Debate Sausage: 5 things to read about the 4th GOP debate

Published by Mike Pound on .

Marco Rubio smiles as he speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash/Associated Press)Marco Rubio smiles as he speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash/Associated Press)

1) Marco Rubio is on a roll – for the second-straight Republican debate, the Florida senator was the clear winner. He successfully knocked down Rand Paul in an exchange over defense spending and seemed comfortable with all of the other questions and jabs that came his way. One quibble: Mr. Rubio is clearly ready to answer certain questions with prepared answers, but he'd be better off if those prepared answers didn't come off as prepared answers.

2) Good news for Jeb! Bush: He didn't lose! But he didn't help himself much either. His halting attempt to find a joke while contrasting Washington, DC, with Washington, Iowa, was cringe worthy. And even when given the opportunity by the moderators to jump into a discussion about the economy, he failed to shut down an interruption by John Kasich. Being a skilled debater in and of itself isn't necessarily a requirement for a presidential candidate, but being assertive and quick on your feet is. Maybe Jeb! should come down with a case of laryngitis for the next GOP debate.

3) Ben Carson was tossed a softball from the moderators when it came to a discussion about inconsistent claims about his past. Carson didn't even answer the question; instead, he took the chance to launch into a predicable rant – OK, calling anything that comes out of Dr. Carson's mouth a "rant" might be a stretch – about the media and Hillary Clinton. But, stunningly, the other candidates didn't challenge Dr. Carson over the questions either. Maybe beating up on the mainstream media is more fun than holding your fellow candidates accountable?

4) The Fox Business/Wall Street Journal debate was the most substantive so far, and that meant Donald Trump didn't have much to say. We heard repetitions of his standard stump-speech promises, without much elaboration, and he stepped back when other candidates clashed over, you know, actual policy questions. The one time we did notice what Mr. Trump said? When he chastised Carly Fiorina for interrupting other candidates, a grouse that A) seemed misplaced because all of the candidates – Jeb! excepted – interrupted all of the other candidates all night long and B) made it pretty clear, once again, what Mr. Trump really thinks about women.

5) What did we think about the debate? The folks in Facebook's policy communications office tracked our discussions there during the debate; here's what they came up with. The top moment: The exchange between Sens. Rubio and Paul on defense spending and entitlements. The top issue: Taxes, followed by immigration, the minimum wage, jobs and health care. The most-discussed candidate, overall and by women: Dr. Carson. The candidate most discussed by men: Mr. Paul. And finally, we don't know where Pennsylvania fell in terms of engagement during the debate, but we do know the Top 5: Virginia, New Hampshire, Maryland, Wisconsin and Vermont.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 things to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom WolfGov. Tom Wolf

1) Wait ... Pennsylvania might have a completed 2015-16 budget before the end of 2015?

2) Possibly related to the above item: the Center for Public Integrity gives Pennsylvania an F in its annual state-by-state integrity investigation (Oddly, that grade includes a C-minus for the state's budget process). None of the states did especially well; 10 others joined the commonwealth with a failing grade and only three – Alaska, California and Connecticut – scored higher than a D-plus. In case you're curious: Ohio scored a D-plus, New York a D-minus and West Virginia a D.

3) Ben Carson's response to questions about his past? Blame the media. Donald Trump's response to coverage that's not fawning enough for his liking? He says the story is unfair. Students at the University of Missouri successfully attract the attention of the national media to cover their push to remove the university's president? Their next step, apparently acting on advice from a Mizzou communications professor, is to try to keep the media from covering the aftermath. That's not how it works, folks.

4) It's a debate day, with a scaled-down field of Republican candidates ready to gripe about the mainstream media if they get questions they don't like discuss the issues. Thing to watch for: Can Jeb! Bush strengthen his relaunched campaign with a ... well, a lukewarm debate performance would be an improvement.

5) If Chris Christie has a great debate at the kids' table, would it be a wasted effort?


Breakfast Sausage: 5 things to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush gets off his campaign bus to attend a roundtable discussion with law enforcement at the Hillsborough County Sherriff's Office in Goffstown, New Hampshire, November 4, 2015. (Gretchen Ertl/Reuters)U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush gets off his campaign bus to attend a roundtable discussion with law enforcement at the Hillsborough County Sherriff's Office in Goffstown, New Hampshire, November 4, 2015. (Gretchen Ertl/Reuters)

1) A point on which we can all agree: Jeb! Bush is awful on the debate stage. But the former Florida governor is making good on his #jebcanfixit promise with a new tack in his stalled campaign. In this week alone, Mr. Bush has done sit-down interviews on CNN and MSNBC, and in both, the beleaguered candidate makes a great impression: warm, thoughtful and passionate, pretty much the exact opposite of the Jeb! we've seen on the debate stage. He's also handled the social media ribbing he's received over the Jeb! Can Fix It theme; for example, note this exchange with a National Review reporter over cleaning one's room. This Jeb! can be a viable presidential candidate, but we'll have to see which Jeb! shows up at next week's Fox Business/Wall Street Journal debate.

2) There would actually be plenty of room for both Jebs! at next week's debate, because the field has been narrowed a bit. Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee both will be relegated to the kids' table debate, with noted kid candidates Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal. And because you probably noticed the omission: Yep, neither Lindsay Graham nor George Pataki reached the 1 percent necessary in the poll aggregation used by Fox Business to get an invitation.

3) Penn Live's John Micek introduces us to Montgomery County businessman and state Republican insider Bob Guzzardi, who isn't especially happy about the GOP's losing streak that he says began with Barack Obama's re-election in 2012 and continued through Tuesday's Democratic sweep of the statewide judicial races.

4) The convoluted proposal to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana in Ohio was shot down by voters on Tuesday, but it's possible that voters there were rejecting the specifics of the quirky proposal rather than the broader question of legalization. A poll released by the University of Akron about two weeks before Election Day showed that 53 percent of Ohio voters thought that the oligarchy set by the measure – the state would have granted growing licenses to just 10 business owners – was "a bad idea." We could find out as soon as next year whether the problem was the proposed oligarchy or marijuana itself; officials from ResponsibleOhio, the group that pushed for legalization, say they'll have a new proposal, minus the limitation on the number of growers, ready as soon 2016.

5) Seth Meyers appeared on NPR's Morning Edition this morning, to talk about interacting with presidential candidates on NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers." The interview contains several priceless moments with current candidates, but none that top this song recorded by Bernie Sanders when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Remember, boys and girls -- this land was made for you and me.


Documentary tracks campaign of gay state rep

Published by Kate Giammarise on .

Former state Rep. Mike FleckFormer state Rep. Mike Fleck

Check out this short documentary about former PA state Rep. Mike Fleck -- "This Time Would be Different."

The 13-minute film chronicles Mr. Fleck's 2014 run for re-election in his rural district after coming out as gay.

Mr. Fleck had first run for office in 2006 and had been re-elected successfully several times, but as he says, he knew in his 2014 run, "this time would be different." He lost the Republican nomination to a write-in candidate, but won the Democratic nomination; he went on to lose in the general election.

Mr. Fleck is now Director of the Bureau of Workforce Partnerships and Operations at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

You can read more about him in this New York Times column from 2013.


Perry on Politics: Ivy League leanings didn't take for Trump, Carson or Cruz

Published by James M. Perry on .

Donald Trump speaks at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. (Getty Images)Donald Trump speaks at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014. (Getty Images)

The most celebrated collection of colleges and universities in the United States, or anywhere else, for that matter, is the Ivy League (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth). Conservative critics, harkening all the way back to Bill Buckley, when he was at Yale, have complained endlessly about liberal professors at these schools leading their students down left-turn paths.

Odd, then, that three of the top 10 candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination are Ivy Leaguers.

Donald Trump went to Penn. Ben Carson got his undergraduate degree at Yale. Ted Cruz went to Princeton.

It's a mixed lot for the rest of the field. Jeb Bush attended the University of Texas, although his father and his older brother went to Yale. Carly Fiorina graduated from Stanford, a West Coast rival to the Ivy League schools. Marco Rubio went to Florida, John Kasich to Ohio State, Chris Christie to Delaware, and Mike Huckabee to Ouachita Baptist.

Mr. Trump (Class of 1968) is the only one, as far as I can tell, who openly boasts about his Ivy League connection. "I went to the Wharton School of Business," Mr. Trump once said. "I'm, like, a really smart person." He transferred to Penn after spending two years at Fordham, but nobody seems to remember him. "He was not known on campus for any reason at all," said his classmate at Penn, Nancy Hano. "I have no memory of him whatsoever," said another classmate, Stanton Koppel.

William Geist, in an article in the New York Times magazine in 1984, said that "the commencement program from 1968 does not list him as graduating with honors of any kind, even though just about every profile ever written about Mr. Trump states that he graduated first in his class at Wharton in 1968."

Wharton, the oldest business school in the country, grants both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Dr. Carson (Class of 1973) seems to have avoided any left-wing turns at Yale. He remains a hard-right politician, who says in a quiet, friendly voice the most outrageous things. "We live in a Gestapo age," he once said. Obamacare is "like slavery." He is "loopy," said Gail Collins in the New York Times. Yale didn't seem to think so as recently as May 21, 2012, when Dr. Carson, the "world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon," delivered the commencement address at the Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Carson talked that same day to a group of Carson Scholars, a non-profit public charity which grants $1,000 scholarships to students "who are academically talented and socially conscious." It was founded in 1994 by Dr. Carson and his wife Candy (Yale, Class of 1975). Scholarships have been awarded to more than 6,000 students.

Sen. Cruz (Class of 1992) wasn't your ordinary Princeton Tiger. Craig Mazin, his freshman roommate, recalled two years ago that when he first met the future senator he was carrying a book in Spanish titled, "Was Karl Marx a Satanist?" "Even in 1988," said Mr. Mazin, "he was politically extreme in a way that was surprising to me." Mr. Cruz was also a terrific debater, a member of Princeton's national championship team.

Mr. Mazin was asked not long ago if he ever had an inkling that his freshman roommate could someday be the leader of the free world.

"I would rather have anybody else," he replied. "I would rather pick somebody from the phone book."

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.