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The undercard debate is over. The main stage debate is about to begin. Move on over to our main stage Republican debate live blog (please).
I’ve seen a lot of glib comments about this undercard debate, in our comments section, on Twitter and elsewhere. The glibness, in my opinion, is a manifestation of two facts: This campaign is about to go into overdrive after the Christmas/New Year’s break, and these four candidates, combined, are earning less than 5 percent. It’s unlikely that anything in tonight’s undercard changed that. Outside of Huckabee or Santorum winning back born-again/evangelical Iowans they won in 2008 and 2012 respectively, none of these candidates stands much of a chance to be any sort of player in this presidential race for much longer.
This sequence of undercard debates says a lot about how people consume news. Most people will never watch these undercard debates. At best, they’ll read an article or see a post with a video clip. The question is: What is the value to most citizens of watching the undercard debate? And more broadly, does anyone measure the differences between debate-watchers and the non-debate-watching majority in terms of how they process the political race?
Less glibly: I’m curious why Mike Huckabee has made so little impact on this campaign, because he’s probably the only one of the four candidates on stage who had more than a 1 percent chance of winning the nomination when the race began. I don’t have a good answer to that question about Huckabee, but it’s an interesting question. He was a pretty good candidate in 2008 and started the race with reasonably high favorability ratings.
I agree with Leah — the candidates clearly wished they could argue with people other than each other. Instead they competed to sound the most hawkish and the most mawkish about protecting their descendants and yours.
Well, this debate didn’t do much to ease Americans’ fears about Islamic State — we had several allusions to attacks being planned at this very moment. I think it mostly just added to the general atmosphere of paranoia that’s dominating the GOP primary.
I would have enjoyed this debate more if Rand Paul hadn’t made it to the main stage. This was a competition to see who could say “I will kill them” most often, and it would have been more interesting with someone taking the other side of the issue.
Final thoughts on the undercard debate? Or thoughts on the final undercard debate? Because if this is the final undercard debate, my thoughts are that I’m happy.
Final thoughts on the undercard debate?
Ben, you’re right about illegal immigration overall, but Santorum was talking specifically about unaccompanied minors, whose immigration has spiked in recent months, which is worrying since it usually slows in the fall and winter. Not only does that create a burden on shelters, it will also add to the growing backlog of pending cases in U.S. immigration courts.
Lots of talk about how we can’t screen refugees, which isn’t quite true. Here’s a look at an overview of the process of vetting refugees who come to the United States — it’s a pretty rigorous look. That said, right now, the U.S. doesn’t look at the social media presence of say, people who come to the country on a tourist visa. There are certainly gaps in intelligence. But back on the point of refugees, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, there’s no real connection or historical evidence that being a refugee means that you’re going to be a terrorist once you come to the U.S. It’s pretty unlikely.
Rick Santorum says we’ve “created a magnet” for illegal immigration. But the real magnet was the strong labor market of the 1990s and 2000s — and once that ended, immigration slowed dramatically. According to the Pew Research Center, more Mexicans are now leaving the U.S. than entering it. And net illegal immigration has fallen more or less to zero in recent years.
Rick Santorum’s assertion that there are “four times as many acts of violence against Jews than there are against Muslims, and I never hear the president talk about that” raised eyebrows in the office, but he’s basically right. The FBI logged 648 victims of anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2014 and only 184 victims of anti-Muslim attacks.
Excuse my New York City-centric viewpoint, but Mike Huckabee just implied in the debate that the Upper East Side of Manhattan is a liberal bastion. He’s wrong. In the 2013 mayoral election, Democrat Bill de Blasio lost the Upper East Side to Republican Joe Lhota, despite de Blasio’s winning by 49 percentage points citywide. I believe Huckabee was referring to the Upper West Side, which de Blasio won by 49 percentage points.
If George Pataki sounds out of touch with contemporary Republicans … it may be because his part of the country has shifted away from the GOP as much as pretty much anywhere else in the U.S. In 1980, when Pataki was first elected mayor of Peekskill in Westchester County, New York, Westchester County voted for Ronald Reagan by 19 percentage points over Jimmy Carter. In 2012, Westchester County voted for Barack Obama by 25 percentage points over Mitt Romney. And in Peekskill itself, Obama won the 2012 election by 44 percentage points.
Life expectancy in Syria has fallen 20 years since the start of fighting, from a robust 74 years just three years ago. This photo speaks to the level of desperation on the ground — giving context to the reason people are fleeing.
The vast majority of Republican governors — but not Democratic ones — agree with Santorum and Pataki that the U.S. shouldn’t accept refugees from Syria under the current refugee-vetting system.
The debate over how the U.S. negotiates with terrorists who have taken hostages has been a really sore point with the Obama administration, and Huckabee just got that question. This Lawrence Wright piece in The New Yorker covers in depth (very in depth, it’s about 20k words!) the struggle behind the scenes by various families to save their children — all of them died — by trying to semi-circumvent the U.S. policy on negotiating with terrorists.
Bowe Bergdhal, who is charged with deserting his post and is facing a court-martial, is also the subject of the new season of record-shattering podcast Serial. Now some analysts are questioning whether the rollout of the podcast will affect his military court case.
Dan McLaughlin pointed out on Twitter that Graham is the only candidate in this undercard debate to win an election since 2002. That, of course, is a sign of their political stagnation. Let me just add that Graham won just 56 percent in the 2014 South Carolina Republican primary for Senate, which is quite weak for an incumbent senator.
The studies that Rick Santorum cited to defend reversing the policy that integrates women into elite combat units included one that found that 85 percent of those surveyed in U.S. Special Operations Command opposed letting women into their jobs — for reasons including, but not limited to, “I think PMS is terrible, possibly the worst. I cannot stand my wife for about a week out of the month for every month. I like that I can come to work and not have to deal with that.”
The party, not deciding:
I think these are also previews of what these notable Republicans and those like them might say if they end up campaigning for the ticket, speaking at the convention or even, long shot, running as VP.
Rothenberg is right that this undercard debate will have little effect on the horse race, but I think Clare is also right: It is an interesting measure of where the Republican Party stands on these issues. A couple of years ago the GOP seemed like it was becoming more dovish. That seems like a long time ago listening this evening.
Farai, I think this debate’s merit in some ways is the amount that the candidates are hammering away on Syria, the ground troops question, etc. They’re digging into it in a non-soundbite way, I think (at least by debate standards). So, it’s a food for thought hour and change, maybe something for the Big Debate moderators to question the real candidates with.
So, just to get meta for a second, following Carl … what does this debate do, FiveThirtyEight team, and for whom? Will this be the last undercard? Thinking of:
To follow up on the question Harry answered before: Based on the formula we use in our Senate forecasts, Cruz’s strongly conservative views would cost the Republicans a net of about 5 percentage points relative to a more moderate, Mitt Romney-esque Republican. That’s a pretty big deal, but not so much that Cruz couldn’t overcome it if national conditions were really poor for Democrats.
Lots of talk of bullies today: ISIS is a bully, Huckabee said, that could be intimidated by being the strongest kid in grade school; Vladimir Putin is a bully, George Pataki said, who could be thwarted with a metaphorical punch in the face. Americans can get behind an anti-bully campaign: In a Rasmussen Reports poll last year, 55 percent of Americans said bullying was a bigger problem than in the past; just 17 percent thought the problem had diminished.