GOP Candidates Get a Second Chance to Debate Economic Policy

GOP DebatesLast time, the moderators from CNBC made themselves the story.  They succeeded in uniting the GOP field against them.  It was a good night for those who were quick on their feet, those who excel at the debate format.  For those who wanted an opportunity to get their message on policy out to the public, they were largely denied much of a chance.  As a vehicle for getting substantive discussion out, the third debate fell way short.  Tuesday the Republicans get a redo of sorts in front of a panel of FBN and Wall Street Journal questioners.  Many of the questions that existed before the last debate still remain, and a few new ones present themselves.

Some of those questions to keep in mind as we watch will be:

Will John Kasich get a chance to actually explain how he can put his vast experience to work fixing the economy?

Can flat tax plans be defended to moderators who know the numbers as well as the candidates?

Will Donald Trump show patience and wait for an opponent attack him?

Will Jeb finally land a blow against Marco Rubio?

How will Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee who have been in the prime time debates up until now, fare against unfamiliar opponents during the 7:00 PM debate?

Will Carly Fiorina be able to improve upon past strong debate performances?

Will Bobby Jindal do better against stronger opponents?

How will Cruz and Carson do without biased moderators as foils?

Tuesday’s debate promises to be a far cry from the last one on CNBC. The moderators can be expected to ask tough, but fair questions on the nation’s finances and the economy.  They won’t make themselves the centers of attention as did the previous group.  With this debate, as the last one being on domestic affairs, it will serve as something of a redo for the candidates.  Will they take advantage of this second chance?  The prime time debate will have feature fewer candidates, allowing for more time to respond to questions.  Who will that hurt and who will it help?   The ‘undercard’ debate will have a different mix of characters, it could provide for a fresh start for some of the participants.  As usual this election cycle, expect the unexpected– at least from the Republican field.  The headlines on Wednesday morning will be anybody’s guess.

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Second GOP Debate part 2

GOP DebatesThe early debate wrapped up without an earth-shaking performance, or tragic gaffe on the part of any of the participants.   As night fell on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the stage was occupied again with this time the top eleven GOP hopefuls.  The prime time debate was designed to be a TV show with Donald Trump its star, but it was Carly Fiorina who ended up stealing the show.  Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio also played prominent roles in this drama.

The format was designed to produce conflict between the candidates and it did, but sometimes in ways host network CNN barely imagined. Trump eagerly obliged by providing some reality show style conflict launching a surprise, preemptive attack against Senator Rand Paul, suggesting that Paul should have been voted of the island after the last debate.

Paul, for his part, suggested that Trump was a sophomoric individual who resorted to junior high style teasing.  He questioned whether Trump was even a true conservative. He was not prepared to say his opponent was fit to go anywhere near the nuclear “button” when asked.

After the ice was broken with Trump’s attack on Paul, the rest lined up to take swipes at the billionaire real estate mogul.  The notable exception was Dr. Ben Carson, who engage with Trump only when forced.

Jeb Bush on the other hand, needed little encouragement to engage with the Donald.  He took exception to statements by Trump suggesting that having a Mexican-born wife might be clouding his judgment when it came to the matter of immigration.  Indignant, Bush offered him an opportunity to apologize to his wife who was sitting in the audience. None was forthcoming.

Not all the drama centered around Mr. Trump, Chris Christie and Rand Paul continued their dispute over civil liberties from the first debate.  Christie earlier in the week suggested that if he were president, the party would be over in states like Colorado and Washington that decriminalized the use of marijuana for recreational use.  Christie argued the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, while Paul invoked the Tenth Amendment, guaranteeing state’s rights. Carly Fiorina jumped in before a winner could be decided.  She made heartfelt statement that drug users should be treated, not imprisoned, mentioning how she lost her daughter to drug addiction.

On a couple of occasions, the candidates actually found the time to attack the Democrats.  Everyone opposed the Iran nuke deal, the only question was how long it would be before they tore the documents to shreds. Every aspect to the Obama administration foreign policy was challenged, from our relationship with Russia to the current refugee crisis in Europe caused by the civil war in Syria.

When the topic of one of the questions was Russia’s involvement in Syria, Trump have his usual line that he would hire the best military minds to advise him.  He suggested that we should leave Assad and ISIS, both enemies of the U.S., fight it out and come in at the end to pick up the pieces. A sensible policy maybe, but Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina gave much more well thought out and detailed answers that showed a greater degree of understanding and preparation.

The climactic moment came when Fiorina was asked to respond to a comment Trump made to Rolling Stone Magazine about her appearance where he said in part:  “Look at that face! Would any one vote for that?” He claimed later that he simply meant her persona.

Her answer, one that would echo in the news cycle for days to come was, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”  Trump was taken aback, and complimented her on her looks, saying she was a beautiful woman.  On the split screen, you could see Carly give a look of pure disdain as his belated compliment fell very flat.  Game, set, and match to Fiorina.

At the end of the night those in the second tier debate no doubt have some hard choices to make.  If they stay in they’ll continue to hope and seek that one moment that could earn them more air-time.  They’ll get to know three states really well, and try as Senator Santorum did last time around to string together some early primary wins, places, or shows.  All of this while hoping no one else in the race runs away with it.

Trump didn’t win the debate, but as the front-runner he didn’t need to.  The only numbers that matter to him are poll numbers, so for the time-being his primary concern is not to lose his ultra-loyal base of support.

Much the same can be said for Bush as he has plenty of money at his disposal.  His only worry is if another true contender emerges.  Fiorina looks like she’s ready to assume that title.  (A new, post-debate CNN/ORC poll has her at 14% among Republican and Republican leaning voters.)

Rubio, Cruz, and Christie, who also had a good night, run little risk of talking themselves out of the race, only spending themselves out.

For Carly Fiorina—to the victor go the spoils, the spoils in her case being the inevitable surge of campaign cash that follows a great debate performance. In a little over a month, Republican voters have gone from not knowing her, to knowing her, to liking her.

The rest of the candidates will need that ‘Hail Mary’ pass, that one moment in the spotlight where they exceed all expectations.  There is still plenty of time, but the ‘plenty’ part is running out.

Rand Paul Was Right

GOP DebatesThe now famous dust-up between Rand Paul and Chris Christie during Thursday’s Republican debate over our fourth amendment rights versus national security was a microcosm of the one held nationally in the months leading up to the PATRIOT Act’s renewal in June. Christie maintained that its renewal, minus the controversial section 215 would be insufficient to keep our country safe. Paul argued that the mass collection of phone data by the NSA was a violation of the fourth amendment. Christie’s seemed to suggest that you needed everyone’s data to figure out who the bad guys were. He won the argument on stage by most accounts, but winning an argument is not the same as proving you are right.

Christie was suggesting that the nation needs a dragnet in which all citizens’ phone records are caught up. That is the very definition of a general warrant, the kind that the framers of the Constitution expressly sought to forbid by enacting the fourth amendment. Moreover, the trade of liberty for security he advocates is just not worth it. To put it into business terms, the return on investment, in this case, how much liberty we give up in exchange for security does not balance out. At best, mass data collection, (which still exists) so far has only proven itself as a supplement to good intelligence and police-work, not a good source intelligence on its own. First, there is just too much data. We can’t look at it all, it’s impossible. Even if we know of someone with terrorist ties, someone presumably that the NSA or FBI could easily obtain a warrant for, even that is not always enough to prevent terrorist attacks. Such was the case with the Boston bombers, an act of terror done by individuals known to have overseas terror ties. We certainly did not get our lost liberties worth of security on that day.Restore the 4th

Some suspicion of an impending act, or someone being radicalized has to come first, then you can start searching for evidence to support your suspicions using lawful methods. The Founders were quite clear they did not want it to be the other way around. The suspicion must precede the search, period. Trolling trough the phone records of millions of innocent people in hopes of stumbling upon someone doing something wrong isn’t just bad for liberty, it’s a waste of resources. If on the other hand, law enforcement or intelligence picks up an inkling that someone is up to no good, the records are still available. Our God-given rights, including our right to privacy is one of the very things are fighting this war on terror for in the first place, let’s not forget that.

Christie Brings Jersey Attitude to Race

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) SC is the latest to annouce a Presidential bid.
Gov. Chris Christie (R) NJ is the latest to announce a Presidential bid.

He’s plain-spoken and tough.  If there is an opposite of spin, that is how he delivers his message.  There is no sugar-coating, no nuance, no pretense to what he says.  His though, no-nonsense persona is quintessential New Jersey all the way. His campaign slogan: “Telling it like it is,” tells your all you need to know about how he sees himself.  How well his style will play with the rest of America has yet to be seen.  He is betting that it will be received in one place outside of the Garden State, the all important primary state of New Hampshire.

Most of America is familiar with his direct manner, but not him personally. Wednesday in Livingston, NJ he set out to share his personal story with America.  He spoke at length about his upbringing in urban, northern New Jersey. His story is one that many in middle-America can identify with and he told that story in his announcement speech.  His upbringing he maintains, prepared him for the leadership roles he we take on later in life.

He mentioned when he became Governor of New Jersey, the state was in sad fiscal shape.  “When I became governor six years ago, we had a state that was in economic calamity,” he said.  He went on to describe how he managed to balance the state’s budget six years in a row.  He also managed to reform the state’s tenure laws for teachers.  He also set out to rework teacher’s pensions and health plans, issues that remain a contentious in the state.

Turning his attention to the Federal government, he spoke of the deep divisions in Washington D.C. saying, ” Americans are not angry, Americans are filled with anxiety. They’re filled with anxiety because they look to Washington D.C. and they see a government that not only doesn’t work anymore, it doesn’t even talk to each other anymore.”  He suggested that governing in a ‘blue’ state such as New Jersey as a Republican makes him better qualified to overcome the partisan divide that exists in Washington  today.

He phrased the issue of entitlements in his trademark Jersey style, “We need to fix a broken entitlement system that is bankrupting our country. We have candidates that say we cannot confront, because if we do we’ll be lying and stealing from the American people. Let me fill everyone else in, the lying and stealing has already happened. The horse is already out of the barn. We’ve got to get it back in and you can only do it by force.”

Moving on to foreign affairs, he followed what has become a staple of Republican speeches as of late, that our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us.  In his words:  “…And it is a strong, unequivocal, America, that will lead the world and not be afraid to tell our friends we’ll be with you no matter what. And to tell our adversaries that there are limits to your conduct and America will enforce the limits to that conduct.”

That lead to his first direct criticism of the current administration and his perspective opponent in the general election, “After seven years of a weak and feckless foreign policy, run by Barack Obama, we’d better not turn it over to his second mate Hilary Clinton.”  He took another swipe at the Obama/Clinton foreign policy in a manner typifying his leadership philosophy, “But if we’re going to lead, we have to stop worrying about being loved and start caring about being respected again at home and around the world.”

Christie, for better or worse, knows who he is and what works for him.  His is a blunt style that never leaves you guessing where he stands.  He stated this truism about himself, “When I stand up on a stage like this in front of all of you there is one thing you will know for sure, I mean what I say and I say what I mean and that’s what America needs right now.”  It remains to be seen if the rest of the country is ready for the virtue of New Jersey directness.  Governor Christie hopes it will be well received in New Hampshire to start.  If it does,he can begin to hope that enough of the rest of the states will support him.  If not, it could be a very short campaign in 2016.