Guest Column: Let’s talk about Republican presidential politics


By Kyle Heim [email protected]

Instead of giving a speech, Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina answered questions from a group of people at Bridgehouse Coffee in Newton, Iowa, on June 25. 

Steffen Schmidt

Let’s talk Republican presidential politics.

First of all let me make it clear that the Wednesday’s political event at the Reagan Library in California was not a “debate.” Any event featuring four losers and 11 Republican wannabes at a “Happy Hour” panel in the afternoon, given one minute each and 30 seconds for rebuttal is really a “TweetBate”.

A debate has depth, a limited number of contenders and allows the contenders to seriously discuss real issues with each other.

As expected, it consisted of mostly snarky attacks and efforts at “gotcha!” CNN even said they wanted to see a fight among contenders. This debate was more like professional wrestling with verbal body slams and piledrivers. The question we all wanted to ask after it was all over was, “Which candidate suffered traumatic injuries; perhaps even mortal damage?” 

I was amazed how much of the debate was focused on immigration issues. Does this mean this is the biggest issue Americans want solved? Over ISIS, the economy and other issues? It was also unnerving to see Trump in the split screen in almost every comment by other candidates.

Here is the scorecard from the event, along with some food for thought.

The winner

The only woman in the field, former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina. “Trump is an entertainer.” “Fiorina jumped in without being asked – very well done.” She threw in lots of facts. She took a strong statement on Putin – “strength and resolve.”

Fiorina was very strong on foreign policy. And she was strong for the GOP base on abortion and Planned Parenthood “selling body parts.” Her defense of her role at HP was strong, but Trump gobsmacked her on her leadership at Lucent and HP.


Dr. Ben Carson – “Politicians do what’s expedient.” Carson remained calm but was not involved much in the debate. His idea that you don’t need to use force for every problem set him apart. His personal comments on illegal immigration were effective for the GOP audience. He again came across as relaxed and smart. His strategy of not attacking his opponent was very effective.

Chris Christie – He started out “I’m a Republican in New Jersey!” “I’m an outsider.” He was very forceful on Planned Parenthood. He made a great case for his prosecution of terrorists. “Let’s talk about the 55-year-old construction worker and middle class and not about your “childish back and forth” (between Fiorina and Trump.)”

He kept moving the debate back to the big issues and also emphasized his accomplishments. His personal story about 9/11 with his family was touching. He had a big presence, was conservative but could easily attract independent voters. 

The losers

The “Happy Hour” contenders have not connected with Republican voters after months of running, they are all finished and should drop out now. They are Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Graham won that early debate, but I don’t think he has a pulse.)

Scott Walker – Had a strong, aggressive attack on Trump. He did not have enough of a “presence” compared to the others. 

Participants who moved the ball

Marco Rubio – Ended his introduction with a water bottle and no applause. He had a strong statement on the Middle East. He was very passionate on the issue of immigration. He had some strong statements on foreign policy knowledge versus Trump’s knowledge about foreign leaders.

But overall, he still looked like the freshman in the group. Rubio’s excuse for why he missed so many votes was lame and almost eliminated him from this category.

Participants who didn’t move the ball

Surprisingly real estate mogul Donald Trump did not move the ball. In fact I almost placed him in the “loser” category. He did not dominate this debate. His slicing lines were “Rand Paul should not be on this stage!” “I am a businessman.” “I turned down millions and am only spending my own money.”

Hewitt asked about Obama’s “red line” on Assad in Syria. As frontrunner he seemed not to want to blow the lead but it came across as becoming a politician. “Looking weak.” Bringing up North Korea was brilliant. No one else wanted to talk about it. But Trump did not get the kind of applause he has in other debates.

Also second runner-up John Kasich – His statement about the need to get to the issues and not have a “pissing contest” was excellent. His comments on working with our allies on Iran did not produce applause. Kasich’s fight with Cruz was effective.

We can have a deal and if it’s broken we can use military action. “I balanced the federal budget.” “America’s gotta work.” He made a good case for working across parties.

Rand Paul – He took a sensible position on China. Engaging with the world was met with tiny applause. “Sometimes intervention [in Syria] makes the world less safe” 

Mike Huckabee – He was practically left out. His outrage about fetuses sold by Planned Parenthood was strong but was overshadowed by Fiorina.

Ted Cruz – On Iran he repeated the taking points of the Republicans. He took a strong position on Iran and “death to America.” Cruz was marginalized in the debate and was not given many opportunities to speak.

Jeb Bush – He was reasonable. He never seemed to brand himself. He still came across as the establishment favorite. Bush did a great job being optimistic on immigration and talked about values and got great applause. Bush was supposed to score big in this debate but he did not score that homerun. “My brother kept us safe” was his biggest hit, when Trump attacked W Bush.