The top 10 candidates appeared on the same stage at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland in a two-hour debate that aired on Fox News Channel. It was moderated by three Fox News anchors: Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.
Fox News Channel also broadcast a debate earlier in the evening featuring the candidates who failed to make the cut for the main debate.
Fellow Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidates Dr. Ben Carson (L), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (2nd L) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) laugh as fellow candidate Donald Trump (2nd R) reacts near the end of the debate. Reuters/Brian Snyder
Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the start of the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTOy Images
THE CONTENDERS | Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee made a playful jab at business mogul Donald Trump’s surge in national polls during his closing remarks – but punctuated those comments with a wink and pivoted to Hillary Clinton
“It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls but doesn’t have a clue about how to govern, a person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead,” he said, with quite a buildup. “And of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.”
The crowd, after a night of tense moments involving The Donald, responded with a hearty laugh.
The quip came at the end of a night which Huckabee struggled to distinguish himself on the crowded stage of GOP hopefuls. Though he fielded just two questions during the first hour, Huckabee delivered a healthy dose of populism as he decried lobbyists’ influence in Washington.
In the debate runup, Huckabee garnered enormous media attention by escalating his criticism of President Obama’s Iran policy, saying it would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
But it remains to be seen if his performance was strong enough to hold him steady in national polls, where he currently averages in fourth place behind Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. His fieriest response came when he was asked if transgender service members should be allowed in the military
“The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things,” he said.
THE CONTENDERS | Chris Christie needed to give people a reason to stop thinking his best chance at the presidency was in 2012. But on the crowded stage, two hours ticked by without a single breakout moment. He feuded with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), without a clear, convincing victory for either.
He got a chance to touch on what, for him, has been a key issue: how to address entitlement spending, an area where he’s staked out territory a bit more aggressively than most of the other candidates. But his answer fell flat.
Some had expected fireworks between the New Jersey governor and New York billionaire Donald Trump. They didn’t get them. Now the question is whether this relatively low-key Christie will be able to attract the donors, support, and attention he needs as the campaign continues.
Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the debate. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
THE CONTENDERS | Scott Walker came into the debate with this strategy: Ignore the other candidates on the stage, and focus on connecting with voters.
He succeeded on both counts — that is, when he had the chance to do it. Walker received much less talking time than nearly all of the other candidates on the stage. At times it was easy to forget that he was on the stage.
FINAL Talk Times:
1 Trump 10:30
2 Bush 8:33
3 Huck 6:32
4 Carsn/Crz 6:28
6 Kasch 6:25
7 Rubio 6:22
8 Chrste 6:03
9 Walkr 5:43
10 Paul 4:51
Although Walker seemed to fade into the background at times, he didn’t make any major gaffes or standout for unsavory reasons. He largely stuck with the same crowd-tested talking points he has been using on the campaign trail — and often received warm applause from the debate audience. While he didn’t go after his fellow Republicans, he did repeatedly attack Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
He may not be able to distinguish himself from the rest of the field on policy positions they mostly agree on. But he’s long pitched himself as both the most ‘everyman’ candidate in the race — and he used his closing statement to repeat that message:
“I’m a guy with a wife and two kids and a Harley,” he said. “One article called me ‘aggressively normal.'”
THE CONTENDERS | Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sought to draw a contrast with the two front-runners in the polls — Jeb Bush and Donald Trump — without getting in extended back-and-forths with them.
The moderators tried repeatedly to force Rubio to directly engage with Bush, his longtime mentor. Rubio was able to engage without — well, without really engaging.
“It’s important to be qualified, but if this election is a resume competition, then Hillary Clinton’s gonna be the next president, because she’s been in office and in government longer than anybody else running here tonight,” Rubio said, contrasting his relative newcomer status and youth to Bush without actually mentioning him.
Later, Rubio said the “evidence is now clear that the majority of people coming across the border are not from Mexico. They’re coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras.” That appeared to be a rebuttal of Trump’s singling out of illegal immigrants from Mexico as a problem on the campaign trail.
Rubio’s most direct engagement with Trump was when he noted he had not received any campaign contributions from him over the years.
Rubio’s strategy has been to stick to his own message, even as he has lagged behind in the polls. He showed Thursday that he can do that and still attract attention, which is not easy.
THE CONTENDERS | It’s early, we know. But based on instant reactions online, there seemed to be a general consensus that Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) fared best in Thursday’s debate. Here’s a look at what a handful of political reporters and analysts had to say in the minutes after the debate ended:
I agree w/ 90 percent of my Twitter feed: Rubio and Kasich won tonight
Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican presidential debate Thursday night in Cleveland. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty)
THE CONTENDERS | The last time Jeb Bush stood on a television debate stage was Oct. 22, 2002, when he faced the late Democrat, Bill McBride, on his way to being reelected governor of Florida.
That helps explain Bush’s stilted start tonight. He seemed uncomfortable at first, more concerned about abiding to time limits, and seemed to rush through early answers about his family’s political dynasty and Iraq. He succinctly defended his immigration reform and education reform plans and didn’t waver when moderators pressed him. He didn’t seize at least two opportunities to pipe up and refute Donald Trump’s comments about immigration and his brother’s presidency.
But he had late opportunities to defend his record on “life” issues and to explain his concerns about Trump’s tone and combative style — an opportunity to clearly convey how he’s different from the GOP frontrunner. Even though Bush critiqued Trump, the business magnate didn’t hit back hard.
Everything Bush said tonight sounded familiar to this reporter, who’s traveled the country watching him at dozens of campaign events in the last six months. He was stilted, but consistent. Started cautiously, but appeared more comfortable by the end. He made no big mistake, but had no breakout moment.
Bush sits near the top of the pack and his campaign is well-equipped for a long, arduous slog to the White House. This was a strong start.
Sen. Ted Cruz is seen on a television screen in the media filing center as he speaks during the first Republican presidential debate. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
THE CONTENDERS | Twitter wondered where Ted Cruz was this debate.
But when the Texas senator did talk, he stuck hard to talking points and stump speech lines he repeatedly uses.
Cruz finally got to a subject where he’s tried to differentiate himself on the campaign trail: as a defender of religious liberty. This is an area where you should expect to hear more from Cruz — he will hold a rally for religious liberty in Iowa Aug. 21.
Cruz has said he’ll do a number of things as president, but he laid out a pretty busy first day. He claimed that he would “rescind every illegal action” undertaken by President Obama, open an investigation into Planned Parenthood videos and prosecute the organization, end the Iran deal and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He did, however, appear to misspeak, saying he would “persecute” religious liberty.
One line Cruz employed was powerful, and was getting much attention Thursday: “What we need is a commander-in-chief who makes clear that if you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, your’e signing your death warrant.”
While he stuck to the script on issues, Cruz continued to hit other Republicans. He took a veiled swipe at Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) involvement in trying to craft comprehensive immigration reform as a member of the Senate’s Gang of Eight.
He continued to slam Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying that McConnell “blocked a vote on” a piece of legislation Cruz introduced to crack down on undocumented immigrants who are deported and come back to the U.S. Last week, Cruz accused McConnell of lying to Senate colleagues.
Zignal Labs tracked total mentions of each candidate during the debate. From 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET, it’s no surprise that Donald Trump was first, racking up 344,079. An interesting second place show for Ben Carson, who got much less buzz in the runup to the debate; he drew 118,922 mentions. John Kasich, the home state governor, was third with 96,786. Jeb Bush was fourth with 83,653. Rand Paul was fifth with 78,822. Ted Cruz was sixth with 77,239. The other candidates got fewer mentions than Bernie Sanders — a presidential candidate, but one definitely nowhere near the GOP debate stage — during that 90-minute period.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks during the debate. AFP photo / Mandel Ngan
THE CONTENDERS | Ben Carson struggled to sound like a convincing commander-in-chief with an answer to how he would deal with the war on terrorism. After using most of his time to talk about how the U.S. military has been decimated by cuts, particularly in recent years because of sequestration, he said simply: “I would shore up our military first because if you don’t get the military right nothing else is going to work.”
He didn’t sound like a politician used to responding to tough questions with time-limited responses.
Twitter took notice:
Ben Carson sounds like that guy at a wedding who wasn't expecting to be asked to make a speech and mumbles into his napkin
Carson seemed on firmer footing when he was able to do freestyle criticism of Hillary Clinton. He called her “the epitome of the secular progressive movement, and she counts on the fact that the people are not informed.” That’s a line that hits all the right notes with the base.
He also was comfortable responding when asked how he would improve race relations. (He was the only African American on the stage, and was the only candidate asked that question.) Instead of laying out a path to racial harmony, he tossed out feel-good slogans such as, “We are the United States of America, not the divided states.”
He used his closing statement to talk about what makes him unique among a stage full of politicians.
“I’m the only one to separate Siamese twins. I’m the only one to operate on babies while they were still in their mother’s womb. The only one to take out half a brain, although you would think if you got to Washington that some else had beaten me to it,” he said, joining the audience and the stage in laughter.
Those qualities have nothing to do with being president, but at least one Carson fan was impressed:
From businessman Donald Trump’s slam on Rosie O’Donnell to Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) getting into it over hugs, here are some of the most memorable moments from the first Republican presidential debate.
BY THE NUMBERS | When asked what he would do to improve race relations, Dr. Ben Carson said he would use the bully pulpit to help bridge racial divisions. As Barack Obama has found, a big part of the challenge is speaking across the wide partisan and racial gaps in views of whether America actually needs more changes to ensure racial equality.
A new Washington Post poll finds 60 percent saying the nation needs to continue making changes to give blacks and whites equal rights, while 37 percent say those changes have already been made. The findings mark a shift from a 2014 Pew Research Center poll asking the same question. Back then, prior to Ferguson, 46 percent said more changes were needed to guarantee equal treatment.
Republicans also saw an upward shift on this question, though a 63 percent majority continues to say the nation has made needed changes to ensure equal rights for blacks.
Republicans have been working to improve their level of support among African Americans in 2016 following two elections where President Obama won over 90 percent of the black vote. Jeb Bush touted his removal of the Confederate flag from the Florida state capitol grounds when he was governor of the state. While Republicans are ambivalent about that stance, it could resonate with African American voters — 76 percent said South Carolina made the “right decision” to remove the flag from statehouse grounds in the same Pew poll.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s closing remarks. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
STOPWATCH |Surprised? Donald Trump got the most airtime in the top-tier debate, racking up more than 10 1/2 minutes in total. Jeb Bush was in second, with less than nine minutes.
Those two dominated time in the debate, with no one else passing more than seven minutes in air time.
Rand Paul, perhaps the feistiest candidate on the stage — picking fights with Trump and Chris Christie — ended up with the least airtime, at around five minutes. He and Scott Walker were the only candidates who didn’t get more than six minutes throughout the night.
Trump maintained the greatest amount of attention throughout most of the two-hour event, boosted at the beginning by a tense discussion when he wouldn’t rule out a run as an independent if he wasn’t chosen as the Republican nominee. Bush edged him out for just a short moment, but Trump, who came into the event with the highest poll numbers, quickly regained his lead.
The candidates mostly competed for time through questions from the moderators. At one point, Ben Carson, who was trailing in air time for a long time in the beginning of the night, thanked moderator Megyn Kelly for asking him a question.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to get to talk again,” Carson said.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) fields a question. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
THE FACT CHECKER |Megyn Kelly:“You don’t favor a rape and incest exemption?”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):“I have never said that and I have never advocated that.”
–Exchange during GOP debate
Rubio has a mixed record on abortion exemptions. He has supported bills that have exceptions for victims of rape and incest, but also supported bills without such provisions.
Rubio in 2013 co-sponsored a Senate 20-week abortion ban bill that allowed exemptions for abortions in cases of rape and incest. Yet in 2011, he sponsored an anti-abortion bill that not include the same protections.
It’s fair for him to say that he had never “advocated” for the exemption. In fact, it’s not entirely clear where he stands on exemptions, or under what conditions he supports them.
A man walks past a Planned Parenthood location in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BY THE NUMBERS | Jeb Bush touted de-funding of Planned Parenthood in Florida, an issue which has energized the pro-life movement nationally with the release of secretly recorded videos involving the procurement of fetal organs.
Taking on Planned Parenthood is a popular issue with Republicans at-large base — 55 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable views of Planned Parenthood, and 66 percent support cutting off federal funding to the organization (53 percent “strongly”), according to a new Monmouth University poll. Another 52 percent of Republicans disagree with the idea that scientists should be able to use fetal tissue from abortion to find cures for deadly diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The general public is more evenly divided on each of these questions about Planned Parenthood and research connected to abortions.
The challenge for Republicans in a widely pro-life field is distinguishing themselves among socially conservative evangelical Christians, who make up a majority of caucus-goers in Iowa and in primaries across the south. The bigger dividing line for Republicans is whether they oppose allowing abortion in cases of rape or when a mother’s health is at risk, circumstances where at least 7 in 10 Americans say abortion should be permitted. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended his opposition to abortion in all cases Thursday and claimed his pro-life position is consistent that’s “in line with everyday America.” The data suggest that is a relatively small minority, but a group which could offer passionate support for him in the primaries.
THE CONTENDERS | Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi for speaking out against religious extremism.
“We need a president who shows the courage Egypt’s president, al-Sissi,” showed when he “called out radical Islamists.” Cruz and others have blasted President Obama for not saying that the U.S. is at war with “radical Islam.”
Sissi spoke out against extremists in a New Year’s speech this year. He staged a coup in July 2013 and won the election in a landslide last year. Obama lifted an arms freeze against the country in March. Under Sissi, a crackdown on human rights groups has expanded and the government has also cracked down on journalists.
Cruz isn’t the only Republican to praise Sissi for speaking out against extremisrs; Jeb Bush praised Sissi’s “incredible speech” in February.
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich fields a question. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
THE CONTENDERS | Ohio Gov. John Kasich barely earned a spot onstage Thursday night, but he made the most of it.
Despite having relatively little camera time, Kasich was disciplined throughout the night, touting his record as a fiscal and compassionate conservative—twin themes that define a decades-long career in politics — and, importantly, deflect from his controversial support of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
When asked how he would explain his opposition to gay marriage if one of his children came out to him, Kasich said he would love them.
“I would accept them because that’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith,” he said. “… God gives me unconditional love—I’m going to give it to my friends, my family and the people around me.”
Earlier in the evening, when asked how he would respond to likely Democratic criticisms that Republicans support the rich and oppose minority rights, Kasich quickly pivoted to his “pro-growth” record and his leading role in the balancing the federal budget in the 1990’s when he was the House Budget committee chairman.
“When we did it we had great economic growth, we cut taxes and we had a big surplus,” he said.
THE FACT CHECKER |“A hundred ninety-two thousand private sector jobs in the five and a half years I’ve been governor.”
–New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Governors often try to claim credit for jobs created on their watch, even though national economic trends are an important factor. The figure claimed by Christie — 192,000 — is in the ballpark, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS data shows a gain of about 181,000 from January 2010 to June of this year.
But that number lacks significant context. According to data assembled by FactCheck.org, the state’s job growth in this period placed it 44th out of 50 states.
STOPWATCH | With 30 minutes left in the debate, it’s looking like a few candidates here will have a lot more air time than everyone else. Donald Trump still has had the most air time so far, at more than eight-and-a-half minutes, and Jeb Bush is hovering just above eight minutes.
Rand Paul, who started off early in the debate as a vocal contestant by interrupting Trump twice, has fallen behind his opponents considerably. With just a half hour left in the debate, he amassed less than three minutes of air time.
The White House is illuminated in rainbow colors after the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in June. (Reuters)
BY THE NUMBERS | While Republican support for gay marriage has grown, a July Post-ABC poll found 62 percent were opposed to the the Supreme Court’s June ruling which made gay marriage legal in every state. Gay marriage faces particularly wide opposition among evangelical Christians who make up a majority of Republican caucus-goers in Iowa and numerous southern state primaries.
The court’s ruling might reduce the political importance of gay marriage opposition, but keep an eye out for which candidates express support for so-called religious freedom laws allowing businesses to refuse service to gay couples if they violate their religious beliefs. Twenty-one states have enacted such laws, and recentpolls find clear majorities of Republicans support allowing wedding-related businesses to refuse services if they violate their beliefs.
But beyond wedding services like flowers or catering, polls find the public overwhelmingly opposes allowing businesses to refuse services to gay couples. And there’s clear potential for backlash, as was seen with an Indiana religious freedom law passed this spring that was scaled back after vocal opposition, especially from businesses.
Republican presidential candidates from left, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson, talk during a break during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (AP/Andrew Harnik)
THE CONTENDERS | Jeb Bush strongly defended his anti-abortion record amid questions about his service on the board of directors of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which donated tens of millions of dollars to women’s health programs run by Planned Parenthood.
In the eight years between his governorship and his presidential campaign, Bush earned tens of millions of dollars giving speeches, investing in real estate and start-up companies, consulting major corporations and serving on corporate and nonprofit boards of directors.
“Nope, I didn’t know, but it doesn’t matter,” he said in response to question about whether he knew that the Bloomberg group was donating the women’s health organization, saying they only reviewed an overall budget.
“My record is clear. My record as a pro-life governor is not in dispute,” he said. “I’m completely pro-life and I believe that we should have a culture of life that’s informed by my faith from beginning to end. And I did this not just as it related to unborn babies I did it at the end-of-life issues as well.”
During his answer, Bush ticked off specifics from his record: He cut state funding to Planned Parenthood; funded crisis pregnancy centers; moved to promote adoptions out of the Florida foster care system; required parental notification for minors seeking abortions; and was the first state to establish “Choose Life” license plates.
The crowd appeared to like the litany and it was one of Bush’s strongest moments tonight. But Bush only referenced his record on “end-of-life issues” — he didn’t utter the words “Terri Schiavo,” the name of the woman who was at the center of the right-to-die case that gripped the nation for several months.
Seems like another missed moment to capitalize on his record in a bigger way.
Germany’s Charge d’Affaires Philipp Ackermann (from left), France’s Charge d’Affaires Frederic Dore, China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai, U.K. Ambassador Peter Westmacott and Russia’s Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, all representing P5+1 countries, applaud as U.S. President Barack Obama takes the stage to deliver remarks on a nuclear deal with Iran at American University in Washington Aug. 5. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
ON THE ISSUES | The complicated and nuanced nuclear agreement with Iran came up more than halfway through the debate.
Gov. Scott Walker said he would terminate the deal, which is not a deal between just the United States and Iran but between Iran and six other nations, of which the U.S. is only one. Walker said he would add new sanctions and convince allies to do the same. But all of America’s allies around the world, with the exception of Israel, support the deal and favor lifting sanctions if Iran lives up to its commitments.
Gov. Mike Huckabee criticized the deal, saying the U.S. didn’t get anything out of it, not even its four “hostages.” The release of three Americans in prison, and one who disappeared, were discussed on the sidelines of talks, but not part of the formal negotiations, partly because tying them to the deal makes it more likely they won’t be released if Congress rejects the deal.
Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
THE CONTENDERS | Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee threw his support behind a consumption — as opposed to an income — tax during Thursday’s debate by saying such a system would include “illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers.”
“One of the reasons that Social Security is in so much trouble is the only funding stream comes from people who get a wage. The people who get wages is declining dramatically –most of the income in this country is made by people of a job who get dividends and capital gains,” Huckabee said.
“The fair tax transforms the process by which we fund Social Security and Medicare because the money paid in consumption is paid by everybody. Including illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people who are freeloading off the system now.”
Huckabee’s response was one of the few times he spoke Thursday by the debate’s 80-minute mark. But he showed off his token populist ad libs, which remain one of his strengths on the campaign trail.
“It’s always that the government figures that they can do this off the backs of people, many of whom are poor and depend on that money. And I just think it’s fundamentally lying to the people and stealing from them and we shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.
THE CONTENDERS | CLEVELAND — No Republican presidential candidate had a rougher week than Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) It started with a doomed vote to defund Planned Parenthood, which the senator had promoted for weeks, as an example of his ability to get things done. It continued with indictments coming down on the leaders of his super PAC — something Paul argued was “suspiciously” timed, possibly to hurt his campaign. Paul even got slammed with an attack ad, from former UN Ambassador John Bolton’s Foundation for American Security and Freedom.
Paul used the first moments of this debate to change this story, and only gained energy from there. After Donald Trump gave a meandering, tautological answer to a question about whether he might run as an independent, Paul jumped the debate queue and attacked him.
“This is what’s wrong!” Paul interjected. “He buys and sells politicians of all stripes! He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent, but I’d say that he’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.”
After that, Paul hewed to the strategy he’d hoped to pursue — using national security questions to separate from the field. He took a question about why he seemed eager to criticize his Republican peers into an unusually subtle (he typically jokes about “a senator whose name I won’t mention, but he’s from Arizona”) attack on the idea of funding Islamist rebels.
“I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS,” said Paul. “ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop. We shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.”
Next, Paul got into a fight he had been spoiling for since 2014. At that time, he and Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) argued across TV and op-ed pages about surveillance programs. Tonight, Christie went back at Paul, accusing him of “sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air” while people like Christie saw terror up close.
“I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights,” said Paul.
Christie answered that with disdain, saying Paul had no idea how terrorists were caught.
“You hugged President Obama,” said Paul. “If you want to give him a big hug again…”
His line was drowned out by applause. “The hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave the families who lost members on 9/11,” snapped Christie. The senator’s eyeroll was captured on the split screen.
Republican presidential candidates (from left) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson and Jeb Bush. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
THE CONTENDERS | Twice now, the moderators have sought to get Sen. Marco Rubio to engage directly with his longtime mentor, former Florida governor Jeb Bush. But the attempts haven’t produced any fireworks yet.
Rubio responded to Bush — but only indirectly — on both Common Core and their political resumes. The only direct interaction has come when Bush said of Rubio, “He is my friend.” (After a moderator told Bush to respond to his friend.)
THE FACT CHECKER | “The [Social Security] Trust Fund is filled with IOUs”
–Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)
This is a common refrain by politicians about Social Security. But IOU is just a pejorative way of saying “bond.” These bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Until the 2011 debt-ceiling impasse, one could not imagine that any president or Congress would risk defaulting on them because it would damage the nation’s financial standing. Still, Treasury bonds are considered a good bet — deemed to be one of the safest places to keep money.
The bonds are a real asset to Social Security, but they also represent an obligation of the rest of the government. Like any entity that issues debt, such as a corporation, the government will have to make good on its obligations, generally by taking the money out of revenue, reducing expenses or issuing new debt. The action taken really depends on the resources available at the time. There is nothing particularly unusual about this, except that the U.S. government is better placed to make good on these obligations than virtually any other debt-issuer.
Some analysts, however, question whether the Social Security system holding those bonds lowers the cost of paying benefits relative to if the system did not hold them. Since the bonds have to be redeemed by general taxpayers, as a group taxpayers have to provide the same level of revenues to finance benefit payments as if Social Security were not holding any bonds.
So then the question becomes whether the fact that Social Security ran these surpluses in the past improved the government’s overall fiscal position and thereby made it easier for the government to finance the total level of upcoming benefit payments. Some analysts contend that the existence of the earlier Social Security surpluses spurred lawmakers to spend more, resulting in higher public debt.
BY THE NUMBERS | A July Washington Post-ABC News poll found 56 percent in support of the Iran nuclear agreement and 37 percent opposed. Republican opposed the deal by 54 to 41 percent.
Surveys suggest support has dropped substantially since the final deal was announced, though support range widely depending on how pollsters ask the question. The public is more supportive of the deal if questions offer details about the requirements for inspections and lifting of sanctions, while questions that offer little or no information about the deal generally find opposition outpacing support.
U.S. diplomats and five other countries announced last month that they reached an agreement with Iran to try to make it more difficult for the pariah state to build a nuclear bomb.
Under the deal, Iran must reduce the number of centrifuges it has and allow for increased vigilance from international inspectors. (The idea is that Iran can still use nuclear power for energy and medical purposes — just not a bomb.) If it complies, the U.S. and international partners will lift crippling economic sanctions on the country.
The deal is unlikely to be approved by a skeptical Congress in September, as even many Democrats are opposed. But President Obama can simply veto Congress’s decision, meaning the real question is whether opponents can rally two-thirds of both chambers to override the veto — and kill the deal.
THE CONTENDERS | Ben Carson’s answers to questions about two of the federal government’s most important tasks — waging war and collecting revenue — seemed to telegraph his lack of government experience. Asked if he would authorize waterboarding as an interrogation tactic in the war on terror, he said: “I wouldn’t necessarily broadcast to everybody what we’re going to do,” then said he would look to the top military brass to win the war on terror. Asked about his position on tax policy, he said he favored a tax system based on “tithing because I think God’s a pretty fair guy.”
These are the kinds of answers that get applause and cheers on from tea party activists who are angry at both political parties — but on the big stage Carson’s inability to relate how he’s actually tried to attack those issues stood out among the eight current and former elected officials. (Donald Trump also has not held public office — but he stood out for plenty of other reasons.)
Carson’s best line came after Megyn Kelly called on him to answer a question almost 30 minutes after his first.
“I wasn’t sure I was gonna get to talk again,” he said.
The way the moderators are just ignoring Ben Carson is outrageous.
THE CONTENDERS | Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee spoke only twice in the first hour of the debate, leaning hard into populist themes.
“The problem is we have a Wall Street to Washington axis of power that has controlled the political climate,” he said. “The donor class feeds the political class who does the dance that the donor class wants; and the result is federal government keeps getting bigger.”
Significantly, Huckabee enters tonight’s debate as one of the most experienced debaters on stage. But he is trying to break into the top-tier of Republican candidates in 2016, signaling to donors that he can build a viable candidacy.
He used a question about the size of the federal government to call for reforming the tax system to consider consumption rather than income.
“I am still one who says that we can get rid of the Internal Revenue Service if we would pass the fair tax, which is a tax on consumption rather than a tax on people’s income and move power back to where the founders believed it should have been all along.”
THE CONTENDERS | Here’s more info, originally published in July, on those deals Donald Trump is talking about:
Celebrity mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has told the Federal Election Commission he earns income from more than 150 separate deals, ranging from the real estate projects for which he first became famous to footwear to fine foods — even admission fees from a New York City carousel.
He also holds board or executive positions with more than 500 separate companies and partnerships, he reported to the FEC in an unusually complex disclosure that spans more than 90 pages.
THE CONTENDERS | “Senator, when you are sitting in a subcommittee blowing hot air….”
And so continued Chris Christie’s ongoing feud with Sen. Rand Paul over national security.
Paul has been outspoken in his opposition to the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs and Christie has called him weak and naive, even going so far as saying the Kentucky senator should be called before Congress if there is an another terrorist attack.
Rand shot back to Christie: “You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights.”
Christie called Rand’s answer about wanting to collect more records from terrorists not average Americans “completely ridiculous” and not practical, adding, “I make no apologies for protecting the lives and safety of the American people.”
The exchange allows Rand to show his libertarian streak, and Christie his hawkish one.
SOCIAL STUDIES | Zignal Labs, our analytics partner, visualizes in which states Rand Paul and Chris Christie got the most mentions during their first fight over the Patriot Act.
The Kentucky senator was the first to raise his voice during the Fox News debate, and the New Jersey governor seemed eager to engage. With 10 people on the stage, it is symbiotic for them to stake out their places in the fight over national security versus civil liberties.
THE FACT CHECKER |“We are rehabbing the drug-addicted. Eighty percent of people in our prisons have addictions or problems.”
–Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R )
Kasich cited a series of criminal justice statistics, including this one. It sounds quite high, and “problems” is a vague word. This statistic needs some explanation. Kasich appears to be using research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, a think tank that researches substance abuse.
The center’s research shows 65 percent (1.5 million out of 2.3 million) of inmates in prisons and jails meet the medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction.
Another 458,000 did not fit the medical definition but had other problems that relate to substance abuse: a history of substance abuse, were under influence of alcohol or drugs when they were committing their crime, committed the offense to buy drugs or were incarcerated with a crime related to violating alcohol or drug laws.
Combining both figures adds to 85 percent of the U.S. prison population — essentially what Kasich said.
THE CONTENDERS | For a while there, Scott Walker seemed to disappear from the stage as the cameras focused other Republicans getting into intense debates. But as Donald Trump talked about Hillary Rodham Clinton attending his wedding, Walker suddenly jumped in and pointed out Clinton’s shortcomings as secretary of state, saying that every country she has worked with now has a worse relationship with the United States. As Walker spoke, the crowd cheered. Trump nodded approvingly.
Walker has pitched himself as the only Republican in this race who knows how to fight and win — but he’s more experienced at fighting Democrats than his fellow Republicans. So when the chance came to criticize a Democrat, Walker jumped right in.
THE FIX | For weeks, the 2016 candidate that has dominated Google searches has been Donald Trump. Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump.
During the Fox News debate on Thursday night, that changed. First, Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham beat Trump in searches during the warm-up forum. Then Jeb Bush and Ben Carson beat him during their introductions.
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush arrive on stage for the Republican presidential primary debate at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty)
THE CONTENDERS | Jeb Bush’s infamous Iraq gaffe began in May on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program. She brought it up again on Thursday night, asking him what he’d say to the families of U.S. military personnel killed during the Iraq war, now that he believes the war was a mistake.
That would be a tough question for any Iraq war critic of either party to answer. But it’s a notable question for Bush, given that he invoked the families of fallen service members to explain why he was refusing to discuss “hypothetical questions” about the Iraq war.
After a campaign stop in Reno, Nev. on May 13, reporters asked him why he was swatting away hypothetical questions about Iraq. Here’s his answer:
“Talking about the future is more than fair. Talking about the past and saying how would you have done something after the fact is a little tougher. It doesn’t necessarily change anything. That was my point. As I said, you know, as governor I made calls to people, to family members who lost loved ones. And I think out of respect for them and the fact that, of course, given the power of looking back and having that, of course anybody would have made different decisions. There’s no denying that. But to delve into that and not focus on the future is where I need to draw the line.”
Tonight, he said something similar:
“For the people who did lose their lives and the families who suffered because of it, I know this full well. Because as governor of the state of Florida, I called every one of them, every one of them that I could find to tell them that I was praying for them. And it was really hard to do. And every one of them said that their child did not die in vain or their wife or husband did not die in vain. So why it was difficult for me to do, it was based on that.”
Bottom line: Tonight’s quick exchange on Iraq was far better for Bush than his disastrous four-day stretch in May. But it was still a bit shaky.
STOPWATCH | We’re about halfway through the debate, and Donald Trump has widened his lead in terms of air time over his opponents in this debate. He’s almost taken up five minutes, followed by Jeb Bush, at four-and-a-half minutes.
Scott Walker, Rand Paul, John Kasich and Mike Hukabee have had the smallest amounts of air time, with just over two minutes each.
THE FACT CHECKER |“I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars’ worth of Humvees.”
–Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
The way Paul phrased this, viewers might have thought he was suggesting that the United States had supplying allies of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria with Humvees. But that’s not quite right.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in June said that in the collapse of Mosul, ISIS captured 2,300 Humvees. The International Business Times said that the vehicles would be worth about $1 billion if sold new, though the age of vehicles is unclear.
Like so many times before, this could have been the end of Donald Trump’s fantastical, bizarre campaign for president.
Within the opening minutes of Thursday’s first Republican presidential primary debate, Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly had a whale of a question for the party’s current frontrunner. She went right for the jugular by listing some of Trump’s most misogynistic comments and tweets; he’s called women “fat,” “pigs” and once said a contestant on his TV show, “The Apprentice,” would look better on her knees.
THE CONTENDERS | Ted Cruz said this week he wanted to follow “Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment,” when it comes to other candidates on stage and “not speak ill of them personally.” So instead he made a veiled swipe.
When asked about illegal immigration, Cruz said he has never supported amnesty, but a “majority of candidates on stage” have. Cruz said he “led the fight against the gang of eight,” a group of eight senators that pushed for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. They included presidential candidates Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who didn’t make the main debate stage, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who stood a few podiums away from Cruz.
THE FACT CHECKER | “I cut taxes every year, totaling $19 billion.”
–Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.)
This is a cumulative figure, and big chunks came from legislative actions that did not involve Bush, such as a phasing out of the federal estate tax in a law passed by Congress.
A report by Martin Sullivan in TaxAnalysis excluded federal actions and adjusted for inflation and concluded that the actual figure during Bush’s eight years was about $13 billion—about two-thirds of the figure touted by Bush.
On a per resident basis, that amounts to only $140, Sullivan concluded.
For the past year, the U.S. and its allies have ramped up targeted air strikes over Iraq and Syria to disrupt the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State. The group has beheaded at least a dozen foreigners, including two American journalists, and controls an estimated one-third of the region. Americans are also trying to train Syrian and Iraqi fighters to battle the Islamic State on the ground. U.S. Pentagon officials have recently described this fight against the Islamic State as “a stalemate.”
Politically, there is some momentum in Republican circles for a more involved U.S. presence — up to and including ground troops. This has not been uniformly embraced, though, as Republicans recall the war-weariness that marked the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
THE CONTENDERS | A tough response from Chris Christie just now. It’s a reminder that many had expected the New Jersey governor — who is known for his combative style; who once told a heckler to “sit down and shut up!”– to fill the role Donald Trump’s been occupying: the outspoken tri-state area guy known for his brash, tough guy demeanor and ability to grab the spotlight.
TRENTON, N.J. — Chris Christie, riding high in national polls and bounding with self-confidence, headed to the Hamptons two summers ago for a round of fundraisers with Republican glitterati and members of the Bush family network. Over cocktails, financiers intrigued by Christie’s blue-state appeal and eager to back a winning presidential candidate signaled that they would coalesce around the New Jersey governor in the 2016 race.
But two years later, as Christie prepares to formally jump into the contest Tuesday, his status as the establishment favorite for the GOP nomination has vanished. Dogged by scandals and plummeting popularity in his home state, Christie has seen many of the mega-donors who once toasted him drift toward his rivals, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
In fact, Christie’s most important audience tonight isn’t necessarily the audience in the arena, or watching at home in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s donors.
THE CONTENDERS | The first question for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Does he really oppose abortion in all cases? Even when a mother’s life is at risk?
Walker’s response: “I’m pro-life. I’ve always been pro-life.”
That’s a much more definitive answer than those Walker would give as he ran for reelection in Wisconsin last year. Leading up that that general election, Walker actively avoided the topic of abortion, saying that social issues should not factor into the selection of a governor.
Once he won that election and began teeing up a run for the White House — which includes making a hard play for votes from conservative caucus-goers in Iowa — Walker became a much more vocal supporter of limiting access to abortion. At the urging of an anti-abortion activist group earlier this year, Walker urged state lawmakers to introduce legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. That legislation passed, and Walker signed it into law not long ago. On the campaign trail, Walker often brags that he defunded Planned Parenthood in his state, often earning warm applause.
Walker and his supporters say that he has always strongly opposed abortion, pointing to his decades-long record of introducing and supporting legislation that would limit access.
Republican 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump (left) and Florida governor Jeb Bush. Reuters/Brian Snyder
BY THE NUMBERS | Gov. Jeb Bush defended his support for “earned legal status” for undocumented immigrants if they meet certain requirements, while Trump stood by his strong rhetoric and and support for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Polls show most Americans support providing a form of legal status, but Republicans are more skeptical. A clear majority of Republicans support building a barrier on the border.
A July Post-ABC poll found 60 percent of the public overall says they should be allowed to live and work here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements. Thirty-seven percent say they should not according to a July Post-ABC poll. Republicans narrowly reject a path to legal status with 51 percent saying they should not be allowed to remain and 43 percent saying they should.
Washington Post-ABC News poll
Opinions about the character of undocumented immigrants from Mexico differ sharply from Donald Trump’s characterization that they are largely criminals. The Post-ABC poll found 74 percent of the public saying they are mostly honest rather than mostly undesirable. Republicans said they are mostly honest by 66 to 19 percent.
Nonetheless, Trump’s push to build a wall along the border with Mexico is relatively popular among Republicans. In a July 2013 Post-ABC poll, 75 percent of Republicans supported the idea of adding 20,000 border agents and a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border at a cost of $46 billion. If cost were not a concern, which Trump says he can negotiate with Mexico, support goes up to 84 percent among Republicans.
THE CONTENDERS | In one sense, Marco Rubio just agreed with Donald Trump — that there needs to be a fence on the southern border. In another, he appeared to take aim at Trump singling out illegal immigrants from Mexico.
“The majority of the people coming across the border are not from Mexico,” he said, pointing to other Latin American countries.
THE CONTENDERS | Ben Carson fielded the first serious question at tonight’s GOP debate and seemed a bit flustered when asked whether his past gaffes on foreign policy suggest he is not ready to be president.
Carson said he took issue with the question, but looked forward to showing during the debate that “the thing that is probably most important is having a brain, and to be able to figure things out and learn things very rapidly.”
He might have taken a page from Carly Fiorina, who handled a similar question by comparing her fledgling candidacy to the early fortunes of four male candidates who became president. But all of them, as have most of the 44 men who have served as U.S. president, had previously held public office.
Jeb Bush, right, looks over at businessman Donald Trump, center, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, left, as the candidates pose with seven other candidates at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
THE CONTENDERS | Jeb Bush proved tonight that he’ll firmly defend his immigration reform plan despite the concerns of Republican voters.
Asked if he stood by a previous statement that many illegal immigrants broke the law, “but it’s not a felony, it’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family,” Bush said: “I do.”
“I believe that the great majority of people coming here illegally have no other option… but we need to control our border,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to pick and choose who comes in.”
That’s basically the two-sentence defense of a plan that Bush has been known to speak at great length about on the campaign trail and in interviews. In 2013, he wrote an approximately 300-page book about the subject, called “Immigration Wars.”
Several in the crowd sounded supportive — likely mostly the Bush supporters in the crowd — bu Bush’s response didn’t earn the boisterous applause earned by Donald Trump moments later.
STOPWATCH | Twenty minutes into the GOP debate, and Donald Trump has taken an early lead in terms of how much time he has had to speak. He’s at a minute-and-a-half of air time, thanks to a boost in time from that first question about if he’d run as an independent if he loses the Republican primary.
Just to note, there are so many candidates on the stage that John Kasich didn’t speak before the 20-minute mark.
Unlike the 2012 campaign, there’s no serious bid in Congress right now to reform our immigration system. Instead, President Obama has acted unilaterally to extend deportation relief to about 5 million of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.
In 2012, he signed an executive action to protect many young people brought into the country illegally by their parents, and in 2014 he expanded those protections to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Both programs are on hold as a Texas-led lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the actions winds its way through the courts.
Separately, the GOP is still dealing with some urgency to do something about immigration — in large part because the party is hemorrhaging Latino voters. But most Republicans who express support for a path to citizenship find themselves targeted by the conservative base. One of them is Jeb Bush, who has instead moved to calling for legal status — rather than citizenship — for undocumented immigrants. Don’t expect any candidates on Thursday to embrace much beyond tougher immigration enforcement.
THE CONTENDERS | Donald Trump was asked directly to present evidence that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border to the United States. His response: People that he talks to have told him as much.
There were some audible groans in the crowd after Trump spoke.
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump participates in the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Businessman Donald Trump came out swinging Thursday, refusing to pledge not to run as an independent candidate if he doesn’t secure the GOP presidential nomination.
And you can expect more of that tonight — he’s sharing the stage Thursday with several candidates who he has feuded with in the past, perhaps most frequently on social media.
When asked how he can win when many see him as a divisive figure, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cited something he’s been talking a lot about lately: the truth.
“I believe the American people are looking for someone to speak the truth,” he said. “I will always tell the truth.”
Cruz’s new book is titled “A Time for Truth,” and Cruz has painted himself as someone willing to stand up to both parties. Last month, Cruz accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of lying to his colleagues. In his book, he slammed McConnell and others for saying one thing in Congress and another to their constituents.
The truth line is one Cruz often says on the campaign trail, to cheers; Cruz said that he wanted to stay on message during the debate, and so far he has.
THE CONTENDERS | Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked to address Jeb Bush and tell him why he, with less experience than Bush, should be the nominee. He didn’t address Bush directly but he stated his case: that this has to be an election about the future.
“This election cannot be a resume competition,” said Rubio. He argued that such a competition would benefit Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Rubio knows his record of accomplishments in government is thinner than Bush, Scott Walker and others. This is why he said what he said and why he has framed the competition that way on the campaign trail.
THE CONTENDERS | CLEVELAND — It’s not easy right now for one Republican to distinguish his hatred of Planned Parenthood from the next Republican. The party’s war on the organization, fueled by the release of undercover videos about its collection of fetal tissue for research, has accelerated from generic calls for hearings to a promised post-recess congressional push to cut its taxpayer funding. The “undercard” debate featured another race to the barricades, with even pro-choice former New York governor George Pataki saying he wanted to “put in place an absolute permanent ban on any taxpayer dollars ever being used to fund abortions.”
Still, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) set a bold new standard for attacking Planned Parenthood. “I guarantee,” he said, “under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the IRS and everybody else that we can send from the federal government will be going in to Planned Parenthood.”
The line was jarring, if only because Jindal later condemned any use of the IRS to go after political organizations. In the spin room, RealClearPolitics executive editor Tom Bevan asked Jindal if he was saying he’d use the IRS to carry out political warfare.
“I will use every tool in my disposal to go after Planned Parenthood,” said Jindal. “I believe they have violated the law. They say they are a non-profit organization, yet these videos seem to be focused on profits. Absolutely I think it’s appropriate for the IRS, for the Department of Justice — if I can send the EPA or any other agency after them, I will.”
Esquire‘s Charlie Pierce followed up, just to confirm that Jindal really — seriously — was pledging to use the IRS to pummel an organization he found to be abhorrent. After all, there are laws preventing the president from meddling with the IRS. Jindal doubled down, saying that it might even be worth sending the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after Planned Parenthood.
“There are allegations they have broken the law on the sale of fetal organs, as well as human trafficking,” said Jindal. “I think that’s why it would be appropriate for the DOJ to look into what they’ve done.”
Jindal’s rivals on the undercard stopped short of endorsing his plan.
“To me, you have to look at the law to see if the actions they took were illegal,” said Pataki. “Whether it’s Planned Parenthood or any group, they should be investigated by the government. I don’t know whether or not what it did was illegal, but what it did was immoral and repugnant and should disqualify them from any funding.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who voted this week to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, tried to change the subject. “I want to tell every conservative that you’re not going to defund Planned Parenthood until you get a pro-life president,” said Graham. “Let me translate this in terms of Hillary Clinton.” He proceeded to say that she’d waffled on her reaction to the video out of fear that Vice President Joe Biden might mount a primary challenge. Pressed again on the tax question, he said that “as president,” he would not include Planned Parenthood funding in any budget.
THE CONTENDERS | There wasn’t much back-and-forth on stage during Thursday’s early debate among the seven lowest-polling Republican presidential candidates — at least, not while the cameras were rolling. The commercial breaks, on the other hand — those got a little chummier. Witness: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas governor Rick Perry chatting during a lull in the action.
(Jindal endorsed Perry during the Texas governor’s 2012 presidential bid.)
Republican presidential hopefuls Bobby Jindal (left) and Rick Perry. (AFP photo/Mandel Ngan)
Sharing a laugh. (AFP photo/Mandel Ngan)
A quick chat during a commercial break. (Reuters/Brian Snyder)
The two could have been talking dinner plans: the pair planned to hit the town with a couple of other presidential contenders after the debate:
Rick Santorum says a few of the B-debate candidates are getting dinner together tonight in Cleveland.
How many candidates does it take to count to two? (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
THE CONTENDERS | Fox News’ Bill Hemmer asked the seven candidates during the first debate tonight to describe Hillary Clinton in two words.
Journalists may have a reputation for less-than-stellar math skills — but we can count to two. After tonight, we’re not as sure about most of the candidates.
“I need a two-word answer to the following query. In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama described Hillary Clinton as, quote, ‘likable enough,’ end quote. What two words would you use to describe the Democratic frontrunner?”
Answer word count:
George Pataki: 9. “Divisive and with no vision. No vision at all.”
Carly Fiorina: 4. “Not trustworthy. No accomplishment.”
Rick Santorum: 2. “Secretive and untrustworthy.”
Rick Perry: 3. “Well, let’s go with three. Good at email.”
Bobby Jindal: 3. “Socialist and government dependent.”
Lindsey Graham: 11. “Not the change we need at a time we need it.”
Jim Gilmore: 6. “Professional politician that can’t be trusted.”
Anyone looking for a candidate who knows how to stick to a (word) budget had exactly one option tonight.
The National Rifle Association is kicking off a $1 million advertising campaign to attack former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during tonight’s debates on Fox News.
Bloomberg confidant Howard Wolfson, the former deputy mayor who is now at the Bloomberg Foundation, says they “love” the commercial, which floats the idea that the billionaire is preparing to run for president. In fact, they love it so much that they’re “thinking of doubling the buy.”
The narrator in the NRA spot says Bloomberg’s “agenda would “outlaw your snack foods, drive up your electric bill [and] dismantle your gun rights.”
“The media says he should” run for president, the narrator says over footage of workers preparing for a faux Bloomberg campaign rally. “Even if he doesn’t run for president, Bloomberg will try to pick the president. Bloomberg spends his billions backing politicians who want to take away your rights and limit your freedom.”
The ad follows a spate of recent shooting incidents, from Tennessee to Louisiana, which have prompted fresh calls for stricter background checks.
NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said this is the first of three phases in a broader campaign aimed at Bloomberg, the biggest financial supporter of groups that push for gun control. The association has reserved time on both Fox and CNN. The ad will run heavily on cable and digital in New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada, three of the early states that kick off the presidential nominating contest. There will be a digital only buy in South Carolina, she added.
The NRA has a new ad featuring Mike. We love the spot, and are thinking of doubling their buy and running it in full https://t.co/bsVml4a8j7
“Stay tuned,” the NRA’s Baker told The Washington Post. “We accept Wolfson’s offer to double our buy so that more people know about Bloomberg’s anti-freedom agenda. Of course Mike likes the ad. It’s about Mike!”
THE CONTENDERS | Reporters covering the Republican debate reaction at Hillary Clinton’s headquarters were surrounded by posters of GOP candidates who sounded more complimentary of the Democratic front-runner on the walls than they’re likely to on stage tonight:
Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio speaks to supporters during a rally in a restaurant on August 5, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The first Republican presidential debate takes place August 6 in Cleveland. (AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THE CONTENDERS | On the campaign trail, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has rarely engaged directly with this GOP competition; instead he prefers to focus on his own message. Tonight, he isn’t expected to stray from that approach. His campaign manager Terry Sullivan sent a note to supporters earlier today previewing Rubio’s debate plan.
Marco’s strategy tonight is to stay positive, and talk about his vision for a New American Century. He will offer ideas to create more good-paying 21st Century jobs and help people get the education and skills they need for those jobs. He’ll talk about the need for American leadership around the world, and the need for a strong national defense.
THE FIX |This analysis looks back at the “winners” and “losers” of each 2012 Republican presidential debate, and cross-references their performances with how each candidate was polling before and after each debate.
For all the drama that might unfold in Thursday night’s debate, history tells us that it’s unlikely to have a huge impact on the polls — though it could matter for a candidate or two.
The question of whether debates really matter in presidential politics has been examined before (University of Missouri, Washington Monthly Magazine, The Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight). The general consensus is that their effect on polls is, if any, minimal — especially late in the general election, when polarized voters are largely decided and hard to move. That’s not necessarily the case during primary season, though, when debates can serve as an introduction for lesser-known candidates.
Arnold Schwarzenegger posted this photo to Facebook Thursday. “This is the day I became a citizen, one of the proudest days of my life,” he wrote.
ON THE ISSUES | Arnold Schwarzenegger wants the Republicans in tonight’s debate to talk about how they would get the Democratic support necessary to pass immigration reform.
“As you know, I’m an immigrant and this country was built by immigrants,” the former California governor says in a 30-second video he posted to Facebook, which is cosponsoring the 9 p.m. Eastern debate with Fox News. “But we also have to admit that there is an illegal immigration problem. And we have to solve that. So I want to ask the candidates: what would you do?”
Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, suggested he cares less about the plan itself than the strategy.
“I don’t want to hear policy talks or anything like that,” he says in the video. “I want to know: how do you bring both of the parties together, Democrats and Republicans, to solve this problem once and for all?”
The question could be tricky for some candidates on stage who have been open to either a path to citizenship or some form of legal status for illegal immigrants, including Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Lindsey Graham, who like Rubio was a member of the Gang of Eight that got a comprehensive bill through the Senate in 2013, appeared in the happy hour debate at 5 p.m.
Sen. Ted Cruz was a star debater at Princeton University.
THE CONTENDERS | The expectations are high for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in tonight’s prime-time Fox news debate. He was a star debater at Princeton University and argued before the Supreme Court nine times as a lawyer. Cruz spent Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for the debate in Hillsdale’s College Capitol Hill townhouse.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Cruz said the strategy sessions concentrated on “how one communicates with 10 somewhat conflicting messages all on the same stage at the same time.”
Read more about how Cruz prepared for tonight, how he believes the Democratic field is like the sitcom “That 70s Show” and the differences between collegiate and presidential debating here.
Carly Fiorina was the only woman on stage at the so-called “Happy Hour” debate on Thursday night. She was also the only one of the seven candidates who made clear that she deserves more attention — and a more prime spot in the debates — as the campaign continues.
From the start, Fiorina was poised and confident. She followed a halting and seemingly nervous answer by Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a fluid riff on why she was running and how she was best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton. And, she closed that first answer with this quotable (and good) line: “The highest calling of leadership is to challenge the status quo and unlock the potential of others. We need a leader who will lead the resurgence of this great nation and unlock its potential once again.”
Even as the social media spin room takes center stage, plenty of hacks and flacks flooded the real thing after the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, as The Post’s Dave Weigel and Ben Terris showed:
THE CONTENDERS | Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has been guarded about his debate prep, not telling prying reporters what he is studying or how he is practicing or who is helping him — or even if he is preparing. But he tweeted a clue on Thursday morning: his preparation apparently involves cream puffs from the Wisconsin State Fair.
Walker started the started the day at the fair in the Milwaukee suburbs, continuing his tradition of being on hand for the formal opening ceremonies. He then quickly traveled to Cleveland for a debate walk-through with his two sons, Matt and Alex, who are both in their 20s.
Here are four challenges facing Walker as he takes the debate stage tonight:
1) Don’t sound like a robot.
Walker’s staffers and supporters gush about how their candidate has the discipline to relentlessly stay on message, rarely straying by even a few words as he recites passages of his stump speech or rattles off carefully worded responses. But this can sometimes make him sound robotic — something that late-night host Jimmy Fallon recently demonstrated to his viewers by simultaneously playing clips from five different Walker speeches that included a riff about bargain shopping at Kohl’s department store. Fallon’s take: “Maybe he can go to Kohl’s and buy some new material.”
Often some of the best debate moments are the unscripted ones, when a candidate seizes on a unfolding moment with a fresh thought — that’s likely not going to happen for Walker if he doesn’t stray from his talking points.
2) Don’t screw up.
It’s not that Walker never goes off script — but when he does, like when he grows overly comfortable during an interview on a conservative radio show, mistakes can happen. (Like when he said that he might skip the Florida primary or when he seemed to describe mandated ultrasounds before abortions as “just a cool thing out there” or when he seemed to compare union protesters to the Islamic State.) Often his way out of these mistakes is by blaming the media or Democrats for twisting his words. That likely won’t be an option if he misspeaks on the stage tonight.
3) Stand out from the crowd.
A lot of campaigns are hoping that viewers will tune in to see Donald Trump’s antics — and then fall for their candidate. But there will be 10 people on the stage and standing out might not be that easy. Walker has been trying to up his name recognition in the past few months and this debate could greatly help.
4) Don’t be too nice.
Walker repeatedly pitches himself as the only Republican running for president who knows how to fight and win — but his fighting experience is with Democrats, not fellow Republicans (and especially not nine of them all at once). Walker says that tonight he does not plan to attack anyone, although he will defend himself, if necessary. This balancing act of trying to be both the steadfast warrior and the likable guy has at times left Walker fumbling. Recent criticism from fellow Republicans has often prompted Walker to play down or abandon stances — or to quickly distance himself from people working to get him to the White House. (Here’s an article from earlier this week about this juggling act: “Can Scott Walker be a fighter and a nice guy at the same time?“)
SOCIAL STUDIES | The former Hewlett Packard CEO received more than twice as many mentions as any other candidate during the happy hour debate on Fox News. According to Zignal Labs, our campaign analytics partner, Fiorina accounted for 39 percent of all mentions across social and traditional media.
Fiorina, the only woman seeking the GOP nomination, gave forceful answers to questions about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Iran deal.
This GIF breaks down the share of voice among the seven candidates on stage. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) received the second-highest number of mentions with 16 percent, followed by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 13 percent. Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal each got 12 percent of mentions about the debate. Not surprisingly, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and New York Gov. George Pataki got 4 percent of the mentions.
During the 90-minute debate, Fiorina even managed to get more attention than Trump. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown from Zignal of tweets during the debate. Only Colorado remained more fixated with Trump than Fiorina during the debate:
Interestingly, Graham actually got more mentions than Fiorina in the early states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. This map shows states where Fiorina got the most mentions in red and states were Graham got the most mentions in blue. The Palmetto State is not that surprising because Graham is a native son, but the others are notable:
But he was engaged once, the Post and Courier reported last month:
Lindsey Graham, whose bachelorhood became the focal point of his presidential campaign in the past week, nearly got married in his late 20s while serving in the Air Force in Europe, South Carolina’s senior U.S. senator said Friday.
The woman, whom Graham identified only as Sylvia, was a flight attendant for the German airline Lufthansa. She was of Hungarian descent but opted to stay with her ailing mother in Austria rather than join Graham in returning home to South Carolina, he said.
THE FACT CHECKER | “Health savings accounts was something that we introduced, it’s a private sector solution that believes in freedom — not Obamacare, that believes in government control.”
“You’re looking at the man who introduced and fought on the floor as a freshman senator and passed the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 over two President Clinton vetoes. Got 70 votes in the United States Senate. Bipartisan issue. And I ended a federal entitlement. Never been done before, never been done since.”
–Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
They say success has a thousand fathers, and Santorum claimed paternity to a 1992 legislation that led to the modern health savings accounts and the 1996 legislation that overhauled the welfare system. It’s important to note Santorum shifted rhetoric on these two go-to claims tonight; one for the better, one for the worse.
Previously, Santorum had claimed he “invented” health savings accounts. But that was an exaggeration; it took more than a decade of research by a wide coalition of experts before the concept took off on Capitol Hill. He did, however, introduce the first legislation in 1992 and played a key role in pushing it through Congress. During the debate, he accurately described his role on this front.
But he took a step backward on the welfare point. During his last run for the GOP nomination, The Fact Checker awarded him the rare Geppetto Checkmark for the way he characterized his role in changing the nation’s welfare system. While some people criticized him for taking too much credit, we found Santorum didn’t claim to have single-handedly overhauled the welfare system. Most of the time he described his role, he was careful — and correct — to say he played a major role in the effort. That all changed tonight: “And I ended a federal entitlement. Never been done before, never been done since.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) gave an excellent example of how to take a question — any question — and make it about Hillary Clinton. Check out his response to a question on the strength of the American economy:
“To all the Americans who want a better life, don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. You’re not going to get it. She’s not going to repeal Obamacare and replace it; I will. She’s not going to build the Keystone Pipeline; I will. She’s not going to change Dodd-Frank; I will. Until you change the policies of Barack Obama, we’re never going to grow this economy. Until you change the policies of Barack Obama, we’re never going to be safe.
She represents the third term of a failed presidency. I’m fluent in Clinton speak, I’ve been dealing with this crowd for 20 years. … When Hillary Clinton tells you, ‘I’ve given you all the emails you need,’ that means she hasn’t. So to the people who are dying for a better America, you better change course.”
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry fields a question during the debate. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
THE FACT CHECKER | “The first thing I would do is tear up that agreement with Iran.”
–Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas)
Perry makes it sound as if the six-power agreement with Iran can simply be nullified by American fiat. But it’s not that simple. The agreement was joined by Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany and conducted with the assistance of the European Union. The sanctions in question were imposed by the U.N. Security Council, which has already endorsed the agreement.
So while a new U.S. president in 2017 could announce that he or she would no longer support the international agreement, the president would also need to convince international partners that the agreement is no longer valid, even though Iran may not have violated terms of the deal that would require the “snap back” of sanctions.
As we have noted before, the deal with North Korea negotiated by Bill Clinton was greeted with skepticism by George W. Bush–but the deal only collapsed several years into Bush’s term, after the administration announced it had found evidence of North Korean cheating.
Perry also said that $150 billion would go to Iran if the deal is approved. He’s referring to Iranian assets that would be unfrozen, but his number is high; $100 billion is the estimate of the Treasury Department, as well as the Institute of International Finance. The White House has said much of that money is already committed to other outstanding obligations so Iran would only gain access to $56 billion.
Jindal paraphrased the president. Loosely (Too loosely?). AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
ON THE ISSUES | CLEVELAND — Given a question about the expansion of state health services, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) smoothly pivoted to a scary answer about the size of America’s national debt. According to Jindal, President Obama’s Wednesday speech about the Iran nuclear deal conceded that he had put the country in hock. “He said, we don’t leverage with China to get a better deal with Iran because we need them to lend us money to continue operating our government,” said Jindal, paraphrasing the president.
We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world. In order to even try to do that, we would have to sanction, for example, some of the world’s largest banks. We’d have to cut off countries like China from the American financial system. And since they happen to be major purchasers of our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own economy, and, by way, raise questions internationally about the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. That’s part of the reason why many of the previous unilateral sanctions were waived.
That wasn’t quite the point that Jindal saw the president making. Obama was saying that a zero-tolerance policy would mean cutting off China, not that China was looming over him as he’ll cut a deal. Jindal, who has often walked to the edge of conservative criticism of the president, was trying out a line that rivals may echo. It’s just not quite in harmony with the facts.
THE FIX | Here’s a quick look at how often people are searching for each of the candidates in Thursday’s warm-up debate shows that Carly Fiorina’s strong performance paid off — as of the halfway point, at least.
THE CONTENDERS | Carly Fiorina showed why she’s a crowd favorite on the campaign trail with her smooth, sharp response to the question of whether Donald Trump’s high poll numbers means he’s the better candidate.
“I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped into the race,” she quipped, referring to a Washington Post story about a conversation between the former president and aspiring president.
“Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation or donated to his wife’s Senate campaign.”
There may have been no call this year. But Fiorina had face time with the former president when the two shared the same stage at the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2014 confab in Denver.
Fiorina has a marketing background, and her stump speeches are peppered with one-liners about Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Even as she ribbed Trump, she took care not to criticize him, but to suggest that he was tapping into anger of voters with Washington. This allowed her to wrap-up by invoking one of her central pitches of her candidacy — that she is not a career politician. “Whatever the issue, whatever the cause, whatever festering problem you hoped would be resolved, the political class has failed you.”
THE FACT CHECKER |“I ran for office to make the generational changes in Louisiana. We’ve cut 26 percent of our budget.”
–Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)
Jindal repeated one of his favorite campaign claims in his opening statement — that he cut 26 percent of the state budget. But it’s based on some budgetary sleight of hand.
The state budget in fiscal 2009, Jindal’s first budget after taking office in 2008, was $34.3 billion. In 2016, the proposed budget was $25.1 billion. That is a $9.2 billion decrease, or a 26.8 percent decrease. His campaign has pointed to these figures in the past to FactCheck.org.
Jindal may call it a generational change, but the budget decrease was not due to his executive decisions alone.
Between those years, federal funding also decreased by $10 billion — from $19.7 billion to $9.7 billion. Part of this decrease was waning federal funding for hurricane recovery, the Times-Picayune has reported.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum claimed authorship of the Iran sanctions that the new deal would do away with. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
THE FACT CHECKER | “I have a track record in Washington, D.C. of getting things done. Iran sanctions — the Iran sanctions that brought them to the table, those are sanctions that we put in place when I was in the United States Senate.”
–Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
Santorum is significantly overstating his role in implementing sanctions against Iran. As we have documented before, In 2004 Santorum introduced a bill to help foster democracy in Iran but it went nowhere; in 2005, he introduced a similar bill that also would have included some sanctions, but it also went nowhere. In 2006, he tried to attach the bill to a defense spending bill – and was defeated, in large part because the Bush administration opposed it, fearing it would undo delicate efforts to begin a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff.
A revised version of legislation, giving the president waiver authority to terminate the sanctions with as little as a three-day notice, eventually was approved. But it’s a stretch to claim that this bill led to crushing sanctions. In effect, the law made relatively minor modifications to the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which was the first law that authorized U.S. penalties against third-country companies involved in Iran’s nuclear activities.
The Congressional Research Service in a 2014 report says that no sanctions have been imposed using the sanctions section of Santorum’s law. In fact, the comprehensive CRS report, over 78 pages, barely mentions the legislation, which was relatively minor footnote in the effort to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Thus it is misleading for Santorum to claim that his legislation “brought them to the table.”
ON THE ISSUES | South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) has made his hawkish foreign policy a central pillar of his 2016 presidential campaign. In Thursday’s debate, he took aim at members of his party who have opposed sending more U.S. troops into the Middle East.
“If we don’t stop them over there, they are coming here just as sure as I stand here in front of you,” Graham said. “One thing I want to be clear about tonight, if you’re running of president of the United States and you don’t understand that we need more American ground forces in Iraq and that America needs to be part of a ground force that will go into Syria…then you are not ready to be commander in chief.”
Graham took that message to New Hampshire last weekend alongside from GOP nominee Sen. John McCain, a longtime friend who has thrown his support behind the South Carolina senator’s candidacy. Together they met with several veterans groups.
Earlier in the debate, he responded to a question about his unpopular support for climate change science by pivoting back to foreign policy.
“You can trust me to do the following: that when I get on stage with Hilary Clinton we won’t be debating about the science [of climate change] we’ll be debating about the solutions,” he said. “…In my world, we’re focusing on energy independence…over time we’re going to become energy independent. I am tired of sending 300 billion overseas to buy oil from people who hate our guts.”
FILE – In this July 27, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Orlando, Fla. Bush’s recent poll results earned him a place in the first prime time Republican presidential debate, Thursday. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
THE CONTENDERS | Jeb Bush will be almost-center stage tonight, besides Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. He appears tonight after another series of verbal stumbles that raise fresh concerns about whether he’s equipped to deal campaign in the modern, faster-moving era of presidential politics.
The former Florida governor’s off-the-cuff style on the campaign trail has earned him favorable reviews from some voters in the early primary states, and he remains easily accessible to reporters who trail him across the country.But those exchanges often lead to long-winded answers that land Bush into verbal cul-de-sacs, making it difficult to steer out.
“Jeb is a smart guy, and like a lot of smart guys, he occasionally overestimates his ability to improvise,” said Terry Neal, a Washington-based communications consultant and former Washington Post reporter who covered Bush’s Florida gubernatorial campaigns for the Miami Herald.
“It’s very different than the problems his brother had. [George W. Bush] was often uninformed or seemed uninterested in details on the campaign trail. Jeb is not that, he just is not careful in what he says and then gets frustrated by the reactions he gets.”
THE CONTENDERS | Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said during the first question in Thursday’s debate that he can still build a credible campaign.
“I would say that the message that got us to win in Iowa and other states against pretty overwhelming odds is going to be the message that gets us through this election,” Santorum said.
The fact that Santorum, who came in second during the 2012 GOP primary, didn’t make it into the top-tier debate is particularly notable in the GOP, which has traditionally elevated runners-up into frontrunner status by the next election.
The Post’s Dave Weigel earlier this week wrote about Santorum’s lackluster showing in the 2016 polls:
Tuesday night brought the inevitable news that Santorum would not be included in the first prime-time debate here Thursday in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. Fox News would invite only the people who polled in the top 10 in an average of national polls. The man who won 11 state contests, more than any runner-up since Ronald Reagan in 1976 — a fact he enjoys sharing with audiences — was too far behind. He would be relegated to an afternoon showdown with minor candidates.
THE CONTENDERS | Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the GOP presidential field, doesn’t seem to be stressing over having not made the cut for the prime-time debate. On social media and in interviews during the past day, she has vowed to make the most of her inclusion in the debate for second-tier candidates, which began at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“A vast majority of Republican voters, never mind Americans, still don’t know who I am,” Fiorina, the ormer CEO of Hewlett-Packard chief executive, said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’ll look forward to the ‘happy hour’ debate.”
Fiorina has made much ado about how, as a woman, she would be able to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton more aggressively than the male GOP candidates, who have to be careful not to appear sexist.
Although she has gotten good reviews on the campaign trail, her candidacy has failed to attract broad support from either women or men. Thursday’s debate will give her a chance to introduce herself to a much larger audience and potentially boost her standing in the polls.
Preparations are made on the debate stage ahead of the first Republican presidential debate at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. The first Republican presidential debate, hosted by Fox News and Facebook Inc. in conjunction with the Ohio Republican Party, will be held Thursday night. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
THE LOWDOWN | CLEVELAND — The Quicken Loans Arena is set up for two debates, and a full studio audience. But just one audience. While tonight’s prime time showdown is ticketed for hundreds of Republicans and campaign supporters, the 5 p.m. hour will see most of them at debate watch parties or related receptions. The crowd for the “undercard” debate of seven candidates who did not poll in the top 10 will be — in the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) spokesman Kevin Bishop — “limited.” It’s one final status check for a crowd that includes a sitting senator, a former senator, three former governors, a sitting governor, and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
The campaigns relegated to this debate, which has been known by an ever-growing number of pejorative nicknames (“kid’s table,” “kiddie pool,” “loser’s debate”) are squeezing lemonade out of the lemon. “In two weeks, everyone will wish they were at this debate,” said Rob Johnson, a strategist for former Texas Governor Rick Perry. “This is going to be substantive.”
Plus, the reporters credentialed for the debates are seated behind a curtain, unable to see either debate. There will be no snarky Instagrams of the Cavaliers’ home court looking like the 9:30 Club when Scott Stapp rolls into town.
“Family and friends only,” said Anna Epstein, a spokeswoman for Carly Fiorina.
Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter and Vine are becoming more popular with pols. Photo by: Jens Büttner/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
SOCIAL STUDIES |Elise Viebeck points out that Thursday’s debate takes place in a far different climate than the last presidential face-off on Oct. 22, 2012.
Back then, “Snapchat was just barely breaking into the mainstream. Instagram had only recently rolled out profiles for the Web. Medium was in its infancy. Genius was niche. Tumblr was an afterthought.”
“Social media sites are taking advantage of the interest. On Snapchat, U.S. users will be able to peek in on the debate through a “Live Story” photo and video montage. On Instagram, a feature dubbed “The First Debate” under the Explore tab is already aggregating candidates’ photo feeds.”
Workers prepare the stage at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, before the first Republican presidential debate. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
BY THE NUMBERS | The enormous field of Republican candidates (17 and counting) forced Fox News to make tough decisions about how many people could fit on a debate stage. Two recent polls tell us that Republicans are less than thrilled with the 10 candidate format that will premier at 9 p.m.
A new McClatchy/Marist poll found 62 percent of Republican and independents who lean to the Republican party would prefer a debate that includes all candidates compared. Just over a third prefer the idea of using polls to rank participation.
Q: Which comes closer to your opinion?…A candidate’s ranking in national polls should determine whether or not they are allowed to participate in a (2016) Republican presidential debate. All candidates running for the Republican nomination should be allowed to participate in the Republican debates. (Asked of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents)
34% A candidate’s ranking in national polls should determine whether or not they are allowed to participate in a (2016) Republican presidential debate
62% All candidates running for the Republican nomination should be allowed to participate in the Republican debates
A new Monmouth poll asked about the debate format a little differently. It found a 45 percent plurality of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents saying there should be back-to-back debates with the candidates randomly assigned to each event.
Q: The first Republican candidate debate is coming up. Do you think that all declared candidates should get to share the same stage – OR – Do you think there should be one debate with the top ten candidates according to recent polls and another debate with the remaining ones – OR – Do you think there should be two back-to-back debates with half the candidates randomly assigned to each one?
29% All candidates share the same stage
23% One top ten debate and another with remainder
45% Two back-to-back debates randomly assigned
3% (VOL) Don’t know
Despite the unhappiness with the debate format, Republicans are satisfied with the large slate of candidates. In a July Washington Post-ABC News poll found 67 percent of Republicans satisfied with the choice of candidates for the GOP primary. That is better than the 54 percent of Republicans who were satisfied with the field in July 2011.