty Forum

“Republicans have been trying to figure out how to reach new groups of voters since their defeat in the presidential election four years ago. Now some party leaders are saying the GOP should do a better job of addressing the concerns of low-income Americans.”

brand-1CBS News, Speaker Ryan: Don’t wait for a GOP nominee on policy

“He was interviewed at the Jack Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, a summit to deal with poverty that is named for one of Ryan’s political mentors, former Rep. Jack Kemp. Since his loss in the 2012 presidential campaign, Ryan traveled the country studying the issue before releasing an anti-poverty plan in 2014.He said past presidential campaigns have make a “mistake” by not traveling to the poorest areas of the country to recruit supporters.”

the-hill-web-logoThe Hill
, Republicans cast optimistic message on poverty

“…Amid a bitter presidential primary season that has often hinged on personal attacks, Republicans on Saturday looked to the ever-optimistic example of one of their party’s economic forebears. At the Jack Kemp Foundation’s forum on opportunity in Columbia, S.C., several GOP candidates sought to embody the man who steered the party’s message toward growth and optimism and away from lamentations on welfare and the national debt.They elucidated their plans to tackle poverty and reflected on how their personal stories embodied the party message on opportunity.”

Washington-Free-Beacon-logoWashington Free Beacon, A Day Without Donald Trump

“… If you’re wondering, though, what the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination would have looked like if my friend had been right, the 2016 Kemp Foundation Forum on Expanding Opportunity was the campaign equivalent of one of those doorstop-sized novels in which the South wins the Civil War or the atom bomb is never invented.

The Kemp Foundation, which promotes the legacy of the NFL quarterback and Republican congressman, hosts these events annually. Most of the candidates for the GOP nomination attended this year’s forum. A source involved told me that Trump, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul all declined to participate. (Rick Santorum wasn’t there either.) Trump held a rally nearby the night before, from which, he told the world via Twitter, many supporters were denied entrance by order of the fire marshal.”


unnamed-3TIME, Paul Ryan Pushes Republicans to Make Poverty an Issue

“The policy-heavy forum offered a starkly different tone than the series of Republican presidential debates, which have frequently devolved into personal shouting matches”


brandCBS News, Paul Ryan thrusts poverty into 2016 conversation

“…The summit is being billed as an opportunity for GOP candidates to discuss conservative solutions to the problems of the American poor. It’s named after former Congressman Jack Kemp, whom Ryan considers a mentor. Kemp was known as an aggressive crusader for supply-side conservative economics, which argued lower taxes would increase growth. But he was also known for his outreach to minority communities and people living in poverty, and his insistence that the Republican Party should speak to everyone in America, not just the middle class and the well-off.”

unnamed-4USA Today
, Republicans say private sector — not government — is answer to poverty

“…The host organization — the Jack Kemp Foundation— is named for the late U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp, a Republican who promoted conservative proposals to fight poverty. Some of the GOP candidates echoed Kemp’s ideas such as “enterprise zones,” impoverished areas where businesses are offered tax breaks and other incentives to move in.The organization Opportunity Lives sponsored the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, along with two other think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Economic Innovation Group.”


yahoo-news-logoYahoo News w/ Katie Couric,

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Gun Control, Obama and the 2016 candidates

“…Besides being an election year, 2016 also will be Ryan’s first full year as speaker, and one of his first major events of the year will take place this weekend in South Carolina, where he and home-state Republican Sen. Tim Scott will hold a forum to discuss poverty. Several Republican presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Ben Carson, are expected to participate. Though Ryan has proved himself to be an adept political foe of Obama —a skill he honed as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 — an early focus of his speakership has been on substantive policy issues, especially legislation aimed at reducing the size of the federal government.

“I believe if we measure success on fighting poverty by how many programs in Washington we can create and how much money we can throw at those programs, we’ll keep getting the same results, the status quo. Forty-six million people living in poverty, among the highest poverty rates in a generation,” Ryan told Couric. “What we’re trying to do is get out of the status quo and go at these bigger problems with better solutions. And that, to me, means customizing. That, to me, means getting at the local level. So I think the wrong question to ask is, ‘Why don’t you throw more money at failing programs?’

WallStreetJournal-logoWall Street Journal, Republican Candidates to Tackle Poverty at South Carolina Forum

“…The forum moderators will be House Speaker Paul Ryan, a leading Republican voice for overhauling the nation’s safety net for the poor, and South Carolina’s Tim Scott, the state’s first black U.S. senator. The event is being hosted by the Jack Kemp Foundation, which honors Mr. Ryan’s mentor, the self-described “bleeding heart conservative” and former U.S. housing secretary remembered for his efforts to reach out to minorities and lure businesses to downtrodden areas. Mr. Trump and his closest rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, will not be among the seven candidates in attendance. “I’m not sure what the candidates can say with any credibility, because they haven’t spent the time in the neighborhoods,” said community activist Robert Woodson, who toured poor communities across the country in recent years with Mr. Ryan and will attend the forum. Jimmy Kemp, son of the late Mr.Kemp, said in an interview that the foundation also has approached Democratic presidential candidates about holding a similar session with them to sharpen the focus on poverty issues in both parties.”

brandCBS News (Face The Nation Clip)

Why Paul Ryan stopped referring to “makers” and “takers”

I was wrong,” explained Ryan in the interview, which will air Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “I mean, when you do something that it wrong, you should call to it.”

“People who go on government assistance, people who are on government benefits, sure, some people are going to exploit the system. Some people are choosing to just, you know, live on the dole and not work because they prefer that. That’s a small percentage of it,” explained Ryan, who was in South Carolina to host a summit focused on how Republicans can help alleviate poverty in America.”

“Most people don’t want to be poor,” Ryan added. “Most people don’t want to be dependent. And if we speak as if everybody is in this category, that’s wrong. And so that’s what I did, and I was wrong to do that. And so that’s why I think we need to respect people for the ambitions and the goals and the dreams that they actually have and then help facilitate their access to it.”

Fox_News_Channel_logoFox News
, Speaker Paul Ryan: Special Report w/ Bret Baier

“We want to show that as conservatives, we have fantastic principles that are foundational to our country that need to be applied to the issue of poverty so that we can show we have better ideas, better reforms than the status quo for fighting poverty, for breaking the cycle of poverty, getting people out of poverty, and restoring upward mobility in America, getting everybody access to the American idea and the American dream.”

4744.Reuters-LogoReuters, Drowned out in noisy campaign, Republicans revive poverty message

“…Jimmy Kemp, Jack Kemp’s son and head of the foundation, said candidates had been forced to respond to voters’ concerns about terrorism. The economy and unemployment were Americans’ top concerns for much of 2015, until terrorism worries spiked late in the year, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

Americans’ frustration with politicians was also evident in the public’s skepticism about Washington’s ability to fix their problems. Trump’s ideas about bringing back manufacturing jobs to America represented more of a “trust me” approach than substantive policy, Kemp said.

“People may kind of just think that we’re going to have a government by executive order going forward, and so maybe they’re thinking, well, we might as well have somebody like Mr. Trump in there,” Kemp said”

WallStreetJournal-logoWall Street Journal: Paul Ryan Brings a Dose of Kemp Optimism into 2016 Campaign

“Jimmy Kemp, the late Mr. Kemp’s son and the head of his foundation, described his hope for this weekend’s gathering is this way: “I want people to recognize that there are conservative solutions and propositions for these really difficult challenges that exist around poverty and the lack of opportunity in this country.” Mr. Ryan, he said, “is the leader of the party right now. I believe he does have an optimistic message.”

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