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August 07, 2015

So...How About Them Debates?

First and foremost...I was right. Megyn Kelly (and to a lesser extent Brett Baier and Chris Wallace) did the heavy lifting in going after Trump last night. Yeah, they went after most of the candidates but holy hell did they go after Trump. And surprise! He sounded like a giant jackass.

Also as predicted, Chris Christie was the foil for most of the sharpest policy debates. His back and forth with Rand was equal parts legitimate policy disagreement and political theatrics. As usual, Rand comes off as prickly (and that's being charitable). Not surprisingly, I think he had the better of the argument and I don't think his shot at Christie played as poorly with a lot of viewers as it did with the room but dude, that was just a lame time to unleash it.

But that's the reality show nature of these things. They come prepared with shots they hope will be the soundbite of the night. This is how we pick Presidents and yet we're shocked when things go to hell.

Christie was strong on entitlement reform and as we discussed on the podcast was a reminder of why people used to like him. Huckabee then reminded us why no one really likes talking about entitlement reform by mindlessly demagoging the issue and bizarrely claiming the problem is hookers and drug dealers don't pay into the system and that's why it's in trouble. Not sure if he wants to legalize those things to get their ill gotten FICA contributions but his other plan to fix things is to eliminate congressional retirement plans. Um ok but now that you've raised .0000001% of what you need, where's the rest coming from?

Trump meanwhile was just...Trump. This can't last much longer, can it? I think my favorite part of the whole event was when Wallace pushed him on what he got in return from all the politicians he claimed to have bought his answer was he made Hillary Clinton come to his wedding. Huh? That's your example of the corruption of money in politics and the thing you are uniquely poised to fix?

I don't know. Are his supporters so immune to reality that idiotic performance won't matter? Will there be a sympathy backlash for how he was treated?

Who the hell knows.

Beyond that he's my take on how things went in order from best to worst:

1. Marco Rubio. It pains me but he was the sharpest there. He was on message without seeming like a talking point machine. He didn't get much time but no one really did. He didn't get dragged into the mud or silly games.

He seemed plausible even though some of the things he said were implausible.

He wants to run as the champion of legal immigrants waiting for years and years? Then why clog the already strained system with million and millions of amnesty applications?

He kind of got into a weird thing with Kelly over abortion. And apparently his campaign had to release a statement correcting what he said. I don't know, it was a weird exchange and no one knew what they were talking about so it won't hurt him.


2. John Kasich. I know this is going against the grain but Kasich got a bunch of air time and to people not familiar with what an ObamaCare loving SOB he is he sounds like a reasonable, safe and mature establishment pick. "I won in Ohio twice" will be music to the electability crowd and he was getting a ton of establishment love on Twitter.

Kasich was also the only candidate to say something that needs to be said, Trump voters are angry and are right to be. We need to address that not focus on Trump.

He's the worst person to make that case but if no one else does, he's automatically the best at it.

Prediction: Kasich boomlett as insurance against someone will talk about later in this list. Much. Later.

3. Scott Walker. He continues to just be there. His first question about opposing abortion exceptions while signing a bill that allowed them could hurt a bit but I think his Midwestern flat helps with the way he ignored the question about how he was inconsistent and simply spoke about his record. It was a hot question but his cool demeanor defused it. If Christie had gotten a similar "gotchya" he'd have gone nuclear and made it the issue of the night. Walker just made it seem like no big deal, reasonable people disagree, let's move on.

He didn't move up much but in his current position, he doesn't have to.

4. Chris Christie. Again, I disagree with the gang on the podcast about this (I'm being told I have this wrong. You should listen to it when it comes out. Just to be sure) but he did well. I think the damage to his brand is too great to save him and that he's four years too late but last night he did well. He took on Rand in Huck in the two big policy fights of the night and at worst held his own.

5. Mike Huckabee. I don't know. Someone had to go here. It's the middle spot. He neither helped nor hurt himself. Unlike Walker he didn't consolidate a strong position, he just did his thing.

6. Ben Carson: I still can't believe he parlayed one speech into this position but here we are. His appeal is evident when he talks in broad sweeping generalities. When pushed on specifics on things like fighting ISIL his answer was something like, "you have to use the tremendous brainpower in our military to win." Uh. Ok.

7. Ted Cruz. He was there believe it or not. We talked on the podcast about how they just ignored him. He doubled down on the, "yeah McConnell is a lying liar who lies" stuff and they basically ignored him for an hour or so after that. He didn't do anything wrong, he just got shafted while other favorite candidates (Kasich) got a lot more air-time.

8. Rand Paul. Started off strong by going after Trump's unwillingness to forswear a third party run and then kind of.... Some candidates can pull of off aggressive but in control/serious, Paul is not one of them. He just comes across as, I don't know, but it's not good. He's got thin skin and has that "I'm a doctor, shut up" vibe. He should talk to Carson about how to ditch that.

He was ok on substance for the most part but there's enough doubt in some parts of the party about him on things like ISIL and Iran that it doesn't matter. I never thought he'd win, now we have confirmation.

9. Jeb Bush. His last name hurts him but if it were say, "Pataki" he'd be at the kid's debate. He was... there. I guess. Other than really rich people throwing money at him, I just don't see why this is happening. What unique niche within the GOP does he serve? What difference does he bring to the table? It's weird. I'm starting to doubt it's going to happen for him. First, the NH blah performance, then the Planned Parenthood gaffe and then last night.

An email pal sent an interesting note this morning. Bush was reported to have called trump and asshole to a donor. Someone asked Bush if it was true and he said, no, of course not. It was Pawlentyesuqe but not quite as damaging since we didn't see it all in real time but I bet a lot of Bush money people were disappointed he didn't say, "you're damn right I did because he is an asshole!"

Kasich boomlett is on the way.

10. Donald Trump. By any normal judging system he was terrible and should be out. So he'll probably gain 5 points in the next week.

He tried to explain away his love for single payer in Canada and Scotland by saying he thinks companies should be allowed to sell policies across state lines. That's a new and interesting definition of "single payer" to say the least.

What we learned is Trump: The Candidacy is a one man show. Put him in an ensemble cast and he looks like the idiot member of the dance line who didn't learn the routine and is 3 steps behind everyone else.

As for the kid's debate everyone loved Carly and I thought Jindal was good. He was certainly better than Perry who just can't seem to make it happen.

Even as well as Carly did, she started at 1.2% in the RCP average. So if she jumps all the way up to 2.4% (which she won't) she's still nowhere.

The next few weeks are going to be about positioning yourself to pick up votes guys like Trump and Bush will probably start shedding. There's not a lot of overlap between their voters so it'll be interesting to see which candidates benefit if they start to stumble.

If that happens, it could help Carly as she needs candidates to start dropping out. A lot of people say how great she is and how she should have more support but no one seems to be willing to drop their guy to join her team. But it's tough to come from that far back with relatively little money. It could help her VP chances though.

The next debate is on CNN in about a month. There's no word yet on the format. It could be 5 candidates, it could be 17. No one knows.

As pointed out in the comments, CNN did announce their format. Thanks to Laurie David's Cervix for the heads up.

Also, ignore the part of the podcast where we talk about not knowing the format.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:31 AM

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