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Election 2016: The Debate After the Debate Before the Debate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

A few stragglers aside, a grand total of 17 people are running for the Republican Presidential nominee in Election 2016. Fox News wanted ten at one time. How can anyone appreciate a full stock of candidates if half of them are pushed away?


Now, about the seven (speaks of perfection) who didn’t make the first cut, they have done more than a commendable job in their careers. CEOs, senators, governors who made a difference. They defend life and family, educational reforms, balanced budgets, tax and spending cuts, facing fiscal, moral, and even natural challenges. Rick Perry governed Texas during Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana proved that the Pelican State can soar and take up shore.

Yet these two proven executives had to sit at the “Kiddie Table,” or rather the “Are you kidding?” debate, based on the moderators’ first questions:

To Texas Gov. Rick Perry: You recently said that four years ago, you weren't ready for this job. Why should someone vote for you now?

He isn’t struggling through back surgery. He should have sat out 2012 to prep for 2016.

To CEO Carly Fiorina: “Given your current standings in the polls, is the Iron Lady comparison a stretch?

She is the toughest broad on stage, and should have shouldered similar bluster toward California Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010.

To Sen. Rick Santorum: But has your moment passed, Senator?

Yes. He won Iowa 2012 by ten votes, because he wasn’t Romney and had not been pulled apart by the media.

The moderators pressed Gov. Jindal on a general election hypothetical, since Clinton is beating Jindal in Louisiana.

Jindal fired back:

[W]e got a lot of politicians that will kiss babies, cut ribbons, do whatever it takes to be popular. That's not why I ran for office. I won two landslide elections, I made big changes. I think our country is tired of the politicians who simply read the polls and fail to lead.


Leadership does not guarantee popularity, but in politics, people have to like you more than the other guy to win.

Before Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke a word, the moderator summed up his poor polling:

Senator Lindsey Graham, you worked with Democrats and President Obama when it came to climate change, something you know is extremely unpopular with conservative Republicans.How can they trust you based on that record?

He can’t be. He went along with ill-conceived campaign finance “reform.” He signed onto immigration “reform,” i.e amnesty. He has battled his party, but not to prove himself more conservative, but rather more accommodating. He is Sen. John McCain with a twang, representative of everything wrong with Washington: politicians who lack conviction, who refuse to lead as clear and convincing conservatives. Trump did Graham a favor releasing his phone number to the public, because primary voters are not calling, let alone giving him a second look. Hard on the outside, soft on the inside, Lindsey is a S’more and nothing more.

New York State’s former Governor, thrice elected George Pataki, caught my interest during the St. Anselm “Voters First” forum. A red state governor in the bluest of states, Pataki was no nonsense on financial prudence. Still, the moderator asked a calculated and very revealing question:

Mitt Romney declined to run this time, because he believed that the party needed new blood. Does he have a point?

Romney and Pataki are fellow New England GOP governors, but Pataki stuck around for 12 years for his Empire State constituents. He is pro-choice, but would defund Planned Parenthood. He supported “gay rights,” but what about all our rights recorded in the Constitution? He has been out of the running for too long.


So has former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. Who is this guy? Once again, the moderator explained all that we needed:

You ran for the White House once and lost. You ran for the Senate one time and lost. You haven't held public office in 13 years. Similar question, is it time for new blood?

Similar answer: Yes.

So, of the seven, who stood out?

Perry landed a great punch at Trump. Identifying his celebrity instead of his conservatism as the source of his rise, Perry thundered: “How can you run for the Republican nomination and be for single- payer health care?” Exactly.

Fiorina followed up a great comeback against Trump, too: “Well, I don't know. I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race.”

Jindal’s blunt remarks on foreign policy should leave on question about his agenda:

[U]nlike President Obama, I'll actually name the enemy that we confront. We've got a president who cannot bring himself to say the words "radical Islamic terrorism." [H]e loves to criticize America, apologize for us, criticize medieval Christians. How can we beat an enemy if our commander-in-chief doesn't have the moral honesty and clarity to say that Islam has a problem, and that problem is radical Islam?

PC need not apply with Jindal.

Fiorina identified the crucial need for cyber warfare, but not just against ISIS:

But let me just say that we also need down -- to tear down the cyber walls that China is erecting, that Russia is erecting.


Fiorina landed another great line, reasserting what this country is all about:

I am a conservative because I believe no one of us is any better than any other one of us. Every one of us is gifted by God, whether it is those poor babies being picked over or it's someone whose life is tangled up in a web of dependence. Progressives don't believe that. They believe some are smarter than others, some are better than others, so some are going to need to take care of others.

The former CEO channels Thatcher well. She understood the need to define the terms of the debate and your enemy, and you win every time.

I hope to see Fiorina, Jindal, and Perry make it into the top-tier very soon.


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