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Liveblogging the Junior GOP Debate

First impressions:

It’s hard to look at Rick Perry without seeing reckless bravado.

Carly Fiorina sounds like a good CEO. But without charisma.

Rick Santorum makes me nervous.

Great question to Jindal: If people from Louisiana don’t like you, if Hillary Clinton would beat you among your own people, as recent polls suggest, what makes you think that things will be any different for Americans? Jindal had no real answer on the stage.

Great line from Graham: we won’t debate the science, we’ll debate the solutions. But it’s impossible to see how achieving “energy independence” deals with global warming. If we’re burning American-derived fossil fuels instead of Saudi oil, we’re still burning fossil fuels.

Who is George Pataki? I seem to recall that he had something to do with 9/11. And Jim Gilmore is competent in reciting his resume. So there’s that.

UPDATE: Now we’re talking about Trump. Perry hit him pretty hard, saying that Trump was about nothing more than showbiz. Fiorina painted him as an unprincipled opportunist.

“I didn’t bet a phone call from Bill Clinton when I got into the race. Did any of you?” Fiorina said, then reminding the audience that Trump had donated to the Clintons and their causes in the past.

She went on to say that Trump flourishes because people are legitimately angry at the failures of the political class, but questioned what, exactly, are the principles by which he would govern, given that he’s been all over the map. These are all solid points. I wonder if any of the candidates who will be on stage later tonight will be so straightforward. Trump is a blowhard, but he needs to be hit forcefully, and deflated.

Listening to motormouth Jindal talk about ramping up US ground forces in Iraq, and Lindsey Graham out-hawk Jindal on the same subject, using a line that’s at least a decade old (“If we don’t stop them over there, they are going to come here just as soon as I’m standing here in front of you”) makes me happy that neither of these men stand a snowball’s chance of winning the White House.

UPDATE.2: Jim Geraghty points out that it’s embarrassing that there’s almost nobody in the audience. Message: nobody cares.

I thought Santorum had a decent answer on immigration, especially responding to the personalized question (“What would you say to the family of an immigrant who…?”) by talking about his own immigrant father’s experience, and, in turn, about the importance of obeying laws. I find, though, that Santorum, even when he says things that are appealing, is too tightly wound. It calls as much attention to how he says things as to what he’s saying.

Perry, given the same question, booted the soft-family-personal side away, and talked tough about policing the border. It wasn’t as good an answer as Santorum’s, but it was more emotionally affective. Not that it will matter. Nobody, so far, has said anything likely to make them break out into the first tier of candidates.

UPDATE.3: Martha McCallum asked about the economy, but Graham just blathered a string of anti-Clinton one-liners.

Jindal hit Ohio Gov. John Kasich for taking Medicaid expansion money from Washington. Jindal refused the money, which has been a big deal here in Louisiana, a poor state. “We’ve got to stop this culture of government dependency,” said Jindal.

I’m with Kasich, who said the other day:

Asked by NPR for his response to reports that Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina had accused him of “hiding behind Jesus” for why he expanded Medicaid through Obamacare, Kasich fired back.

“I’m really not hiding behind anybody,” Kasich said, adding, “The last Republican I can think of who expanded Medicaid was Ronald Reagan. OK? People tend to forget that. … If other people don’t want to take the money, that’s up to them, but I got money I can bring home to Ohio. It’s my money. There’s no money in Washington. It’s my money. It’s the money of the people who live in my state.”

To the specific charge from Jindal and Haley — who chose not to expand Medicaid — that he was using religion as a justification for the expansion, Kasich said, “I think all people are made in the image of God, and everybody deserves respect.”

The LA Times comments on the fallout of Jindal’s policy in Louisiana:

Baton Rouge, La., is about to lose one of its crucial hospital emergency rooms, and the reason is clear: The administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal has refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and won’t put up any other money to keep the facility open.

Because of the scheduled closure of the ER of Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City, patients needing emergency treatment will have to travel as much as 30 minutes longer to reach the nearest ERs.

Jindal has tried to position himself as the last stalwart Republican opponent of the ACA, but his state’s experience shows that his position is folly.

The ACA was designed to encourage states to expand Medicaid–almost entirely at federal expense–as a means of cutting the uncompensated medical care hospitals had been forced to provide for low-income individuals and families. Much of that care has been customarily delivered through the ER.

In the expectation that Medicaid would pick up the slack, the ACA reduced so-called disproportionate share hospital payments, which went to hospitals serving a large number of the uninsured. So institutions in states that have refused to expand Medicaid, like Louisiana, have faced a double-whammy–they still have to serve a large number of uninsured patients, but they have less money to do so.


Jindal has promoted his plan with a string of distortions about the ACA and the health insurance marketplace that suggest, at best, that he has no idea what he’s talking about.

He’s left even conservative opponents of Obamacare scratching their heads: Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review said it “shows how not to replace Obamacare.” Jindal’s plan, Ponnuru observed, would favor higher-income taxpayers while leaving lower-income Americans, those covered by existing exchange plans, and many of those now enrolled in employer plans, in the dust.

“The great flaw in Jindal’s plan is that it would cause millions of people to lose their coverage,” he wrote.

Poor people don’t vote for Republicans.

Rick Santorum called Obergefell “a rogue Supreme Court decision” that will not stand, any more than Dred Scott did. This is really off, politically. I agree, of course, that Obergefell was wrongly decided, but the court actually tracked behind American culture. Over the next generation, even if Obergefell were to be overturned, state legislatures would democratically extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. This issue really is over.


Yes, and that’s why it’s disappointing that he’s not that good addressing audiences. He’s so jittery, and looks like he’s holding back anger.

Jindal on Planned Parenthood: under President Jindal, there will be a national investigation of Planned Parenthood. Good.

Good grief, Graham thinks the answer to every question to be: “More war in the Middle East.”

“I’m looking out for the American worker,” said Santorum, who said that Dems want to bring more immigrants in for more voters, and Republicans want to get more immigrants in for business reasons. I think this is great.

UPDATE.5: Question to the room: Who, in this group, should advance to the first tier based on their performance here? I say Fiorina — who grew more impressive as the hour wore on — and Santorum.

So, I judge Fiorina and Santorum the winners, or at least Fiorina first, and Santorum a close second. Everybody else should just go home.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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