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So that wraps up our live blog of the undercard debate (check out our live blog of the main stage Republican debate).
Tonight’s festivities may be the last undercard debate of this campaign, so it’s worth noting just how amazing it is that we had these undercard contests at all. Could any of the undercard candidates have made more of a run if they’d been given equal footing with the main-stage candidates in all these debates? That’s hard to say, and something that will likely be studied. But using national polls to relegate some candidates in a presidential primary isn’t exactly beyond reproach.
Twelve percent of all the questions asked at the undercard debate were variants on “isn’t it a little ridiculous you’re still in the race.” By my count, just over half were on policy, and many of the rest were on the state of the campaign.
President Obama’s approval rating is now 46.9 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, his highest figure since June 2013. His approval rating exceeds his disapproval rating in several recent polls, which has been a rarity for most of his second term.
It’s probably just a random fluctuation, or a result of the solid jobs numbers recent. But who knows: Maybe Obama looks a little better in comparison to the unpopular set of candidates they’ve been seeing and hearing so much from lately.
Huckabee isn’t “feeling the Bern.” That shouldn’t be too surprising given that he is a Republican. What I’d like to know is who are the 13 percent of self-identified Republicans who had a positive view of socialism in a November 2015 CBS News/New York Times survey.
One reason Gilmore took so long — all his time before and through the bell — prefacing his call to not scapegoat Muslims with a condemnation of radical Islam: Many Americans have negative views of Muslims. An ABC News/Washington Post poll last month found that 28 percent of Americans think mainstream Islam encourages violence, double the proportion in January 2002. And 14 percent in the poll last month said Muslims experience discrimination that is justified.
Jim Gilmore mentioned early on in the debate that he’s the only one in the race with military service. That’s smart: According to the Pew Research Center, a candidate with military experience is more appealing to Republicans than he or she is for Democrats. Veterans are no strangers to the White House. Veterans Affairs has recorded that 26 out of 44 U.S. presidents served in the military, the most recent president to have served being George W. Bush, who was in the Air Force reserve during the Vietnam War.
Carly Fiorina’s I’m-the-only-other-woman-in-this-race tone has curdled a bit — this is the second debate in a row in which she’s talked a whole lot of smack about Clinton on a personal level. The moderators asked her why she made a snide comment last debate that at least she still liked hanging out with her husband (implication, Hillary Clinton doesn’t). Fiorina basically doubled down and suggested that Clinton stayed with her husband out of ambition and that she, Fiorina, would have left her spouse had he done the things that Bill Clinton did. Not exactly the highest tone for the debate.
“The woman should be prosecuted” was the midpoint of a long set of attacks on Hillary Clinton by Carly Fiorina. In the beginning, the crowd seemed a bit uncomfortable, but by the end, they were cheering heartily. This circles back to the question of whether a female candidate can mount a direct attack that includes a discussion of infidelity more easily than a man. What do folks think on that score?
Fiorina said, “Listen, if my husband did what Bill Clinton did, I would have left him long ago,” and most Americans agree. When Gallup asked if people would forgive a cheating spouse, 38 percent said they would definitely not forgive their partner, and an additional 26 percent said they would probably not be able to forgive the affair. Only 10 percent said they would definitely forgive their wandering spouse.
Don’t look now, but there are finally signs of Gilmentum.
Through the first 40 minutes of the debate, Jim Gilmore is the most searched-for Republican candidate among the four of them on stage, according to Google Trends. We took a screencap to preserve the moment for history.
Santorum rails against the corporate income tax, which he says makes the U.S. uncompetitive. Lots of economists would agree. The U.S. taxes companies at a higher rate than most developed nations but then provides lots of loopholes that let corporations — especially big, well-connected ones — pay rates much lower than the statutory rate. A more sensible approach would likely be to lower the rate but provide fewer ways around it.
At the top of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of high-growth occupations: personal care aides. They make an average of only $20,440 per year. That speaks to two things: 1) the aging of America and the growing need for caregivers and 2) the low general compensation for caregiving, which has become the focus of analysts and organizers like MacArthur “genius” award winner Ai-jen Poo. What we’ve seen thus far in the debate includes many moderator questions framing the issue of jobs in the context of related issues, like taxation. We have not heard any candidates talk about the rising cadre of lower-earning workers in societally important fields like caregiving and how their fortunes will be affected by the policies in question.
I don’t want to be snarky, but sometimes I wonder why some people think it’s a good idea to run for president. With the exception of Huckabee, all the candidates on this stage were blown out in their last run for statewide office. Santorum lost his 2006 race for Senate in Pennsylvania by 17 percentage points. Gilmore lost his 2008 race for Senate in Virginia by 31 percentage points. Fiorina lost her 2010 race for Senate in California by 10 percentage points.
A reminder: Governors don’t have much control over their states’ economic records.
Even though Gilmore isn’t getting as many questions as the other candidates, he is drawing lots of search interest on Google, along with Fiorina, dwarfing the other, more familiar candidates on stage with them. Meanwhile, the other candidates who have agreed to take the stage for the main debate later tonight are all being outsearched, as usual, by Donald Trump by an enormous margin.
Mike Huckabee says we’ve lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000 — that’s true. But believe it or not, the federal government hasn’t grown in that time; in fact, federal government employment is down slightly since 2000. (Those weird spikes are temporary workers hired to conduct the decennial census.)
Gilmore isn’t wrong to ask if he was skipped. He’s gotten two questions so far, half as many as Fiorina and Santorum (four each), while Huckabee just got number five.
The most memorable undercard moment: Fiorina emerging out of the first JV debate, then being really good in her first varsity debate, then pretty much disappearing. It was like when a 13-seed sneaks into the Sweet Sixteen and then loses to Kentucky by 46 right when everyone’s getting excited about them.
My favorite moments generally come from the candidates who just don’t care about winning. I’m talking about Lindsey Graham and Jim Gilmore. Graham, of course, had a lot more of those moments because he has been on the stage more. Yet, Gilmore hasn’t been afraid to attack Donald Trump tonight either.
I’m not sure I remember any.
No, I take that back. I think Lindsey Graham’s performance in the last one was notable — it was only a couple of days before he dropped out, and he was really taking people to task for being irresponsible and damaging the party with their rhetoric.
This may be the final undercard debate of this campaign (if Iowa winnows the field, as we expect it will); so, what’s been your favorite moment of the undercard debates so far? What’s been the most influential?
Huckabee said candidates can’t win Iowa “unless you go out and talk to farmers and housewives and welders and unemployed truck drivers.” That doesn’t really describe Iowa’s economy these days: “Nearly 40 percent of Iowans now work in finance, in real estate or for companies involved in professional services such as health care, law and accounting,” about 10 times the proportion who work in agriculture, Daniel Lathrop wrote on our website last month.
Rick Santorum, unsurprisingly, spent a lot of time talking about “radical Islam” in response to a question about terrorism. But what you might not realize is that he’s also made it a focal point of his campaign. When we saw him in Iowa a few weeks ago, he spent two-thirds of his remarks talking about foreign policy with most of the focus on ISIS and Iran.
One way to interpret this: Islam is the new “culture war” issue on the right, as much as abortion or gay marriage. That may be why Santorum and Mike Huckabee are cozying up to Donald Trump.
Here’s an article from Wired that explains why it’s not as simple as Huckabee makes it sounds to remove ISIS from major social-media platforms.
Carly Fiorina just went after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the importance of climate change. That’s not really much of a surprise. Just 20 percent of Republicans think global climate change is a very serious problem, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. That contrasts with the 68 percent of Democrats who think it is a very serious problem.