First 2015 Republican Presidential Candidate Debate(s)

The “Top 10” Debate:

Here are the official links:

FoxNews’ “Top 10” Debate, aka Debate part 2, aka “the debate” (as if the first one didn’t exist):

FoxNews’ debate part 1, aka Junior Varsity debate, aka “Happy Hour” debate, aka kids’ table debate:


Up first, some background, who are these candidates:

Who are the candidates?  Since this blog will focus on the Republican debate, I will start with just the officially declared Republican candidates and go on from there.  In all fairness, I will list them alphabetically. (1 denotes Top 10 debate, 2 denotes the 5pm debate)

Jeb Bush – 1
Dr. Ben Carson – 1
Chris Christie – 1
Ted Cruz – 1
Carly Fiorina – 2
Jim Gilmore – 2
Lindsey Graham – 2
Mike Huckabee – 1
Bobby Jindal – 2
John Kasich – 1
George Pataki – 2
Rand Paul – 1
Rick Perry – 2
Marco Rubio – 1
Rick Santorum – 2
Donald Trump – 1
Scott Walker – 1


One site also lists the following people running for Republican candidate, or viable candidate, anyway:

Skip Andrews
George Bailey
Michael Bickelmeyer
Kerry Bowers
Eric Cavanagh
Dale Christensen
Brooks Cullison
John Dummett, Jr.
Mark Everson
Jack Fellure
Jim Hayden
Chris Hill
Bartholomew James Lower
Andy Martin
James C, Mitchell, Jr.
K. Ross Newland
Esteban Oliverez
Michael Petyo
Brian Russell
Jefferson Sherman
Shawna Sterling

(A George Bailey was originally on some lists as a declared 2016 Republican candidate.  wow, a George Bailey.  too bad it’s not the Jimmy Stewart George Bailey, who would be seen as socialist and anti-corporation.  In modern lingo, Potter would be your Mitt Romney-esque candidate, and, with a little grooming, your prime GOP candidate – strong work ethic, successful businessman, fierce opposition to the “entitlement class” and “welfare state,” and Bailey would be some far left wing socialist, who wouldn’t have enough centrist views, nor enough money, to even get into the game.)

As for Democratic candidates, apparently more than just Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running.  Ballotpedia also mentions Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb.  While another site also includes the following: Howell Astor, Morrison Bonpasse, Jeff Boss, Harry Braun, Andy Caffrey, Willie Carter, Cody Robert Judy, Lloyd Kelso, Doug Shreffler, Michael Steinberg and Robby Wells.

The official FEC list is here.  Some estimated 300 candidates officially filed.  And we thought 17 Republican candidates was too many.

More background on the Republican 2016 candidates here, and more information on all candidates here.

Also, more info on ballotpedia.  (and Rachel Maddow’s take on the “embarrassment of riches” of the Republican presidential candidates, here, for further bios. on the main contenders, highlighting their successes.)

Now for brief bios. of the more brand-name candidates.

Jeb Bush, notorious for his family name, famously and infamously.  Tasked with the high-wire act of distancing himself from the Bush Sr., and namely “W,” criticizers, while playing up the connection to the Bush supporters, while downplaying any sense of nepotism or dynasty, while advertising his political experience and name-recognition.  good luck with that.  Still, he’s the presumed front-runner (because most sensible people are still thinking Trump has to be a joke and can’t seriously be a contender), due to name recognition.  He, pre-debate and during the debate, generally displays a calm moderate demeanor, tries to stay out of the fray, while the other candidates lash insults and hyperbolic rhetoric at each other, to portray an image as “the sensible one.”  But it may be image alone.

Of the Republican candidates, Jeb Bush is probably the only one with a sensible sane approach towards immigration reform.  Having a Hispanic wife, a biracial son, being fluent in Spanish, and doing a Telemundo interview, he does seem best positioned to grab Hispanic voters (if they don’t vote Democrat, or lean toward Rubio or, like any voter, not vote as a bloc like politicians think people do).

Jeb Bush was also the governor of Florida.  So, you know, Florida.  hanging chads.  Stand Your Ground (though, that was after his administration).  Florida.

We all have heard of Trump, a blowhard egotistical businessman who likes to put his name on things.

Rick Perry is famous for the “oops” heard ’round the world, governor of Texas (which has done economically well), but not the brightest crayon in the box.  Oh, and there are currently indictments out on him for potential felony charges for abuse of power.  One would think that would prevent someone for running for office.

Rick Santorum, famous for equating homosexuality with bestiality.  Also failed a previous run for presidency.  Again, likes to be a loudmouth for the far-right, but that position is quickly being overfilled.

Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul (who did gather quite a following), positions himself as a libertarian, but not enough so to run under that party.  I do applaud his anti-NSA stance, if nothing else.  But he also doesn’t appear very substantive, behind all the soundbites.

Carly Fiorina.  I’m not sure yet if she’s a token female candidate, or actually has some legitimacy in her own right.  (At least she isn’t Joni Ernst, with her breadbag comments, comments made to make her look grassroot and humble, while showing she actually had no experience with it.)  The media seems to say that Carly Fiorina won the first debate.  But was that just because she had a good zinger at Trump?  Her background is as the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.  I guess businessmen/businesswomen make viable Republican candidates.

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana.

Chris Christie, the infamous blowhard governor of New Jersey.  There’s much to dislike about him, but also some things to like as well.  I applauded (whereas the Republicans attack) his hugging the president during the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Christie, known for dismissing Obama, stated that, when the chips are down, he’d put politics aside for the good of New Jerseyians.  I sat up and paid attention.  Then there was the bridge scandal (though that probably didn’t matter much to people outside of New York and New Jersey).  Then there was the pig gestation crate thing – a bill New Jerseyians didn’t want (but that would appeal to the pork state of Iowa, which happens to be the first caucus).  So, Christie was willing to put what would look best for his election over the will of New Jerseyians.  People criticize his handling of the state after Hurricane Sandy and a number of other issues.

However, within just the context of this debate, I thought Chris Christie was one of the only candidates to actually answer some questions, and to provide statistics and specifics to back it up.  So, to me, I thought Christie, or possibly Kasich, won the debate.  But all anyone wants to talk about is Trump.  or, if they do talk about Christie, it’s only that moment between him and Rand Paul.  Was Paul right to speak against NSA encroachment on civil liberties or was Christie right to suggest Paul would have no real means to stop it, or at least attacking Paul’s vague simplistic word choices, from a legal standpoint?  So, as to what I am referring to with Christie giving an actual answer:  The relatively poor economy of NJ was pointed out and then tossed at Christie, implying that if he can’t improve the economy of NJ, how could he be a decent president.

Other candidates were asked a similar question (including Trump vis a vis bankruptcies) and all skirted it.  This is how Christie answered, which I thought was one of the few rare times in the debate that

a) a question was answered – rather than diversion away

b) a question was answered with specifics, rather than generic homilies or broad oversimplifications

c) there was some attempt at statistics to back it up


Dr. Ben Carson, for a pediatric neurosurgeon, he seems shockingly dumb.  Just pull up any number of things he’s said.  But look no further than the very beginning of the debate.

Better than blatant stupidity, like Cain or Perry from the last go ’round.  But it still didn’t answer the question…

On torture: He said he wouldn’t tell people what we, the US, are doing.  (so, no answer?)

On a question about Hillary Clinton, minus the destabilizing the military comment, he stated what appears to be the GOP strategy: increase the debt and drive wedge issues between the populace (or at least you have to state both parties have a hand in the wedge issue attack method)

donkey_elephant wedge

On race: let’s not make everything about race

Closing statements: about his neuroscience achievements (great and all, but not relevant to running the country, although his brain joke about Washington was good for a chuckle)

Scott Walker.  Governor of Wisconsin.  first politician to survive a recall.  probably not something to be proud of.  Scott Walker is a very divisive figure.  He’s your Tea Party candidate.  He abolished all unions in Wisconsin, except cops and firefighters (because those groups tend to vote Republican, and probably a harder sell to the public).  So, teachers hate him, as well as many other workers.  He essentially trashed education in the state of Wisconsin, dragging their ranking from near the top, towards the bottom*.  and the economy of Wisconsin isn’t too hot either.

(*I want to substantiate the claims I have heard about WI’s education ranking going south and am not finding evidence. NCES ranks WI as slightly higher than the national average and ALEC ranks WI 15th.  ALEC ranks IA 31st, which surprises me as Iowa is generally known as the state for quality education.  According to ALEC, the Deep South states rank the lowest for education, Massachusetts is number one, followed by a smattering of Northeast and Midwest states, plus Colorado and Hawaii.  The Plains states, West, and Southwest are generally in the middle.  But there is this, showing his severe cutting of budget to education and other ways he is hurting Wisconsin’s schools. John Oliver describes ALEC here, since they are pro-conservative and pro-corporation, which Walker’s anti-union stance would benefit, it might be in ALEC’s best interest to show WI in a favorable light…?)

I guess the bottom line is that, ostensibly, Walker made all these cuts to education, unions, etc. to improve the economy of the state.  But the state’s economy has not improved for all that sacrifice.

Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee don’t need any help getting their name and ideologies out there.  They didn’t really give any specific answers in the debates.

John Kasich, Ohio governor.  He seemed sensible and mild-mannered.  He seemed to stick out, in a good way, from all the bloviating of the other candidates.  His compassion and tolerance towards LGBT, while technically still against gay marriage, and the apparent audience applause thereafter, seemed strangely unexpected in this arena, a clear departure from the prior GOP election campaigns and platforms (the third “g” in “guns, god, and gays”), and a departure from the other candidates.  But, at least to me, it was surprising and welcome.  The GOP could use a facelift towards tolerance.  Then again, Trump is their darling and the poster child for hate.

Kasich tended to approach questions more sensibly and also tried to stay out of the fray.  He appeared to be level-headed and decent.  Moreover, outside of the debate, he ran ads in New Hampshire, as opposed to FoxsNews, and isn’t part of a political dynasty, like Bush and Clinton, as Rachel Maddow expounds:


On the debate itself.  Fox News aired the debate, which could limit those who could watch the debate live to those with cable.  (Though you could see, on a small screen without closed captioning, live video on the foxnews website, and you could hear live audio streaming from foxnews radio.)  The moderators Brett Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace, are also Fox News’ anchors, though, surprisingly, did not go easy on the candidates.  And FoxNews chose to split the candidates, for the sake of airtime (as opposed to, say, running the debate longer, or breaking it up as a multi-day event), reducing the average speaking time from 7 minutes per person from last election season, to approximately 4 minutes per person (not per question, per the entire debate).  And FoxNews chose which candidates would be the Top 10 and which would be relegated to an earlier time slot, via some amalgamation of five polls.  (because poll statistics are notoriously trustworthy….sarcasm)  So one wonders if FoxNews is essentially steering this game, I mean race.

As if that weren’t controversial enough, New Hampshire (the 2nd earliest caucus state after Iowa), decided to balk this and host their own debate.  I applaud the effort.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go over too well.  Fourteen of the 17 candidates spoke at the pre-debate.  Trump, Huckabee, and Gilmore didn’t even try to attend.  And Paul, Cruz, and Rubio only attended via remote, so as to vote to defund Planned Parenthood.  (so, technically, only 11 out of the 17 physically showed up)  CNN states that the New Hampshire preliminary debate was a true debate, whereas Yahoo, admittedly a dubious source, stated it wasn’t a debate at all in any true or meaningful sense, partly due to a Wall Street Journal reference citing the RNC’s rules on capping the candidates’ debate participation – i.e. that the candidates were not allowed to have an official debate in New Hampshire.  Ostensibly because it would drain their resources away from the campaign trail.  But I wondered if this, too, was about pushing ratings for FoxNews’ first official debate.  Or RNC likely capped the amount of debates candidates can have because they thought that it was the number of debates that led to the nomination of Romney, and then his subsequent loss.  (yeah, debates, that was the reason… sarcasm…not a plethora of other reasons…Tea Party fracturing the GOP, the strength of Obama’s campaign, the laughable stupidity of Cain and Perry, the 47% remark…)

Point is this: Why cap debates for candidates?  It’s in the best interest of the people – and in the best interest for candidates – for them to have as much exposure to us and for us to get to hear as much as possible about their views.

CNN on the New Hampshire pre-debate

Yahoo on the New Hampshire pre-debate


On to the Top 10 Debate:

1st question:
Will you pledge not to run as an independent if you don’t get the nomination?
a) why is this a question?  How does it pertain to policy, platform, running the country?  It appears to have everything to do with the RNC’s image, solidifying their party, and, well, trying to win.  (subtext, who cares about issues or qualifications or running the country or what’s best for the people, but more about, how are we, the Republican Party going to beat the Democrats – aka Hillary Clinton – to win?)
b)oh, the hatred of third parties…

indian political parties


Third and/or multiple party systems seem to work well in other countries, such as Germany (before I get hate mail, I mean current politics, typically post-Cold War…they have red parties and green parties, and then coalitions, such as hyphenated red-green parties…), or India.

George Washington hated political parties, then known as factions, and vowed against them.  But the US did quickly emerge into a two-party system.  Third parties were historically weak, except for perhaps Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party.  In modern American politics, I think Ross Perot became synonymous with the Green Party as a significant player.
Due to Perot, this is probably why, now, the major two parties see a third party as a threat – not someone who would ever win, but someone who could siphon off just enough votes – either extremists who feel the main parties don’t go far enough, people who want to unite around one specific cause (say, environmentalism), or moderates who don’t like either main party.  The Tea Party might have become (just another) small third party, but it gained enough traction to not only become a significant player, but then to become subsumed by the Republican party, and now essentially is the Republican party.

“Experts say an independent run will almost certainly hand the election to the Democrats” – if you feel your party isn’t strong enough to withstand a third party, in a two-party system, then you must have little to no confidence in your party…
answer: Trump was the only candidate to raise his hand, to which he stated the nonsensical, “I can totally make that pledge if I’m the nominee, I will not run as an independent.”
If we think about that response for just a millisecond, it truly is nonsensical.  If he is given the nomination as the Republican candidate, then there’s no need for him to run independently, he’s already officially in the race.  What he’s implying is that he will run as an independent if he doesn’t get the nomination.

(and that was only question one.)

From there, the questions mostly targeted the wedge issues of immigration and abortion (no surprise there).  As I mentioned above, some candidates had the poor economies of their states (or businesses) thrown in their faces, to which almost all skirted the question.  There was hardly anything substantive.  I can only hope, but am not surprised.  There was a question about the candidates’ relationship to God, does God speak to them.  I personally thought this was inappropriate to the debate.  Not even the veneer of separation of church and state.  And it brings home the point that you have to be Christian to run for president, specifically Protestant (WASP), given the hard time Kennedy had as a Catholic.  Mitt Romney’s Mormonism likely worked against him (though kindof technically still Christian, according to LDS).  But evangelicalism will probably be the next Christian sect to be ok’d.  Still, I don’t think this has anything specifically to do with domestic or foreign affairs and running the country, but I know about half the country disagrees with me, if not more, so moving on…

and one last bit:


As for the first debate, undercard, kids’ table, happy hour, junior varsity, whatever you want to call it, here’s a few different media takes on it:

PBS analysis/discussion of the first “happy hour” debate:


MSNBC’s post-“happy hour” debate coverage:

I think Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida senator and the chair of the DNC, hits the nail on the head at time 6:39 in the above clip, “[N]o matter whether it’s the ten on the stage at nine ‘o’ clock tonight or the other 7 who were on the stage at five, they’re …really as interchangeable as Legos.”  And then she goes on to specify how so.


Update 8/10/15

Mike Huckabee lied.  The Young Turks do not like Mike Huckabee.  The lie in question was that the Affordable Care Act took tons of money from Medicaid, when, in fact, not only did it not rob Medicaid/Medicare of funding, it actually saved money/reduced costs.  Caution, the following video clip does contain some profanity.

full episode here.

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