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Thumping Trump: Republican Debate, Round Two

There were three major changes to the Republican presidential field since the first debate.

This election takes place in the mature world of SuperPACs, where the SuperPACs routinely raise multiples of the sums the candidates raise for themselves. In recognition of that reality, we will try to identify the SuperPACs associated with each candidate. Maybe some of our readers will have hundreds of thousands to spare for a SuperPAC and so need to know who would benefit.

There are three major changes to the Republican presidential field since the first debate. First, the consensus that former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (Carly for America PAC) won the undercard in Cleveland was so widespread that CNN kept tinkering with the Fox News standards until they found a way give Fiorina her due—a seat at the main event table.

Instead of ousting the weakest candidate of the ten, which would probably have sent New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (America Leads) or Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (Human Action SuperPAC, America’s Liberty PAC, Concerned American Voters, Purple PAC) down to the minor league, CNN just pulled up another chair for Fiorina.

Second, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has been polling so poorly that he lost his seat at the kiddie table. Gilmore planned to tweet his comments live during the debate and put anything over 140 characters up on his Facebook page.

Third and most important, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry became the first casualty of the 2016 election. While he did better than last time, even his best game leaves a lot to be desired. A day before he quit, he remarked of a report he was about to quit, “Even a broken clock is right once a day.”

I guess Perry’s remark was for the digital age, when a broken clock is right only once a day, but that was too subtle for the commentariat, which took his misquotation of an old proverb as another “Oops” moment.

With Fiorina’s promotion, Gilmore’s demotion, and Perry’s departure, the undercard is now South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (Security is Strength PAC, Fund for America’s Future), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (Believe Again PAC), Former New York Gov. George Pataki (We the People, not Washington PAC), and former Virginia Sen. Rick Santorum (Patriot Voices and Working Again PACs), who came in second to Willard Romney in the last GOP Primary.

Perry departs leaving the Opportunity and Freedom SuperPAC sitting on $13 million raised to elect Perry (but not coordinate with him). Doug Deason, son of $5 million contributor Darwin Deason, says they want their $5 million back so they can bet on a different horse. Opportunity and Freedom has not decided how to deploy the cash or whether to give it back.

On the SuperPAC front, there were two pieces of pre-debate news, one in each party. On the Democratic side, a Hillary Clinton SuperPAC, Correct the Record, has gone negative on Bernie Sanders, who is the only candidate of either party with no SuperPAC. On the GOP side, a Jeb Bush SuperPAC, Right to Rise, is spending $24 million on a positive ad buy directed to buying Gov. Bush back into double digits. 

The conservative Club for Growth is buying $1 million worth of attack ads trashing real estate mogul, reality TV star, and front runner Donald Trump (Citizens for Restoring USA) in Iowa. In the second debate, as in the first, Trump was the poll leader going in.

Undercard

Both debates featured a degree of tension not apparent in the Cleveland debates. It seemed like everybody was worried about getting above the pack and thinking the way to rise was to be aggressive. That is, in fact, part of what gave Fiorina her win in the last debate. I think the polling will show it takes more than aggression.

Bobby Jindal was practically bouncing off the walls. “If you want incremental change,” he asserted, “vote for somebody else.” In a clearly written-in-advance rant, Jindal claimed that President Obama “wants a war on trans fats and a truce with Iran. He’s worried about Twinkies more than the Ayatollah.”

George Pataki, of all people, was beyond snide about Trump, who he said, “will do for America what he did for Atlantic City.” Pataki said all of Trump’s casinos went belly up; Trump said he got out of Atlantic City at exactly the right time.

Lindsey Graham reprised his role in the Cleveland debate, repeating that anybody disinterested in sending ground troops back to Iraq and to Syria is not qualified to be POTUS. His major position appeared to be, “kill the bastards.”

Rick Santorum sounded like he believes the U.S. should side with Sunni Islam against Shi’a Islam. Santorum was also down on Hispanics. Graham suggested attacking Hispanics might not be a great idea, and added that George W. Bush carried Hispanics.

Santorum said he was less interested in Hispanics than in Americans.

“In my world,” Graham replied, “Hispanics are Americans.”

Graham also waxed nostalgic about Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill agreeing to save Social Security over drinks. “The first thing I’m gonna do as President is that we’re gonna drink more.”

Props to Pataki for saying, about the Kentucky clerk who won’t work, “There already is a place religion supersedes the rule of law. It’s called Iran.”

In spite of all the noise, no candidate clearly broke out like Fiorina did last week.

Main Event

The major outcome was that Carly Fiorina continued her roll. She struck a perfect balance in reacting to Trump’s attack on her looks, leading Trump to walk it back:

I think she’s got a beautiful face and I think she’s a beautiful woman.

Not wishing to abandon his distinction for throwing irrelevant criticisms, he replaced Fiorina as ugly with Rand Paul, who he also hit for having low poll numbers.

One of the closing questions hit something talked about here many times: putting a woman on U.S. currency.

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The question was phrased, “What woman would you like to see on the ten dollar bill?” The ten is the bill the Treasury Department proposes to change, but that change makes no historical sense. Alexander Hamilton deserves a place on paper currency for his service to a new economy creating a banking system and new legal tender from nothing.

Hamilton believed in a national bank and in paper currency. Andrew Jackson believed in neither and would be appalled to have his likeness on a Federal Reserve note. If he had his way there would be no federal bank and no Federal Reserve notes.

RELATED: Getting Andrew Jackson off the $20 Just Got Harder

Props to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Stand for Principle PAC, Draft Ted Cruz for President, Keep the Promise PAC, Keep the Promise I, Keep the Promise II, and Keep the Promise III) for apparently remembering this, since he did not want to remove Hamilton. He would remove Jackson from the twenty and replace him with Rosa Parks.

Parks also got the nod from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (Conservative Solutions PAC) and Trump.

Christie showed some historical chops by supporting Abigail Adams.

Going outside the law, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (SuperPAC New Day for America) favored Mother Teresa and Bush wanted Margaret Thatcher. In response to a social media drubbing, Bush walked it back later, saying he’d put it up for vote on the Internet, apparently not knowing that already was done.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (Unintimidated PAC) wanted Clara Barton and Paul was for Susan B. Anthony.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (Pursuing America’s Greatness PAC) wanted his wife and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson (USA First PAC) his mother.

So, what about the only woman? What woman would she like to see on the currency? Nobody. Fiorina opposed changing the ten or the twenty, sneering at the idea as “a gesture.” I presume she meant empty gesture.

In a more substantive attack and one that could touch some tribal interests, Bush accused Trump of trying to buy casino gambling into Florida when Bush was governor, to which the front runner replied, “Don’t make things up, Jeb.”

Trump continued his efforts to surf the wave of hatred for brown people, claiming that illegal immigration costs the U.S. $200 billion a year. Either Trump is innocent of the fact that most economists claim undocumented workers contribute more to the economy than they take out—enriching Social Security and Medicare especially, since they will never take out benefits, and paying boatloads of state taxes directly or indirectly—or Trump is doing exactly what he accused Bush of doing.

Let’s not pick on Trump in the matter of making things up. All the candidates appeared to agree that the covert and selectively edited videos fueling the jihad against Planned Parenthood show the organization selling fetal body parts, which if true would be a felony.

Fiorina in particular spoke of a picture of a late term fetus spliced into one of the videos as if it had something to do with Planned Parenthood.

Chris Christie wanted to means test Social Security benefits, leading Trump to offer to give his Social Security back without really saying whether he agrees with means testing for everybody.

Trump picked a fight with the candidate right behind him in the polls, Dr. Ben Carson, over a medical issue. Trump buys the nonsense about a link between childhood vaccinations and autism. Carson quietly debunked the claim and made gentle fun of a remark Trump made about the doctor before the debate, “He’s an OK doctor.”

Jake Tapper, the moderator, went to Dr. Rand Paul for a second opinion on the vaccine-autism link. Paul, true to libertarian form, agreed with Dr. Carson on the medical evidence but wanted to leave the vaccination decision to individuals anyway.

John Kasich weighed in with a “can’t we all just get along” moment, but there were some rip-snorting fights in addition to Trump pitting his medical expertise against the two doctors and the back and forth about casino gambling between Trump and Bush.

Rand Paul had his usual argument about government encroaching on civil liberties to fight terrorism. His major foil was Chris Christie, leading to the two candidates with the lowest polling numbers shouting at each other.

Marco Rubio did himself some good by standing out in knowledge of foreign policy, not hard in that crowd.

Former front-runner Scott Walker tried to make more points in a less scripted manner than last time. Although he bettered his last showing, it’s unlikely he’ll return to his high water marks.

Rev. Huckabee’s primary contributions to the discussion were denunciations of Planned Parenthood and a spirited defense of the clerk who won’t work in Kentucky. Huckabee is not running for POTUS. He’s running for mullah.

Perhaps the most direct statement with an impact on Indians was this from Ted Cruz:

I spent five and a half years as a Solicitor General of Texas, the lead lawyer for the state, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I went in front of the Supreme Court, and took on the world court of the United Nations in a case called Medellin v. Texas, and we won a historic victory saying the World Court, and the U.N., has no power to bind the United States, and no President of the United States, Republican or Democrat, has the authority to give away our sovereignty.

The words above from Sen. Cruz are both untrue and as direct a confrontation with the interests of American Indians in a presidential race as we’ve seen since George W. Bush claimed that states “reign supreme” over Indian sovereignty.

The Medellin case involved a human rights treaty that the U.S. signed and was ignoring in death penalty cases. Cruz’ great victory was not about “the authority to give away our sovereignty” except in the sense that the state tail wags the federal dog.

RELATED: Take Oak Flat to a Higher Court: Why US & Canada Fear Human Rights Courts

The doctrine of sovereign immunity means that every treaty gives away sovereignty if the promises made are to be enforced. The principle Cruz defeated was the one expressed by Justice Hugo Black in what Indian lawyers call “the all purpose federal Indian law dissent.” Black wrote that:

Great nations, like great men, should keep their word.

Cruz’s pride in destroying Black’s assertion is the most significant takeaway for Indians in this debate.

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