Candidates Versus Moderators

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield
From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

So much for the hope that the prime time debate of Republican presidential candidates would be as substantial as the earlier 2nd tier debate.

In the first hour or so, what we got was a lot of back and forth between the wannabes and the moderators, with the crowd lapping it up like a dog going after water.

Most notably was Ted Cruz stopping everything to have a “come to Jesus” moment with the CNBC mods. Cruz accused the panel of trying to pit the candidates against each other rather than asking questions of substance. He noted that the Democratic wannabes faced softball questions during the love fest with moderators from CNN, who would never vote in a Republican primary.

That is not to say there has not been some meat put on the table.

There was not much applause, a few giggles, but Mike Huckabee had a great analogy on the government involved in the lives of Americans. The Huck compared the government to the blimp which got loose from the proving grounds in Maryland today. Huck noted that it was full of gas and cost too much to get rid of – so the government had to keep it.

Time again the GOP hopefuls would throw in the difference with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders taking the country farther down the wrong road. They also claimed a continuation in electing either Democrat as a third term for President Barack Obama.

All of the candidates were adamant about less federal government. All the candidates focused on securing the borders, keeping America safe and taking care of its citizens. All of the candidates were for reducing taxes and revamping the current tax code.

Carly Fiorina noted that the parties have been talking reform for years and nothing ever happens. She said we needed someone who could get the job done.

On Medicare and Social Security, all agreed on saving and reforming both systems. All seemed to come down on keeping the system in tact for current recipients, but for younger workers a new program must be implemented.

Chris Christie, with good applause, came down on the moderators when the question was asked about fantasy football. Christie berated the moderators for asking such a question when the nation is at war with ISIS and Al Qaeda and other major concerns while the candidates were talking fantasy football.

Dr. Ben Carson stayed steady throughout. He skillfully rebutted questions that seemed to be more “gotcha” than substance. At one point when asked about a company putting is image below its logo on its website and if that was indicative of his judgment, the crowd erupted in a loud “boo”.

Rand Paul attempted to elicit his ties to the Liberty Movement during questioning. He answered many questions well.

There was a moment when Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio got in a tiff over Rubio’s lack of votes in the Senate this year. In fact, Bush told Rubio, his Senator, to either resign or show up for votes.

Donald Trump was not the loud mouthed, braggart he normally is on the campaign trail. He was more subdued and even complimentary of the other candidates, including Carson who has toppled him from the #1 spot in a recent national poll.

John Kasich pointed out over and over his record in Ohio. Kasich also noted he helped to get the nation to a balanced budget while in Congress.

I have to say tonight, no one candidate was a major standout outdistancing the other. All 10 of the GOP wannabes came across as thoughtful, on target and versed on the issues facing the nation.

If I have to choose a winner, I would be hard pressed. They pretty much all stood out to me. There were no major or even minor gaffes.

Supporters of each of the candidates will be crowing about how well their candidate did.

Detractors are still going to look down their noses.

For the undecided, most, like me, will remain undecided.

From the Cornfield, the question now is who will drop out before the next debate?

Did Bush do a good enough job to satisfy the big donors? 

Did Trump’s more laid back mannerisms reverse his downward slump and get Iowans to change their minds again? 

Will Carson momentum continue?

Will Paul see his fortune change?

Will Paul and Rubio break their tie in the polls? If so, which will get the biggest bump?

Did Kasich or Christie finally catch fire?

Will Fiorina get her wish to debate Clinton in a woman-to-woman face-to-face?

Full Course Meal Served By 2nd Tier

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield
From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

The unlikely-to-win, 2nd tier Republican candidates for President served up a full seven course meal within the first half hour of their debate in Boulder, Colorado.

Will the top tier candidates do the same when they face off later this evening?

Lindsey Graham at the half hour point served up the biggest laugh to that time noting that Hillary Clinton thought she was broke after eight years in the White House. He went on to add that Bernie Sanders honeymooned in the Soviet Union and never came back.

The kicker: “If we can’t win against them, who the hell are we gonna beat?”

Graham also said he was tired of telling voters things the party was going to do which the candidates knew was never going to happen.

Graham seemed to have a problem with time.Then again Graham has never been known to keep quiet.

George Pataki kept trying to get in the discussion and saying that those who have served in Washington – Santorum and Graham – are used to talking over each other and he was not. 

All four of the candidates are in favor of cutting the corporate tax rate from the current 35% as a way of bringing jobs back from overseas.

After 45 minutes, Santorum has stayed on topic – the economy and answered each question succinctly. He has yet to interject his main focus – social issues – unlike Graham who finds a way to insert rebuilding the military at every turn.

Jindall, though having served as a Representative in Congress before becoming Governor in Louisiana, framed each of his answers in terms of his gubernatorial tenure. His boasting of how he cut spending in Louisiana will likely come back to bite him, if by some fluke, he makes it all the way to the party convention next summer.

That record is questionable.

Breaking with most Republicans, both Pataki and Graham acknowledged that carbon emissions, greenhouse gases are a problem. Both believe the issue must be addressed. Both also said they want to find a solution that does not wreck the economy. 

Just before the first hour was completed, Santorum found a way to bring up a stable, straight family was necessary for the economy.

Unlike the next, prime time debate, the 2nd tier only had an hour to debate. Then again there will be 10 debating at 8 p.m. compared to only four in this debate.

All the candidates acquitted themselves well. All the candidates did a fine job of staying on the issues and presenting their responses to the questions asked.

My winner?

Once again Graham came out on top. Yes, I know he has no chance for the win in June.

Coming in second, also tilting at windmills. was Pataki.

Jindal did better than I expected and, in my opinion, bested Santorum.

From the Cornfield, while there was not the reality show moments and there was no slinging mud at each other, the candidates gave informed voters much to dine on and to ponder.

One can only hope the “stars” will provide as much policy information and less bashing each other.

Debate Night – What Can We Expect?

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield
From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

Tonight is debate night for the Republicans who want to be the next President of the United States in Boulder, Colorado hosted by CNBC.

There will be two debates: one for the bottom four wannabes and one for the top 10. The prime time event will kick off at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time). The second tier debate will be three hours earlier.

What can we expect from the contenders tonight?

Hopefully with a them of the economy, there will be substance and discussion of what the 14 still in the race will do to try and create a robust financial future for voters and the nation.

More likely what we are to get is a mud fest with each of the wannabes trying to see who can come out the cleanest and less sullied.

With the sudden rise of Dr. Ben Carson to the lead nationally in the latest poll and besting Donald Trump by growing margins in Iowa, Trump will most likely turn his amazement that he could be in second place into an attempted character assassination of Carson.

If true to form, do not expect much of any consequence on economic policy from Trump.

Carson has put out some information on his economic plan, but it is rather sketchy compared to the more wonkish Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Carson will most likely not contribute much in way of hard details and likely not try to deflect the punches being thrown by Trump.

Rubio has been steadily building his momentum, but still far down in the polls compared to the two front runners. Marco will most likely place a platter with more meat than many of the other candidates. But there may be more than most voters can digest and may walk away from the table without finishing the course. Holding his own is Ted Cruz, who continues to slowly build support among Evangelicals.

Cruz is finding it increasingly more difficult to find a voice or a platform in the Senate with his continual blasts at his party’s leadership and other GOP Senators. The Cruz economic plan is simple – cut taxes, cut taxes and filibuster (if given the chance) anything and everything that is not his own idea.

Jeb Bush, growing more frustrated as each day dawns, has a plan and has the chops to present an economic future, but may be too bruised to do more than lick his wounds.

Will Bush be all business or will he more interested in lashing out at Trump and his protege, Rubio?

Mike Huckabee will be Huck. Expect Huckabee to turn every question into an opening to press a social engineering position.

Another candidate who is becoming disgusted with this primary season is John Kasich. Kasich has the experience both in Congress with a good record and as Governor of the pivotal State of Ohio, but cannot seem to get traction.

Will his more centered and moderate views carry any weight in the room?

Carly Fiorina will undoubtedly have answers to the questions with details on how to change the economy over the four years until the next election. But do expect to see Fiorina use any opportunity she can to lambaste Hillary Clinton and point out she is the better woman in the race.

Rand Paul indignation has been showing. Out of step with the rest of the field on America’s role in the world, Paul cannot believe that inheriting the mantle of his father, Dr. Ron Paul, has not inspired the loyalty and enthusiasm of the Liberty Movement to catapult him to number one or two in Iowa. Expect Paul to look more like a petulant child not getting his way tonight.

Chris Christie, an early on favorite, has seen his likeability erode after the Washington Bridge scandal. While Christie will vaunt his policies as Governor in New Jersey, he will likely fail to generate any support or enthusiasm for his candidacy. 

The most substance may actually occur in the under card debate between Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Bobby Jindal.

For the second time, Jim Gilmore failed to qualify even for the kids’ table.

Each of the bottom tier will without doubt stick to the matter at hand and provide a lot to feast on when it comes to the economy.

Will Graham once more show up the other three as he did in the last debate?

Can Santorum get past the social issues long enough to show he is more than a one-trick pony?

Pataki, a three-term New York Governor, tends to be the most liberal in the race which has made him a no-see with most voters in the Republican primary corral.

Can he translate his experience into a bigger asset than the deficit of where he stands on social issues?

Jindal will try and stand on his record dealing with the economy in Louisiana during his tenure as Governor. But many see that record as less than stellar when it comes to the economic non-turn around in the Pelican State.

From the Cornfield, do not expect to see a World Series performance tonight if you tune into the GOP debate. Expect to see more of a Jerry Springer episode instead.

Pluck the Political Tares

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield
From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

How appropriate that the number of people seeking to be President of the United States continues to shrink this October night.

It is fall when the wind begins to winnow the chaff.

Earlier this week, Jim Webb pulled out of the Democratic race. Today, it was Lincoln Chafee.

A couple of weeks ago it was Scott Walker pulling out of Republican consideration after Rick Perry led the way a couple of weeks before that.

Growing in the field along with the sturdy, maturing crops are weeds and tares as of tonight which need to be pulled up and cast on the burn pile.

Last evening it was reported that one-time presumed Republican shoo-in, Jeb Bush, has begun to cut staff pay. Rather than sprouting, Bush has become a tumbleweed unable to get root.

Time for this Bush to be mowed down.

The field is quickly being pruned for the final four. This year, on the GOP side, it will be the last man standing.

Sorry, but Carly Fiorina has seen her time come and go. She did strong in the debates. She got a short-lived bump.

Then she did a Michelle Bachman with her grasping hold and not letting go of an abortion video. Turned out, she was in error about that video.

Her numbers are now sinking like a concrete block.

I cannot see her recovering. Time for the pruning shears.

The bottom five: Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Linsey Graham and Bobby Jindal; are blowing in the wind. Time to become riders on the storm into the sunset.

This brings us to Rand Paul and Chris Christie, who like seed planted in stony, shallow dirt sprouted quickly. They both are now withering in the autumn sun.

Time to dig up and replant in the next growing season.

Mike Huckabee, who has managed to stay in the middle of the tilled ground, has been revealed to be more of a mutant grain, leaving a bitter taste. Like a crab apple, except to bake in pie, he has no wide appeal.

Huckabee fell from the tree never to rise again. Time to turn to mash before the rot begins to stink.

Finally we come to the four, I believe, will be the contenders for the Republican top spot: Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Even with these four, we are starting to see blemishes marring the fruit. The occasional bug is burrowing in the pulp.

The two most palpable to the general public are Carson and Rubio.

Trump and Cruz both appeal to more selective palates.

Over at the Democratic farm, Martin O’Malley needs pulled up by the roots. Clinton and Bernie Sanders are the crops getting voters hungry and licking their lips.

From the Cornfield, we are near the 100-day mark before Iowans gather in groups in barns, farmhouses, churches and halls to make their voice heard.

Both parties and the candidates need to reassess the field.

Time to harvest the best to feed to voters starting in February.

Benghazi – No New Answers, No Objectivity

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield
From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is at this moment continuing to answer questions from the House Select Committee investigating the deadly September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

After listening all day to nearly 10 hours of testimony, so far, what has been revealed are no new answers and no objectivity.

The biggest issue at this point in time I see is the road block set up by the lack of objective questioning and unobjective defense from both Republicans and Democrats.

Everyone has stated that what is being sought is the truth. Yet, from what I have witnessed today, truth continues to be elusive in large part due to the defensive and offensive positions drawn by members from both sides of the aisle.

Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, has stated that truth is paramount and there is no aim of bringing Clinton down in a partisan witch hunt.

Ranking member Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings has stated that he wants the truth and nothing but the truth.

Subsequently today, both have seemed to be closed-minded and not interested in the truth. Their rank-and-file members have followed their lead.

Republicans have come across as out-to-get Clinton, even though the GOP members have raised some interesting and some needed questions.

Democrats have mostly come across as being too quick to buy in to the “gotcha meme” about Republicans and too quick to throw up walls of protection for Clinton, while downplaying the need to find the answers to necessary questions.

But not all partisans are being so partisan.

For example, Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth has raised and solicited some good inquiries. Clinton, however, has not been so open in answering the questions from her fellow Democrat.

Before this evening is over will we really know anything we didn’t know before?

It is doubtful.

From the Cornfield, yes, there are lingering questions.

Yes, there continues to be a lack of transparency – not just from Clinton, but the Administration of President Barack Obama.

But –

Republicans have latched on like a snapping turtle waiting for a thunder clap with their eyes shut.

There will be no answers.

There will be no truth.

There will be no solace for the victims’ families and loved ones.

Until our politicians put aside the partisan rancor and put on the glasses of objectivity, we may have to wait for history to provide the answers we need.

Iron Cage Free-for-All – Dems Debate

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield
From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

The expected yawn turned out to be more like a mixed martial arts iron cage free-for-all as the five presidential wannabes took to the stage for the first Democratic presidential debate.

Right from the start Lincoln Chafee came out swinging with a sly insinuation about front runner Hillary Clinton noting that he had been around in politics for over 30 years without any hint or accusation of scandal.

From there the fists and the kicks kept coming.

Most of the punches thrown were at Clinton, who kept trying to deflect by swinging at her long-time foil, the Republican Party.

All five, Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Webb and Lincoln Chafee all acquitted themselves well.

The weakest of the lot, to me, was Chafee. He also, I believe, had the least amount of speaking time. But when he spoke, he did not inspire any desire to follow him down the yellow brick road.

Clinton time and again seemed to base her right to be the next president because she is a woman. In fact that was what she noted would make sure if she won it would not be a third term for President Barack Obama.

Sanders was Sanders, He came across knowledgeable of the issues and attempted to lessen people’s concern about him being a democratic socialist. Sanders even came to the aid of Clinton saying that the American people are tired of hearing about the email server which has the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigating her and the use of the private server.

O’Malley tried, but failed in my opinion, to jump the questions raised about his term as mayor of Baltimore. He did his best to justify his policy of no-tolerance on criminals and jailing 100,000 people in one year. O’Malley denied his policies were to blame for the riots and unrest that erupted following the death of Freddie Gray.

To me, Webb was the most centrist and moderate of those on the stage. He seemed to have a better grip on foreign policy and the dangers America is facing around the world. However, Webb seemed out of step with the Democrats in the hall and the other candidates on the stage.

Except for Webb, there seemed to be a jockeying going on to see who could be the most liberal and the farthest to the left.

Who won?

Personally, I was more enamored with Webb’s responses.

But for the room, I would say a toss-up between Sanders and O’Malley. Yet for the pundits and media, Hillary is still the darling.

The clear loser was Chafee. Do not expect him to be around for the next debate November 4 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Due to his more moderate positions, Webb may not be there as well. He is not where the Democratic Party is at now.

The differences between the candidates, except Webb, were paper thin.

Except that both Sanders and especially O’Malley are very much for a return to the Glass-Steagall Act which would separate commercial banks from the more free-willing, more risky investment banking. Clinton, on the other hand, is not for a return to the bill that was rescinded and allowed to expire in 1999.

The biggest refrain at the debate was on income inequality. Over and over the wannabes talked of taxing the rich more and spreading the wealth around through profit sharing, higher wages with a minimum of $15 per hour, free college, lower student loan debt.

Neither Sanders nor O’Malley wanted to repeat the mistakes on the campaign trail when asked if black lives matter or do all lives matter. Both focused on the lives of blacks and ignored the last part of the question. If you recall O’Malley had to apologize for saying all lives matter earlier this year.

But don’t think because Sanders was nice enough to say no one wanted to hear any more about Clinton’s email scandal, the gloves were off. Several times punches landed on Clinton, who smiled, ignored and shook it off as if saying, “You can’t touch this.”

From the Cornfield, while I did not hear much I can agree with on the way the Democratic candidates want to take the country, the discussion was lively and informative.

Of the five, I could vote for Webb, but he will never make it to the convention and maybe not even to Iowa or New Hampshire.

Clinton in her responses actually answered the question posed by moderator Anderson Cooper, which she deftly batted away, on whether she changed her responses and stands on issues for political expediency.

The revelation – yes, she does.

What I will say about Sanders is you know what you are getting and where you stand with him. That is a plus.

Geldings Versus Stallions

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield
From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

For the first time, five Democrats wanting to be the party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2016 will square off to debate in Las Vegas, Nevada at 8:30 p.m. (Eastern Time), hosted by CNN.

What will be is a short race between three geldings, who have yet to be able to produce much support, and the two stallions racing across the nation spawning fans wherever they go.

The question becomes if any of the three – Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb or Lincoln Chafee – can reverse fortunes and breakout from the back pack as some of their Republican rivals did in the previous GOP debates.

This morning shortly before noon that seems doubtful. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive front runner, and Bernie Sanders, challenging the lead, are both galloping so far ahead that it is hard to see how any of the three will be able to come with a withers of the pair of steeds.

The dark horse in the race remains Joe Biden, who has yet to give a definitive decision on whether he is staying in the stall or will step up to the gate. His entry could change the dynamics of what currently is a Clinton-Sanders runaway.

O’Malley seems to have the best chance to gain a bit of momentum. But there are hurdles in his legacy as mayor of Baltimore he will need to clear.

Webb appears to be trapped in a web of his own making. His non-campaign campaign has no get-up-and-go. He is the jockey kicking and whipping his mount, which refuses to move out of the gate.

A former Republican who served as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, Webb later served as a Democratic Senator from Virginia. Prior to his civil service, he was a decorated Marine.

Webb has the executive experience, the legislative know-how, the chops for leading the troops, but he is coming across more as General George McClellan, intent on setting up defenses and standing put rather than engaging the enemy.

Chafee, former Republican Governor of Rhode Island, left the GOP to be an independent. Now, he is trying to revive his political fate as a Democrat. Chafee is surely chafing from riding his horse bareback as he chases the mustangs out-distancing him in the cross-country trek.

Will tonight’s debate produce any surprises?

Will Clinton or Sanders pull a muscle, come up short, falter along the way?

Can O’Malley put Webb and Chafee away from the slimmest of contention?

Will either Webb or Chafee pull out all the stops and flank the front runners?

How much substance will we hear?

Will anyone try and dismount Clinton?

Will all go unscathed or will anyone feel the Bern?

From the Cornfield, looking through the stalks beginning to shrivel, it looks as if tonight’s derby may be more splash than place.