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Tuesday Morning News Dump | Main | Open Thread
August 04, 2015

Impressions From Last Night's GOP Speed Dating Event

Last night almost all of the major candidates were in NH for a really weird "candidate forum." The format involved a local moderator who asked some strange questions to each candidate in blocks of about 3-5 minutes before the candidate was kicked off and another came in before the seat could get cold. It turned out there were two rounds of this and candidates sat in the front row watching the others while they waited their turn.

It was...weird.

There was no Trump or Huckabee. Cruz, Paul and Rubio were in DC and appeared via satellite (more on that in a minute).

So how did they all do? A few quick thoughts on each (not in any particular order):

Rick Perry: My first impression is he can not seem to find the sweet spot between HYPED UP ON ENERGY DRINKS and stoned on back pain pills. He was asked which agencies he'd eliminate which got a laugh because it hearkened back to the "oops" moment from 4 years ago. The problem is, he kind of rambled on and never actually answered the question. His inability to catch on nationally is a real surprise. I think his problem is that while he's clearly better prepared after the disaster of 2011/12, people have other choices this time who don't carry Perry's previous baggage. If the field were thinner, he'd probably be getting a second look but people have other options so they've moved on. It looks like he won't make the main debate this week, so he's kind of done.


Scott Walker was....there. This guy is a puzzle to me. He's just sort of there but he should be so much more or less. He's basically a talking point machine and once you've heard them a few times you don't need to hear them again. The only good part of this format was he didn't have time to tell his "I shop at Kohls" story, so that was good. And yes, I get he has to reach out to voters who don't pay much attention so the relentlessly on message stuff may work and be necessary. It is what it is. I just wanted more from him than a super safe campaign.


Ben Carson: Not sure why he's still running. His, God wants 10%, no deductions, no loopholes, so that's what the tax code should be, thing is never going to fly. He's really capitalized on that one prayer breakfast speech, huh?


Jeb Bush: Let me be charitable and say that this was an off night. Unless he's speaking about the joys of immigration he just seems disinterested. None of the Bushes are great speakers but at least with W. even when he mangled stuff you kind of got what he was trying to say. It wasn't pretty but it worked. Jeb...is not that lucky. Jeb's answer on Syria involved saying no to "boots on the ground" but yes to special forces. Um, ok. Then this....

We've seen this movie before. Twice. We're going to see it a 3rd time because he's going to be the nominee.

Chris Christie: Says he wasn't ready last time but is now. The problem is, voters were ready for him last time but not so much now. He wants to be the guy who will level with voters about entitlements and things like raising the retirement age and means testing Social Security and Medicare. Ok but I think to sell that kind of stuff (which is near impossible but necessary) you have to do it by putting it into a shared sacrifice, for the good of America context. Christie says those things but his personality makes it sound like, "shut up and give men your damn Social Security." Not sure how that plays beyond a very limited audience.


John Kasich: Who let the Democrat in? His late arrival in the race is likely to bump Perry out of the main debate so there's something else to hate him for. He was asked what to do about sanctuary cities and haughtily dismissed the question by saying there's broad bi-partisan agreement to end them. This is what we political junkies call, "a lie". After dispensing that bull he went on to shill for amnesty. He also said while economic growth was good and necessary we then need spread it around to poor people because that's what God wants us to do. So...yeah.

Carly Fiorina: The candidate everyone thinks more people should be supporting while supporting someone else. She said she was against the status quo so much in such a short period of time I feared for the safety of anyone who made "status quo" their drinking game phrase. She served a purpose early on by taking on Hillary but that seems to have faded for now and Trump has the "successful business person" thing locked down so, yeah. I do wish her well in her campaign to be the VP pick though.

George Pataki: Yes, he's still alive and yes he was there and he said things. The best part was when he said he supported defunding Planned Parenthood and started to say something else but then stopped himself. I think he was about to remind everyone he was pro-choice but thought better of it.

Lindsey Graham: Screw this guy. He was the only one of the four Senators running who wasn't in DC to vote against Planned Parenthood yesterday. He also said he'd send troops to Syria and hold territory there. So if you liked the Iraq occupation and want to try it again in an even worse situation, Lindsey's your guy.

Rand Paul: Full disclosure, he's my guy for now. He's at his best when he finds ways to connect his libertarian beliefs with more mainstream conservative ones. He was asked if his opposition to the NSA meta-data collection was putting the country at risk. He made a good case for traditional constitutional protections and then compared the problem of expansive surveillance with the IRS targeting conservatives. You can argue about how they are different issues but as a political argument it was a smart way to bridge a gap. He was asked which country he'd visit first as President and he said Russia or China, which was....weird. So, that was not good. Overall he didn't say anything to make me jump off the bandwagon and really that's all I hope for with him.

Marco Rubio Strong against the Iran deal as you'd expect. His defense of amnesty, hawkish foreign policy and big surveillance were expected. Those who like that will continue to like that, I however continue to find myself immune to his particular charms. His defense of the war on drugs and taking a shot at the dangers of alcohol were just bonus reasons not to like him. And when he said ISIS is the biggest threat this country has ever faced, I laughed. There was this thing called the Soviet Union Senator. I've seem some of his supporters be down about his performance but I cut him some slack. Like Paul and Cruz he was on via satellite and he had the most trouble dealing with the delay. His appeal comes from his smooth "I Love America' speeches and that didn't translate in this format or delays. I'd give him a pass on that.

Ted Cruz: I find myself thinking, screw it I like him more and more. I hate myself for it a little bit to be honest. I find his overt religiosity a bit much at times for my personal taste and I prefer executive experience but damn it, at least he gets it. He did come up against the question every Senator has a tough time with...when has your character been tested in a crisis? He rambled on a bit about stuff and then kind of settled on how hard it is to be an outspoken Senator fighting the DC machine. It would have been a good answer to another question but it highlighted that some people have been there and had to make calls and some talk and vote. There's not much he or Rubio or Paul can do about that. If you prize executive experience, that's just not going to work for them. Otherwise he was strong and eloquent on Planned Parenthood and the normal stuff.

Overall...weird night but a good warm up for the coming debate season. Not sure anyone really helped or hurt themselves last night. It did provide some clues about who needs some work going into Thursday. If Jeb! doesn't get his act together he could create some trouble for himself (though he's going to win the nomination). Kasich will be a great dividing line. Anyone who thinks, "wow, that could be the guy" will effectively out themselves as an establishment hack. He's terrible. Rubio needs a solid performance to wash away what seemed to some of his supporters a weak showing. Cruz needs to do his thing and hope Trump flames out. And Paul needs to keep teh cray cray in check and hope he has a solid night while letting Team Establishment hit Trump and not him.

I forgot one: Rick Santorum Bring back the sweater vest! Only candidate who is talking about decreasing legal immigration which is interesting. Got hit with the "which woman should be on a bill" question and didn't have an answer ready. I bet most other candidates didn't have one either and were glad they didn't get asked. They'll need to have one picked starting this morning to be safe.

I forgot two! Bobby Jindal He's another guy who should be doing better but won't even make the big kid's debate. I don't know if it was his not well received State of the Union response a few years ago or what but he's just not getting any traction. I like the guy and would be opening to supporting him but the fact he didn't stand out from the crowd (not sure how he can at this point) is not a good sign. He's the youngest guy running so maybe in the future when the field's not so crowded. But this time...he's just getting lost in the noise.


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posted by DrewM. at 10:02 AM

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