Blog No. 72. The August Debate and the Ten

As most readers of may have noticed, the media have already begun to speculate on who will participate in the first debate among Republican Presidential candidates in August. (We use the term “debate” loosely because in their current form such events bear little resemblance to traditional debates and are more in the nature of forums, or verbal free-for-alls.) The speculation is prompted by the fact that the sponsor of the debate, Fox News, has decided that only the ten contenders ranking highest in opinion polls will be invited to the party.

The Fox rule is not irrational by any means. It seems reasonable to have some limitation if the proceedings are to be at all coherent and within the patience of the audience. CNN has announced that it will hold a second-tier debate on the same evening for those who are excluded from the Fox event but are polling at least 1%. It is not clear, however, which if any of the candidates will be attracted to what some have dubbed the “kids’ table.” In any case, it is clear that Fox’s main event will involve several candidates for whom has little enthusiasm and omit others from whom we would like to hear. So we thought it might be of interest to identify our own list of preferred candidates with a brief comment as to why each was included. As to those who are not on our list, we shall, for the moment, observe Ronald Reagan’s “11th Commandment” not to speak ill of other Republicans. (We do not promise to be so obedient over the next 17 months leading up to the election.)RINOcracy10

Listed in alphabetical order, the Ten are:

Senator Kelly Ayotte New Hampshire’s Senator Ayotte is in her first term, but has earned an impressive reputation in the Senate. She serves on the Armed Services Committee and has worked closely with Senators McCain and Graham. She has a conservative record, but has supported immigration reform, opposed government shutdowns, and has shown an ability to work with Democrats. Senator Ayotte is considered by many to be the most popular choice for Vice-President (In a 2014 article, Josh Rogan of The Daily Beast wrote, “Ask any two Republicans who their choice is for president in 2016 and you’ll get three answers; but when it comes to the GOP choice for vice president, there’s an emerging sense of agreement, especially in the establishment wing of the party: Senator Kelly Ayotte.”) We believe, however, that she would make a contribution to the Presidential debates.

Jeb Bush As regular followers of will recall, we expressed support for Bush early on and we also gave him our tentative endorsement. We have not withdrawn that endorsement and continue to support his positions on education and immigration. More recently, however, we were among those who were perplexed and disappointed by his fumbling of a question about the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We were also not impressed by his recent comments on the subject of climate change. We are hopeful that when he makes a formal announcement of his candidacy on June 15, it will be accompanied by a clear indication of his approach to the major issues.

Governor Chris Christie Prior to the debacle of “Bridgegate,” Christie was considered to be, along with Bush, the leading claimant of support from the “establishment” of the Party. Since then, however, he has declined in the polls, but may remain strong enough to be included in the Fox debate. Recently, in a speech in New Hampshire, Christie drew attention by a proposal to reform Social Security to preserve its long-term viability. Specifically, he called for reduced Social Security benefits for retired seniors earning more than $80,000 and eliminating the benefit entirely for individuals making $200,000 and up in other income, along with raising the retirement age to 69 from 67. Without necessarily adopting that particular formula, we salute his political courage in making it. While we continue to have reservations as to Christie’s temperament, he clearly should be part of the discussion.

Carly Fiorina We confess to having something of a soft spot for Carly Fiorina because her father, Joseph Sneed, was an outstanding professor of taxation at Cornell Law School who managed to convince me that I understood, at least temporarily, the basics of the Internal Revenue Code. That said, we would be hard pressed to find Ms. Fiorina a qualified candidate for President. Whatever the merits of her performance as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, her firing by the company’s Board can hardly be counted as a positive achievement, nor can her unsuccessful campaign against Senator Barbara Boxer in California. Nevertheless, she has drawn enthusiastic crowds who have welcomed her feisty comments on Hillary Clinton. In addition, like Senator Ayotte, she would provide welcome relief from an all-male cast of Republican candidates.

Senator Lindsay Graham We welcomed the entry of Senator Graham into the race. He has been, along with Senator McCain, one of the strongest and best- informed voices on national security in the Senate. On domestic issues, Graham is a refreshing exception to Republican orthodoxy in accepting not only the reality of climate change but the evidence that it has been largely caused by human activity. He has also been a supporter of immigration reform and was a co-sponsor of the bi-partisan bill that passed the Senate. During a 2013 interview with Meet the Press, Graham said, “We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is to pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run, [in 2016] in my view.”

Governor John Kasich We are hopeful that Governor Kasich will announce his candidacy in the next few weeks as we believe that he has the capacity to run a strong campaign. He has a claim to the strongest resume of any of the present candidates or potential candidates. He has a strong record as Governor of Ohio and was elected to a second term in a landslide in 2014. Previously, he had served with distinction in the House of Representatives for nearly twenty years, several of them as Chair of the House Budget Committee. No other candidate has the executive experience of serving as Governor and the legislative experience of serving in Congress. It is also significant that Ohio is likely to be a key state in 2016: no candidate who has lost Ohio has been able to win the presidency in over 50 years.

George Pataki Although Governor Pataki’s name may be unfamiliar to many voters across the country, he served three terms as Governor of New York, from 1995 to 2007. As might be expected from a Republican Governor of New York, Pataki is clearly a moderate: pro-choice, pro-gun control and has supported action to deal with climate change. He opposed same-sex marriage but has supported other measures protecting gay rights. Pataki will have an uphill battle to gain name cognition and the support of voters in primary states, but he will be a welcome voice of moderation.

Senator Marco Rubio After the announcement of his candidacy, Rubio rose quickly in the polls to be one of the leaders of the splintered field, along with Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. As we have noted, his recent op-ed column on foreign affairs, though leaving many questions unanswered, was perhaps the clearest and most comprehensive on that subject of any of the candidates thus far. On domestic issues, Rubio has been a leader in addressing issues and proposing responses to income inequality. On the matter of immigration, he was one of the leaders in gaining support for the Senate bill. He subsequently retreated from that position, but remains more supportive of immigration than most of the other contenders. Rubio is almost certain to be included in the Fox event but it is not clear whether the format will allow him to demonstrate the platform skills for which he widely admired. A Democratic leader in Florida was quoted in The New York Times as describing Rubio’s effect on crowds in colorful terms: “Young women swoon, old women pass out, and toilets flush themselves.”

Governor Rick Snyder Earlier this year, there was growing speculation that Governor Snyder of Michigan would become a candidate. The speculation was fueled by Snyder’s impressive record in Michigan, leading a dramatic turnaround in the state’s economy. A moderate stance on some issues (immigration, taxes, voter-ID) led the Tea Party to call him a RINO, but he remained broadly popular. Nevertheless, speculation came to an end when Snyder announced on May 7 that he would not be a candidate. Thus, he is the most hypothetical of our hypothetical Ten, but we believe that his national potential has not been permanently ended.

Governor Scott Walker Governor Walker has not yet declared his candidacy but he is expected to do so, and his present standing in the polls is likely to assure him a place in the Fox debate. Governor Walker is probably the most conservative member of the Ten and seems to be determined to woo the social conservatives of Iowa by promising to support a constitutional amendment if the Supreme Court holds that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. On that and a number of other issues we would disagree with Walker, but given his remarkable political achievements—election, defeating a recall attempt, and re-election in a Blue state–we believe he deserves a hearing.

   *   *   *   * always welcomes comments, in agreement or disagreement, but we would be particularly interested in readers’ views as to any candidate not included in the Ten whom they believe should have been (or any of the Ten whom they believe do not deserve that distinction).

5 thoughts on “Blog No. 72. The August Debate and the Ten

  • An extremely engaging, well-considered list. The inclusion of more moderate, less likely participants in the FOX final ten, namely Sen. Ayotte, Gov. Snyder, and ex-Gov. Pataki is especially conducive to a lively debate. One candidate I would include, not because his views are at all in line with RINOCRACY positions but because he might add a needed perspective to the debate on our foreign policy in the Middle East, is Rand Paul. In the past he has questioned the wisdom and extensiveness of our overseas military involvements. While he may have altered this position for political reasons concerning his Republican candidacy, the nation could benefit from both parties having a healthy debate of whether any foreign power has the capacity and the right to take the lead in imposing a military solution in a turbulent region so torn with intra-regional rivalries and alienated civilian populations. The assumption that we just need to come up with the right strategy and then we could “win” in achieving our objectives needs to be seriously questioned.

  • Not being a Republican, I need not abide by Mr. Reagan’s purported “Commandment.” In no particular order of priority, Mr. Christie is temperamentally unfit to be President. And his proposal of making Social Security benefits more means based is wrong-headed and dangerous. An uncharitable person might say that rather than reflecting political courage, it reflects an attempt to eliminate political support from an influential segment of the population for a program that is essential for the vast majority of Americans. Further, since the affluent pay a greater share of their income to fund Social Security, it seems only fair that they get something in return. My impression is Ms. Fiorina shares a temperament problem similar to that of Mr. Christie. More important, Ms. Fiorina is unprepared and unqualified to be President for a multitude of other reasons. (This assessment in no way reflects adversely on her father’s fine pedagogical skills or the fine students he taught.) Lindsey Graham – Senator Graham has his positive attributes, particularly in supporting immigration reform and in accepting climate change. I must part company, however, when it comes to his views on foreign policy. It concerns me that, like Senator McCain, Mr. Graham appears never to have viewed a conflict in which American troops would not serve a useful role. A much more skeptical and nuanced view of the benefits of American military intervention is required. Marco Rubio: Can we not agree on the simple proposition that a first term United States Senator with marginal prior experience should not run for President? Scott Walker: I cannot say anything good about Governor Walker. I cannot. So, beyond that, I will say nothing.

  • It would be helpful, for first-time readers, to spell out RINO at the beginning of each article. I like to forward them to my Republican friends who might not know what it stands for…

    • It’s explained in “Welcome to RINOcracy” to which there is a link, “Intro,” at the top of each new blog. We’re not sure of what else we might do.

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