According to an online poll and Politico’s “political insiders,” Senator Marco Rubio won or tied Donald Trump as the winner of last night’s Fox Business Network debate. But could he have done it without so much help from his pals at FBN?
At Salon, Simon Maloy nails how the moderators assisted, if they didn’t actually plan for, Rubio’s skate through the debate:
Going into the debate, the expectation was the Rubio – who is rising in the polls and emerging as something of a soft consensus candidate for the Republican establishment – would face the harsher scrutiny that comes with being a frontrunner. But that’s not what happened. The questions directed at Rubio by the moderators were invitations for him to launch into his talking points. Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief asked Rubio how, in an economy that is “undergoing transformation,” would he “reassure American workers that their jobs are not steadily replaced by machines.” Rubio recited the “21st century economy” portion of his stump speech. Maria Bartiromo teed up a question about Hillary Clinton’s resume and asked Rubio how he’ll beat her even though she’s been in politics so long. Rubio chuckled at the question (as he should have) and launched into the “this election is about the future” portion of his stump speech.
And then there were the questions Rubio wasn’t asked. Donald Trump was interrogated about his position on immigration, but Rubio – whose immigration apostasies have caused him trouble with conservatives – was not. Ted Cruz was pressed repeatedly on how he’d pay for his package of tax cuts, but Rubio – whose tax plan costs far more than Cruz’s – was not.
The only tough question Rubio fielded dealt with his proposal to expand the child tax credit, which Baker cast as “another expensive entitlement program to an already overburdened federal budget.” Rubio dodged the question entirely, saying that he loves families and is proud to have a pro-family tax plan. Hooray families! He likely would have gotten away with that had Rand Paul not jumped in and pointed out that Rubio’s expansion of the tax credit exists alongside his massive expansion of military spending, which isn’t very “conservative.” Paul had him dead to rights, but Rubio blustered his way out, calling Paul an “isolationist” and declaring “we can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe.” Rubio came nowhere close to answering Baker’s question or Paul’s challenge, and no one bothered to follow up and ask how Rubio would pay for new tax credits, pay for the military spending, pay for the tax cuts, and reduce the national debt he’s so worried about. It’s a massive contradiction at the heart of Rubio’s candidacy, but, in keeping with the evening’s theme, everyone just let it slide.
Sadly, in the fractured world of partisan realities, Republicans seemed to love Fox Business’ moderation. As John Amato noted in his debate wrap-up at Crooks and Liars, Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell (a Fox regular) called it a “HUGE success for Fox Business. Best event yet.” RNC head Reince Priebus gushed, “And that @CNBC is how you run a debate.” On the other hand, Ann Coulter seems to have had a moment of clarity. She tweeted, "Even the NYT noticed! ‘Sen Marco Rubio of Fla and the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, received a pass from the moderators on immigration..’"
Coulter also tweeted, “NYT noticed this, too: Rubio "repeatedly received questions that allowed him to answer with versions of his stump speech." Zzzzzzzzz.”
I rest my case.
D’OH! My bad.
“Last year, our state turnout was about 36%. That stinks. But the nuts came out and voted, and we got stuck with Bruce Rauner…….”
Pardon me Lakeview Greg — correct me if I’m wrong, but Bruce Rauner is the governor of Illinios, am I correct? You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT ON THE $$$$ about the importance of us working class folks not fortunate enough to “hit the birth lottery” voting next November. That’s why I have this bumper sticker on my car:
“NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF STUPID PEOPLE IN LARGE GROUPS”
Because like them or not, as you brilliantly pointed out, these nutjobs do one thing religiously, no matter what: THEY VOTE!
I agree with you. I was just saying that I preferred to see the candidates talking about the issues as opposed to questions like, “What’s your biggest weakness?”
You make a good point. But many of the questions were just softballs and some tough questions that should have been asked were not.
Turnout will be better in 2016, and the more people that vote, the more likely we will get a President who is not stark-raving crazy.
And we should note that during midterm elections, it’s been shown that white GOP voters tend to turn up with much more regularity. Occasionally, this can go another way – such as 2006, when Dems finally showed up for midterms and the GOP got a surprise.
You’re also correct that part of the purpose of all the “outrage” stories aired on Fox News and right wing radio has been to keep the base as lathered up as possible. (The other part of the purpose has had to do with establishing a counter-narrative of history, one where the right wing can point to their own signposts. And this website has served a valuable function in calling out Fox News for these attempts, preserving the behavior for the historical record, and showing what was missing from the right wing version of the story.)
In general elections, more people tend to show up, and again, it’s critical that Dems get voters to actually participate. In both 2008 and 2012, the GOP had a chance at winning, had the Dems not mobilized and turned out – and that’s despite the attempted hurdles the GOP tried to put in front of them. Voter ID being one of the most despicable scams we’ve heard, clearly designed to intimidate non-white Dem voters from voting.
In the situation where Dems are actually voting, like 2008 and 2012, the GOP is faced with a serious demographic problem. It’s one that has snuck up on them over the past 20 years. Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan could win the Presidency, primarily on the votes of white men – he didn’t need to count on female, black or Chicano votes. In 2016, we’re facing a very different voting group. There’s still a large bloc of white male votes – the older wedge of which tilts to the right. But there are also significant blocs of votes from women and other ethnicities. This was a big part of the reason everyone but Karl Rove knew to call Ohio for Obama when they did in 2012 – the areas that hadn’t been fully reported in were primarily non-white and it was known that those voters weren’t going to suddenly vote for Romney.
In this demographic situation, a GOP candidate must be able to mobilize ALL of his base voters and pretty much every other voter he can get. He needs to get all the usual GOP voters out, plus all the Fundamentalists, the hard right, the libertarians, and then even whatever is left of the independent votes. If he can pull that together, then yes, the GOP candidate can win. The problem these days is that Fox News and right wing radio have made it almost impossible to please the hard right and the Fundamentalists. In order to get that group to follow you, like Ted Cruz, you have to sacrifice everyone with common sense. Again, Reagan could get those votes, partly from being a generally appealing guy and partly from the demographic being more solidly white and male in 1980. And various scholars have noted the Reagan of the 1980 campaign probably couldn’t please the hard right today – he’s just not right wing enough for them. (We also have to keep in mind that right wing radio and Fox News have helped push the GOP farther over to the right than we’ve been since the 1950s.)
When the nonsense is finished from the GOP campaigns, we’ll have the usual middle-of-the-road candidate. The GOP base will once again need to decide if they wish to vote for a man who doesn’t stand with their harshest views of history and politics. And recent presidential elections have shown us that a chunk of that base will not vote for someone who doesn’t completely stay with them. The Romney campaign line about the “Etch-a-Sketch” moment was a true statement, but the right wing could not tolerate it. Hence, they didn’t show up. (The right wing has tried to spin this as the Fundamentalists not showing up due to Romney being a Mormon – but that doesn’t explain why the same hard right wing base didn’t turn out for McCain. The answer is that they want someone like a Ted Cruz or a Sean Hannity, and they won’t settle for anything but that.) Given that issue, the GOP candidate has to deal with not only not getting their own base, but also not getting much of the general vote that is not white, male and older.
On the other hand, if the GOP is foolish enough to actually nominate someone like Trump or Cruz to be their candidate, we’re looking at a landslide. Mainstream GOP voters will either vote against those candidates or stay home.
Candidate web sites are “substantive.” Stump speeches can be “substantive.” For example, Carly Fiorina channeling one of her standard stump speech spews she’s going to shrink the tax code to 3 pages is “substantive” and she even backed up her claim citing unnamed (of course) sources say it’s true.
However, FBN’s lapdog Republican moderators were so pathetic (personally, I’d say they were incompetent) in their jobs they didn’t ask her obvious questions like what’s left on those 3 pages? Who are the experts? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity? Or a serious, a non-partisan expert I can respect?
This isn’t me being a liberal hater wanting to tear Carly down. It’s obvious and important information which went wanting because FBN was so cowed by the Republican tantrums the press is too mean they just let the candidates fill up the stage with well prepared smoke screens.
What did I learn to contrast the candidates or evaluate them as a voter I couldn’t have gotten in a fraction of the time the FBN bore-fest took out of my life by just scanning their web sites? Seriously.
The issue is turnout. Fox News and right-wing hate radio have worked conservatives into a complete lather, particularly the far-right. They show up for elections as proved by the mid-terms. Everyone else? Not so much.
Obama has been able to get people out to the polls to get him elected. Can Hillary or Sanders?
A perfect example is my state senate race. I didn’t give Gecker, a Democrat, a chance in my gerrymandered district which is safely Republican. However, a Bloomberg gun control PAC pumped over a million dollars into the race so we had a slightly higher than normal turn-out. Which typically favors Democrats and, in this case, Gecker came within like 1,500 votes.
The problem that Rubio and all of the GOP candidates face is that they’ve alienated most of the electorate by pandering to right wing radio and outlets like Fox News. Yes, they can score cheap points with gotcha answers when they can get away with them – as they did on Fox Business – but they’re simply preaching to the converted. Everything I’ve seen demonstrates that the GOP is on its way toward nominating one of their usual candidates – someone who can sound like they’re closer to the center and thus attract someone outside the GOP base.
But the GOP has sadly driven away almost everyone who isn’t older, white and male. The GOP’s repeated vicious attacks on reproductive freedom and smears of Planned Parenthood have lost them the votes of most women. Their repeated smears of black families and attacks on black youth who have been killed have lost them nearly all black votes. Their repeated racial insults against Chicano voters have lost them most of that group. As Mitt Romney learned to his chagrin, you can’t win a general election if your only reliable voters are older, white and male.
From what I’m seeing, Fox News and right wing AM radio are well aware of this problem and may actually be counting on it. Because it always boosts numbers to claim you’re an opposition media resource.
Journalists trying to challenge these people, from what I’ve seen, gets absolutely nowhere. They know how to respond to deflect the challenge or change the subject or just plain deny, deny, deny.
I don’t think it’s appropriate for debate moderators to “fact-check” or correct these people in most circumstances, unless it’s to ask a follow-up like “Did you really mean to say that?” or words to that effect.
There’s a point at which you can’t save the voting public from rank ignorance. The voters are so polarized at this point, you really can’t do it if you try.
Great point about the moderators not correcting Trump.
One thing I liked about the debate was that everybody got a good amount of time to talk. And it was pretty substantive. Otherwise, I thought the moderators were toothless, just the way the RNC wanted.
Marco Rubio will not be elected President, and he has very little chance of even getting the nomination. The fact that even the right wingers can see that he was getting softball treatment just points this up. Keeping in mind that the GOP establishment does not plan to see Trump or Carson as a nominee, Rubio is an easy one to throw into the blender at them, even while disastrous publicity comes out once again about his financial problems.
I’m personally waiting to see Carson completely self-destruct, as he’s already started his descent. I’m thinking he’ll be on Clear Channel with a new radio show by the time of the GOP Convention next fall. Trump will be a more spectacular situation – I believe the GOP PACs will have a field day with his history, releasing some fun news stories in the middle of January – just in time to completely poison his chances in the early primaries. Rand Paul isn’t likely to make it very far, but I believe he’ll have made his point if he can get a stump moment at the convention. And I don’t even think Fiorina will make it out of the first three primaries. She’s already had her moment, just as Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich had their moments four years ago this time. Jindal, Santorum, Pataki, and Graham will all be out of the situation within the next month unless they find new money somewhere.
It should be interesting to watch Ted Cruz’ reaction when Huckabee drops out. Particularly if Fox News makes the announcement about rehiring Huckabee in short order – as that would block Cruz from the cushy spot he’s been angling to get. As for Cruz in the primaries, I’d give him maybe the first month before it all goes lopsided.
Rubio will try to stay in as long as he can, but he simply doesn’t have the record or stability of the older and more established candidates. Simply put, he should never have put himself in this position. He’ll be happy if he can simply retain a career in the Senate after this detour.
This leaves Kasich, Christie and Jeb Bush. Christie was given a last chance to shine by throwing him into the smaller debate, and it doesn’t look like he did so. Sadly for him, he’s saddled with problems on the left and the right. The left remembers his terrible behavior and mismanagement of New Jersey, including multiple public tantrums at union members and culminating with the bridgegate mess. The right will never forgive him for asking Obama’s help and allowing Obama to come to New Jersey after Sandy in 2012. Which means he will not be either the nominee or the eventual winner. And that leaves us with the two guys who have always been the most likely candidates in the GOP field – Bush and Kasich. I’d still put my money on Bush for the nomination, but he will have been so beaten up by the time he gets to the convention, I can’t imagine him being able to put up much of a campaign in the fall.
Truman, did you catch the comedy of the 3 stooges playing a game of who can dream up the most crackpot, unsustainable tax cuts?
Ben Carson – who once pimped a crazy 10% flat tax parroting Biblical tithing (then, as per his habit) claimed he never said it – opened the bidding at 15%. Not to be outdone, Rand (who has an eenie meenie miney moe approach with 3 budget plans) upped (or should I say dropped?) the bidding to 14.5%. Leave it to the craziest of the crazies on the stage, Ted Cruz, to not only do the insane 10% flat tax but he’s exempting income up to roughly $36,000. Of course, Ted will abolish the Department of Commerce twice to pay for it so there is that!
I hate being redundant but then there was the spectacle of The Donald raging on TPP and China when China has nothing to do with it.
None of this was challenged by the FBN moderators. Then, on cue, big brother Fox News has spent the entire day boasting how terrific the FBN moderators were. What a joke!
Yeah, the FBN debate was that softball. Pathetic!
Trump got completely embarrassed by Rand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the point he uncharacteristically shut his yapper. Know-nothing blowhard The Donald did an extended diaper fill over China and TPP. At the end, Rand chopped The Donald off at the knees pointing out China isn’t a part of it. What a moment! ;^)
But on the point of softballs, it seemed like the general theme of the FBN moderators. Maybe Rubio got more slow pitches but just like Rubio got a pass on the one question which wasn’t so much, I felt they all could dodge what was tossed their way. The moderators rarely did follow-ups. Maria, for example, did a couple like bothering to ask Carli (who simply does whatever prepared speech pops into her mind) to actually answer the question. Carli did in the quickest, broadest terms which really left the audience in the dark what the heck she’s talking about then launched another canned stump speech.
There were clashes on immigration and, to a small degree, on defense spending since Rand is so libertarian he’s out of the flag-waving mainstream and he clashed with some chickenhawks.
But the few brief moments which enlightened were drowned out by the FBN moderators trying to be pals with the candidates. The next FBN debate they can just have candidates stream canned campaign speeches. Yeah, it was pretty much that dreadful.