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Republican Town Hall: Reality Check

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Posted at 11:14 PM, Feb 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-18 23:14:43-05

WASHINGTON — John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump gathered in South Carolina for CNN’s Republican Town Hall on Thursday, and CNN’s Reality Check team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the event and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.

John Kasich

Reality Check: Kasich on Obamacare and health care costs

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

Kasich may have agreed to expand Medicaid, but he’s no fan of Obamacare, which he said must be replaced because it’s too costly.

“The problem with Obamacare is it does not control the cost of health care. They continue to escalate,” he said.

One of Obamacare’s goals is to curtail the growth of health care spending. President Barack Obama often ties his signature health reform program to the slowdown in the health care spending growth, which has been at or near historic lows in recent years.

But is it due to Obamacare? Not so much, experts say.

A 2013 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Altarum Institute, a health research group, concluded that about three-quarters of the slowdown was due to the lackluster economy. The rest stems from efforts to keep spending down, including cost-containment measures introduced in Obamacare.

Also, health care spending is once again on the rise — and it’s expected to continue to accelerate over the next decade — in large part because of expanded coverage under Obamacare. Health care spending in the U.S. is projected to have increased 5.3% in 2014, according to federal estimates. It’s the first time the rate would exceed 5% since 2007.

Verdict: True.

Jeb Bush

Reality Check: Bush on ISIS having an Indiana-sized caliphate

By Ryan Browne, CNN National Security Producer

While criticizing Obama’s handling of the counter ISIS campaign, Bush said that the President’s failure to retain U.S. troops in Iraq after 2012 led to ISIS having a caliphate “the size of Indiana.”

Bush said, “When he did not renew the agreement with the Iraqi government to allow for troops to stay there, that void was filled by sectarianism that once again kind of unraveled Iraq and it created ISIS. Al Qaeda in Iraq was devastated. It was gone. But a recreation of a caliphate the size of Indiana between Syria and Iraq is because we pulled back and the Iraqis did not have a sustainable kind of national government.”

At the time, the administration said it withdrew troops due to the failure to reach a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government that would protect U.S. forces in Iraq from legal prosecution.

While many analysts agree that al Qaeda in Iraq was largely defeated in 2012 and that the withdrawal of U.S. troops contributed to instability that facilitated the rise of ISIS, did ISIS really have a caliphate the “size of Indiana?”

According to the defense research firm IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, in December 2015, ISIS controlled 30,116 square miles.

The state of Indiana is 36,418 square miles. The area controlled by ISIS in Iraq and Syria is therefore 83% the size of Indiana.

But ISIS has lost significant territory in recent months, losing the city of Ramadi to the Iraqi army and the town of Sinjar to Kurdish forces backed by U.S. airstrikes.

In January 2015, IHS Jane’s said ISIS controlled 35,282 miles squared, which is much closer to the size of Indiana.

Verdict: Mostly True.

Reality Check: Bush on Russia’s presence in the Middle East

By Laura Koran, CNN

Criticizing Obama’s strategy in Syria, Bush said the U.S. has “allowed Russia to establish a military presence back in the Middle East for the first time in 40 years. We’ve done this in a way that is devastating.”

In fact, Russia has maintained a close military relationship with Syria for over 40 years, operating a naval base in the port city of Tartus since 1971.

The facility was established to receive weapons shipments and remained under Russian control after the fall of the Soviet Union, according to an explainer from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Russia’s presence in Syria has grown since the start of the civil war there, particularly since it began launching operations from the Khmeimim airbase near Latakia. But Russia’s military presence in Syria long predates the Obama administration.

Verdict: False.