Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Live-blogging the Republican debate on the economy

I'll be live-blogging tonight's debate, which is supposed to focus on the economy. This is the first 2016 Republican debate without Scott Walker, so there should be more of a clear-cut opposition between Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

As always, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly, so they might not be exactly verbatim, but I'll try to make them reasonably accurate (and I might go back and correct some of them later).

For other live-blogging, check out National ReviewTPMAlthouse (my mom), and Alex Knepper.

[Watch the debate here.]

[Here's the transcript.]

[Added later:] The debate took forever to start. Nicholas Kristof quips:

The presidential debate is starting at 8 pm, CNBC time.
8:17 — It's finally starting.

8:19 — The moderator asks all the candidates: "What is your biggest weakness, and what are you doing to address it?" John Kasich says "Good question," but doesn't answer the question — instead, he just attacks the other candidates and argues that he's better.

8:20 — Mike Huckabee's biggest weakness: "I try to live by the rules."

8:20 — Jeb Bush: "I am by my nature impatient, and this is not an endeavor that rewards that." Also, he "can't fake anger," but this process "rewards" it.

8:21 — Rubio's biggest weakness is "optimism."

8:21 — Donald Trump: "I trust people too much . . . and if they let me down, I find it hard to forgive."

8:22 — Ben Carson's biggest weakness was that he didn't see himself as president until lots of people told him he should be president.

8:22 — Fiorina says, with a big smile, that what other people said was her weakness in the last debate was that she didn't "smile" enough. [VIDEO.]

8:23 — Ted Cruz sarcastically says: "I'm too easy-going."

8:23 — Chris Christie brushes off the question and says he doesn't see much weakness on that stage — then he pivots to criticizes each of the three top Democratic candidates for separate reasons.

8:26 — Moderator John Harwood lists what he apparently considers to be some of Trump's more ridiculous proposals, including that he'd "make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others." Trump agrees with that last point: "Right!" Then Harwood asks if this is "a comic-book version of a presidential campaign." Trump says: "It's not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question." [VIDEO.]

8:31 — Kasich calls out Carson and Trump for their trite, implausible promises to make up for lost tax revenues by cutting "waste, fraud, and abuse."

8:31 — Trump comes back: "[Kasich] got lucky with a wonderful thing called fracking . . . and that's why Ohio is doing well." Trump also takes a shot at Kasich over being on the board of Lehman Brothers, the big bank which failed at the outset of the financial collapse of 2008. Kasich simply denies it: "I wasn't on the board of Lehman Brothers!" [VIDEO.] [Fact check.]

8:36 — Carly Fiorina says she'll reduce the federal tax code from 70,000 to 3 pages. The moderator looks and sounds incredulous: "Using really small type?!"

8:37 — Rubio is asked about how he's missing more votes than any other Senate running for president. He characterizes this as what "the Republican establishment" says: "Why don't you wait in line?" His response: "We're running out of time!" The moderator bluntly follows up: "Do you hate your job?" Rubio says this shows the liberal media's bias, since the media didn't question Barack Obama about missing most of his Senate votes when he was running for president in 2008.

8:39 — Bush finally attacks his former protege, Rubio: "Marco, . . . you should be showin' up to work. What is it, like, a French work week?" [VIDEO.]

8:43 — Question to Fiorina: "Your board fired you. I'm just wondering why we should hire you now?" Fiorina says her company was a "bloated, inept bureaucracy" before she showed up as "an outsider" and "saved 80,000 jobs." "I was fired over politics in the board room." She notes that CEOs are held "accountable" and even "criminally liable" — imagine if politicians were!

8:46 — The moderator asks Cruz about the debt limit, but instead of answering, he criticizes the questions for not being "substantive" and just "trying to get the candidates to tear into each other." He uses up all of his time, so he never gets to the substantive question. This seems like a contrived attempt by Cruz to have a "debate moment." [VIDEO.]

8:50 — The question about the debt limit goes to Paul, since Cruz missed his chance to answer it. Paul isn't worried about keeping the government open; he's worried about "bankrupting the American people."

8:53 — Huckabee says the government's fiscal attitude is "like a 400-pound man saying: I'm going to go on a diet but I'm going to eat a sack of Krispy Kremes before I do."

9:00 — Trump is asked about the bankruptcies of his Atlantic City casinos. "Bankruptcy is a broken promise. Why should the voters believe you now?" Trump gives the same answer he gave in the last debate when this was brought up: "I used the laws of the country to my benefit."

9:02 — Moderator Jim Cramer asks Carson about profiteering drug companies. Carson says they've "gone overboard," but says the solution is less regulation of businesses.

9:04 — Cramer asks Christie about GM's faulty ignition switch, which killed over 100 people; no one went to jail over it. Christie says he'd prosecute people over it. He also says he'd enforce laws against price gouging, which would be better than "Hillary Clinton's price controls" on pharmaceuticals.

9:08 — Fiorina on "crony capitalism": "This is how socialism starts: government starts a problem, so government tries to fix it. . . . The big and powerful use big and powerful government to their advantage."

9:10 — Rubio is asked about his personal financial problems, and whether he has "the maturity and the wisdom to lead this country." Rubio shoots down the moderator: "You just listed the Democrats' discredited attacks, and I'm not going to waste my 60 seconds going through them all."

9:14 — Cruz is asked about the lie that women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

9:16 — Fiorina says: "It is the height of hypocrisy for Hillary Clinton talking about being the first woman president when every policy she espouses, and every single policy of President Obama, has been demonstrably bad for women." [VIDEO.]

My mom says:
This debate is so stressful and ugly. The moderators are so disrespectful and the candidates are all yelling. Almost all. Carson will never yell.
9:26 — Rubio: "For the life of me, I do not understand why we stopped doing vocational training in America."

9:28 — Moderator Becky Quick asks Trump about his supposed criticisms of Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, but Trump says he's never been critical of Zuckerberg. Quick haplessly asks: "Where did I read that you were critical of him?" Trump says: "I don't know, you folks write this stuff! . . . Somebody's really doing some bad fact-checking." [Here's your fact check!]

9:30 — Rubio: "The Democrats have the ultimate super PAC — it's called the mainstream media." He says the media has been saying last week was a great week for Hillary Clinton. "It was the week she got exposed as a liar" for telling the public that the Benghazi attack was sparked by a video, while privately saying it was a planned terrorist attack. [VIDEO of 9:28 and 9:30.]

9:31 — Cruz says the Federal Reserve's role should be more limited, and we should switch to the gold standard. Paul agrees: "We shouldn't have controls on the price of money."

9:33 — Carson is asked if he's been inconsistent on subsidies, but he admits "I was wrong" about oil subsidies. "All this stuff about picking winners and losers — this is a bunch of crap!" It hurts the poor and middle class, not the rich, who "don't care if a bar of soap goes up 10¢."

9:35 — Huckabee says today's runaway blimp is "a perfect analogy" for government: a "giant bag of gas" that we "couldn't get rid of . . . because we had too much money invested in it."

9:39 — Rubio is asked about an analysis by the (conservative) Tax Foundation, which said his tax plan saves twice as much for people at the high end than the low end. Rubio denies it and says the opposite. [Added later:] On Twitter, Harwood had said he was "CORRECTING" his "earlier tweet" about the Tax Foundation's analysis of Rubio's tax plan. Harwood's correction said: "Tax Foundation says Rubio benefits lowest 10% proportionally more (55.9) than top 1% (27.9%)." Then Harwood asked Rubio a question that said the opposite of that correction, and when Rubio correctly pointed out that Harwood's incorrect post had to be corrected, Harwood flatly denied it!

[Correction, added after the debate:] This was more complicated than I thought. They were actually both right; they were just talking about different things. Let's go to the transcript:
HARWOOD: Senator Rubio, . . . [t]he Tax Foundation . . . scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, don’t you have that backward?

RUBIO: No, that’s — you’re wrong. In fact, the largest after-tax gains is for the people at the lower end of the tax spectrum under my plan. . . .

HARWOOD: The Tax Foundation — just to be clear, they said the —

RUBIO: You wrote a story on it, and you had to go back and correct it.

HARWOOD: No, I did not.

RUBIO: You did. No, you did.

HARWOOD: Senator, the Tax Foundation said after-tax income for the top 1 percent under your plan would go up 27.9 percent. And people in the middle of the income spectrum, about 15 percent. . . .

RUBIO: Yeah, but that — because the math is, if you — 5 percent of a million is a lot more than 5 percent of a thousand. So yeah, someone who makes more money, numerically, it’s gonna be higher. But the greatest gains, percentage-wise, for people, are gonna be at the lower end of our plan, and here’s why: because in addition to a general personal exemption, we are increasing the per-child tax credit for working families.
See the problem? Harwood said Rubio's plan would lead to "twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale." Rubio responded that "the largest after-tax gains is [sic] for the people at the lower end of the tax spectrum." As Jon Chait and Jon Cohn point out, both of those claims are accurate reflections of the Tax Foundation's analysis. Here's the relevant graph from the Tax Foundation:

(The Tax Foundation used both "static" and "dynamic" models of how Rubio's plan would affect after-tax income. The "dynamic" model, shown in blue, includes predictions about how the tax plan would affect the economy as a whole; the "static" model, shown in red, assumes the plan would have no effect on the economy.)

So, I regret that I originally assumed Rubio and Harwood were talking about the same thing; ideally, I should have looked at the transcript, noticed what Cohn calls Rubio's "sleight of hand" in shifting the discussion further down the income scale, and looked up the Tax Foundation's analysis to see that they were both apparently right about different things.

Now back to my original live-blog:

9:40 — Paul awkwardly asks what the rules are on when candidates can jump in to talk, and Quick says: "It's at the moderators' discretion." So Paul jumps in to say he's the only candidate who'd repeal payroll taxes.

9:42 — Kasich is asked whether we should legalize marijuana to get more tax revenues (which non-marijuana-using conservatives should want, since they won't have to pay as much in taxes). Kasich says no, because it would be "sending mixed signals to kids about drugs," and his state of Ohio is doing so well it doesn't need the extra revenue.

9:49 — The moderator points out that Trump has criticized "gun-free school zones," and is asked if he'd feel more comfortable if his employees showed up carrying guns. He says he "might." Then he cleverly pivots to an attack an President Obama: Trump says he carries a gun only some of the time, because he wants to be "unpredictable," unlike Obama, who broadcasts what he's going to do in advance, which empowers ISIL.

9:51 — The moderator shamelessly asks Huckabee if he'll attack Trump. Huckabee doesn't take the bait: "I love Donald Trump. He is a good man. I'm wearing a Trump tie tonight." Someone else chimes in: "Was it made in China or Mexico?" Trump says: "Such a nasty question! But thank you, Governor." [VIDEO.]

9:54 — Fiorina is asked if the government should "do more" to encourage employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement plans. "No. . . . Every time the government gets engaged in something, it gets worse. And then the government steps in to solve the problem. And we get a little closer to that progressive vision that Hillary Clinton is talking about."

9:59 — Bush is asked if he'd crack down on "fantasy sports." Bush says: "There needs to be some regulation." Christie is aghast: "Are we really talking about getting the government involved in fantasy football?! We've got ISIS attacking us . . . and we're talking about fantasy football?!" Moderator John Harwood interrupts Christie's answer, and Christie goes after him: "Do you want to answer, or do you want to let me answer? Even in New Jersey, what you're doing is called rude!"

10:02 — Paul admits we should have "some safety net" — "but you oughta acknowledge that government doesn't do a very good job of it." The entitlement crisis is "your grandparents' fault for having too many kids!"

10:08 — Trump says he'll make the economy so "dynamic" that we won't need any specific entitlement reform. Bush says that's naive — we can't just "grow our way out of it"; we need to do things like means testing for Social Security.

10:13 — We're at the point where the candidates have run out of things to say, so everyone (Christie, Rubio, Fiorina) has resorted to blandly saying there are a lot of "good ideas" on the stage.

10:17 — In her closing statement, Fiorina admits: "I may not be your dream candidate just yet, but I can assure you: I'm Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare, and in your heart of hearts, you can't wait to see a debate between Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina." [VIDEO.]

10:17 — Carson: "I just want to thank all of my colleagues here for being civil and not falling in the traps."

10:20 — Trump uses his closing statement to point out how he and Carson "renegotiated" the debate down from 3 hours to 2 hours "so we can get the hell out of here!" John Harwood says, contrary to what everyone was reporting, that the debate "was always going to be 2 hours." Trump points his finger at Harwood and shouts: "You know that that is not right!" [VIDEO.]

10:22 — Bush's closing statement is flat and low-energy, as Trump would put it.

It seems like the main story from tonight is:
Moderators lose control at third GOP debate

How CNBC Lost Its Own G.O.P. Debate

The CNBC Republican Debate Was A Total Trainwreck

This was indisputably the worst-moderated debate of this young cycle, and perhaps the worst-moderated debate ever.
(Note: that last link goes to the conservative National Review, and the link before it goes to the liberal ThinkProgress — so people across the spectrum agree.)

Here's Alex Knepper's verdict:
Winners: Christie, Carson . . . , Cruz, Rubio

Losers: CNBC, Kasich, Paul, Bush

Wash: Everyone else

Awful debate, and I anticipate most of the reporting about the debate will center around how badly it was conducted.
Two Washington Post writers agree with Knepper:
The third Republican presidential debate on Wednesday evening ended with a handful of winners – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – and one clear loser, former Florida governor Jeb Bush. . . .

Bush was a minor presence – a night so bad for him that his campaign manager confronted CNBC producers off the stage, angry about Bush’s lack of airtime [sic — the paragraph ends without any punctuation]
Hey, at least he won over the anti-fantasy-football vote.

Erick Erikson, the conservative commentator, says:
This was the debate where Jeb Bush sealed the deal and began transitioning to “former Presidential candidate.”
Election Betting Odds shows how the candidates' odds have changed since 8:00 p.m., right before the debate. As of about 10:30 p.m., right after the debate, Rubio and Huckabee are the only Republican candidates (who were in the main debate) whose odds have improved. Rubio improved the most (2.6%), and then Cruz (1%). There was no change for Carson or Paul. The rest declined (Trump by 0.4%, Bush by 2.2%, Fiorina by 1.9%, Kasich by 0.4%, and both Christie and Huckabee by 0.3%). Rubio has by far the best odds of being the nominee: 33% (and a 15% chance of winning the presidency). Trump has 17%, Bush has 14%, Carson has 10%, Cruz has 6.5%, and the rest are in low single digits.

Fiorina spoke the most (I would have thought it was Rubio), and Bush spoke the least (I'm not surprised — he made very little impression).

[Added the next day:] An observation, after thinking more about the debate: Bush seems uncomfortable in his own skin. Rubio seems comfortable in his own skin. And voters are always going to prefer the latter kind of person.


PB said...

the three main "moderators" were fairly embarrassing. Cramer and Santelli at least asked questions and then allowed the candidate to answer without interrupting or counter arguing.

I was very surprised at the bankruptcy question posed to Trump, particularly from CNBC, who prides itself on being business sophisticates. This is a partisan hack question. They, of all people, should understand that business operations are complex, entail risk and that all parties in a free market enter into these relationships voluntarily without coercion.

Some work out, some don't for a variety of reasons. While a disappointment to many, this should not be a surprise or a criticism. It's only government that insists failed operations keep operating arbitrarily picking winners and losers influenced by politics and campaign contributions. The shabby treatment of the white collar employees of AC Delco should be a case in point while Obama administration insiders protected blue-collar union workers to ensure a steady stream of union dues and campaign contributions.