The Debate at 72 (hours, that is)

Republican Debate - Cleveland Ohio, Aug 6, 2015     courtesy of John MIncillo-A/P

Republican Debate – Cleveland Ohio, Aug 6, 2015 courtesy of John MIncillo-A/P

It’s almost 72 hours and counting since the Tier 2 and Tier 1 Republican debaters took the stage at Quicken Center in Cleveland.  And the brouhaha that erupted between Donald Trump and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly has over-shadowed everyone and everything since then.

Professional pundits and political junkies all have their favorites and their list of winners, losers, and those who neither gained nor lost ground.

Sitting here in the state for which political hot air and windbags are a daily occurrence, (yes, Illinois), I have my own take on the evening’s two debates and of course, the follow-up headlines of the past two days.

Overall opinion:  note to Fox and the moderators.  You were on a national debate stage, not your respective nightly and weekly television shows.  It might have helped if you had run the evening debate like a serious national conversation rather than as a series of tabloid interviews.  Fox is known for leaning Republican and were I a first time Fox News/debate watcher, I would seriously wonder what national issues Fox considers important.  We have a record 93 million plus people not in the labor force, but not one question on unemployment.  The Iran nuclear deal is on the front pages, but evidently not on the front pages of the questions asked by the moderators.  Russia and China are hacking into government classified documents and personnel records, yet not one question on cyber-security.  Instead, I find myself agreeing with one Washington Post columnist who called the question, “aggressively idiotic.”

And now the candidates.

I’m going to group the Tier 1 and Tier 2 debaters together, because in my not so humble opinion there were people in both debate lineups who could have easily been exchanged between the two tiers.  So, at this point in time, here are Political Woman’s Tier 1, Tier 2, and Hang it up as in okay, we get it, you’re trying for a Cabinet post, or in Trump’s case, power-broker or king-maker, in no particular order.  Those in italics, I deem movers, who can easily be in Tier 1 or fall to Tier 2.  Tier 2 has to catch on with the voters and the donor class, and Tier 1 likely will be on the debate stage Tier 1 for the second debate in September at the Reagan Library..

Tier 1:  Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Donald Trump

Tier 2: Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Chris Christie

Hang it up:  George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, Dr. Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Lindsay Graham, Rick Santorum

Now as to my reasoning:

Tier 1 folks

Sen. Marco Rubio:  Had a very good evening.  Articulate, knows the issues, and looked like he’s taking the debates seriously.  However, he’s another first term Senator (like someone we all know), his experience in Florida as House Speaker (2006-2008) doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to do the job as President.  Plus, his support for the Gang of Eight immigration bill may come back to haunt him as our border remains porous, with DOA already saying there’s another surge in illegal immigration already happening.  However, where photo ops are concerned, put Rubio against Hillary, if he’s the Republican nominee, and he’ll be a dangerous.  I can see why he worries the Dems, but still the big question, does he have enough experience.  Right now, he’s in the middle of the pack, and it’s early on, like with Cruz, to see if he breaks out.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush:  Let’s face it.  If he didn’t have the Bush name and donors behind him, he’d be just another governor running for the Republican nomination.  He served as governor about the time Pataki and Gilmore were governors, so he’s been out of office for some time.  We already know that a number of politicos believed it was the wrong Bush running in 2000.  He did a nice job at the Red State gathering interview, but dissing Trump won’t help him move up in the polls.  He’s trying to portray himself as the middle-of-the-road moderate Republican, who can work across the aisle.  He’s called the “Republican Establishment’s Choice” and given the Establishment’s track record (McCain, Romney) I see a Hillary presidency in the future, IF, Jeb’s the nominee, and IF, Hillary can survive her own campaign gaffes.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee:  He comes across as the grandfather everyone wishes they had.  Yes, he appeals to the Christians and the Conservatives of the Party’s base, but at least he’s consistent in that regard.  You won’t find skirt-chasing in his background, and he’s knowledgeable about the issues and puts his country first.  Personally, I’d like to see someone older who have dealt with life’s experiences, not to mention being a former governor, in the White House.  However, if there’s a Republican win, and he’s not the nominee, he’s right up there for a Cabinet post.

Sen. Ted Cruz:  Yup, a firebrand.  Thank God the Republicans have one.  Unlike other people, I don’t find him “oily.”  He is what he is.  And while we know everyone up there on that debate stage has an agenda, I don’t believe I’d see unlawful Executive Actions coming from Cruz as they come willy-nilly from Obama.  If there’s one word I’ve consistently heard from the candidates as they describe Ted Cruz, it’s “smart”.  He’s a Constitutionalist, as he’s proven in the Senate, and actually, I’d prefer he stay in the Senate and become Majority Leader, to replace the fossil who’s currently holding the position.  In this debate, we didn’t hear too much from him, courtesy of the moderators.  I think he’ll have a better chance in California.

Gov. Scott Walker:  He’s really caught on in neighboring Iowa, and is in the top 3 in Real Clear Politics national poll.  He’s a Midwesterner and his biggest claim to fame is winning three elections in four years, and beating back the public sector unions in Wisconsin.  He didn’t shine too much on the debate stage, not that he was given much of a chance, so there’s more to him that meets the eye, but he has to up his game, and really prove knows the issues and can do the job.  Another young governor whom you have to ask yourself, is he ready for the White House.

Donald Trump:  Anyone who has a billion dollars to spend on a run for the White House has to be taken seriously.  Called a “protest candidate”, in some cases he reminds me of when Jesse Jackson ran years ago, and actually won the Michigan Democratic caucus, along with other state primaries.  He, too, was surging in the polls, until later in the game, when it began dawning on people that he actually might be the Democratic nominee, and then voters began getting serious, and he began his descent.  Trump says he wants to be taken seriously, so he better start taking the voters seriously and start laying out what his policies will be and how we would achieve what his mouth says he will.  Personally, I’m not offended by his remarks regarding Megyn Kelly.  I’ve worked for male bosses whose crassness went beyond words and into actions.  Trump’s being Trump.  He’s brash and boorish, the latter adjective that can describe a lot of Americans lately.  If he falls into Tier 2, his mouth will take him there.

Tier 2 folks:

Former Gov. Rick Perry:  I actually like Rick Perry, and hope he makes it onto Tier 1.  However, if he doesn’t in September, or October’s debate, he’s through.  He’s was a great governor, served in the military, but after the 2012 gaffe, he’s so far been unable to recover and be taken seriously.  I watched the “kiddie” debate on Thursday afternoon, and he came across forceful, but also a tad angry.  I think he was miffed with himself and the Party for his being relegated to Tier 2.  It’s up to him and he’s got a long climb.

Gov. Bobby Jindal:  Another governor with a very good record, but for some reason, he’s not caught on nationally as of yet. Like Mike Huckabee, he appeals to a particular segment of the Republican Party.  I like his common sense and his values about the Constitution and this country, but he may have entered the Presidential run too late and thus is at a disadvantage.  A good Cabinet choice, but not the top spot.

Carly Fiorina:  If anyone hit it out of the part for the entire debate, it was Carly Fiorina, and I’m glad she’s getting the bump up in the polls that she is.  I’ve yet to hear from her an “uh” or “um” or be thrown for a loop during questions.  She’s calm and assertive and plays the attack dog with facts and figures, while maintaining a professional demeanor.  She’s going to be around for at least the next two national debates, and should be on the Tier 1 stage in California.  She’s what Sarah Palin should have been.

Gov. John Kasich:  Another good governor, and also House Budget Chairman during the Newt Gingrich years.  I like him better than Jeb Bush, but the question remains whether he can get the traction he needs so late in the nominating game.  He’s up there with Huckabee in the people with great experience and common sense, and his response on gay marriage is the kind that appeals to large swath of America.  Presidential material?  Possibly.  But he’s got to start getting the donors lined up, and start getting out in front of more people than just Ohioans.

Gov. Chris Christie:  He’s lucky he got onto the debate stage in Tier 1, and I’d like to say that’s because of name recognition.  He’s another ‘use 9/11’ as a qualifier for getting into the White House.  He’s a “Jersey boy” who doesn’t back down from a scrap, but his time to run, like Perry, was 2012.  Christie said he wasn’t ready, but he passed up a real opportunity in my opinion.  He was interviewed by the Romney team for Vice-President, and passed over in favor of Paul Ryan.  No one is going to tell me that the Obama hug wasn’t payback.  That hug is not forgotten by a lot of Republicans.  We’ll see if he has staying power, and which donors he picks up, if any.

Hang it up:

Former Gov. George Pataki:  Being former governor of New York during 9/11 is not a qualification for being POTUS.  Out of office for quite a while now, he must be getting bored.  Not a standout in the debate, don’t see the money men lining up behind him, don’t see him past October.

Sen. Lindsey Graham:  Running for the Republican nomination in 2016 might be the ultimate achievement on Sen. Graham’s resume, and during the debates, he was the only person who stated we may need ground troops in the Middle East if we want to defeat ISIS.  He’s a serious candidate, has military service like Perry, but also is on the fringe in that no one’s taking him seriously.  He’s better in the Senate where he should stay.  If a Republican win in 2016, Defense Secretary might be in the cards.

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore:  Former governor and attorney general of Virginia.  But, really?

Former Sen. Rick Santorum:  I’m already calling him this century’s Harold Stassen.  Perennially running for President, if he wants to get back into politics, challenge Joe Manchin in 2018.  He calls himself a social conservative, and has given a conservative voice to a lot of social issues that some voters are recognizing he was right about.  However, he has a record of a big spender while in the Senate, and his habit of lecturing, not talking, has rendered him not presidential timber.

Dr. Ben Carson:  His life story is one that should be played out in Ferguson, MO, Baltimore, Chicago and all zip codes of minority victim-hood.  Educated, well-read, he is in a class by himself.  His early stumbles in the campaign as pointed out by Megyn Kelly, no less endear him to a many, many people.  However, given what we know about Washington DC where politicians eat their own, I really, really, think if we elected him President, we would end up with our own version of Ignazio Marino, a former liver transplant surgeon and current mayor of Rome, Italy, who is under fire for being in over his head, and now is being pressured to resign.  Dr. Carson’s heart is in the right place and he is changing the tenor of the conversation in the run for the nomination.  HHS Secretary?  Maybe.  But we also had Dr. Chu, an academic as head of the Energy Dept., and that was a disaster.  I see Dr. Carson on the speaking circuit, and head of his Foundation, but a politician who can lead the Republicans to victory in 2016, no.

Sen. Rand Paul:  I would NEVER trust the defense of the United States to Rand Paul.  However, I would trust my civil liberties.  On stage, Thursday night, I saw a man-child, not a President.  His mixing it up with Chris Christie left him on the short end of the stick.  His campaign, has gone absolutely nowhere, and outside of some of his stronger stands in the Senate for personal liberties, his support for the Corker bill on the Iran nuclear agreement, puts him at odds with the Constitution he so avowedly stands for.  He won’t call it quits until probably 2016.  Better he stay in the Senate, like Cruz, where his strength lies.

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