CNBC/WSJ Debate

They start with Fred Thompson.

Thompson: No reason to believe in a recession. He rattles off the numbers. He cuts to long-term spending, which is right up his ally. They follow up and ask about the polling and the angst.

They switch to Romney and ask about foreclosure. 1/100-some. Romney responds. "Inexcusable that Michigan is suffering a one-state recession." Good line. Invest in technology and research. Fix schools. Etc. He gets in a great line about Granholm’s taxes.

Matthews asks Giuliani about private equity. Rudy responds that "the market is a wonderful thing." He gets his whack at Hillary. "Presidents have to work on the fundamentals." It is interesting that he throws in tort-reform as a basic economic issue.

Matthews asks Ron Paul about the Hedge Fund industry. Paul gets to talk about inflation and the working class.

Now they ask McCain about the income gaps. McCain responds about industrial jobs and health care. Whacks at S-CHIP. The smoking line doesn’t quite work though. But it does point out the absurdity of the funding mechanism for S-CHIP.
Mike Huckabee jokes that people want to spend money. He then talks up the Fair Tax. He makes a nice point about the underground economy. Then he pivots to talking about poor-people.

Duncan Hunter then makes Mike Huckabee look like a radical free-trader.

Thompson responds as a decent free-trade advocate.

Sam Brownback pledges not to raise taxes. Solid and easy. He pivots to a flat tax. Then he talks about spending. Brownback then gives a back slap to McCain. They really are buddies.

Tancredo makes the right point about earmarks and mandatory spending.

Mitt vs. Rudy on taxes.

Rudy talks about his tax cuts. 23 times and a 24% income tax cut.

Romney talks about his tax cuts and spending. And he bashes Rudy on the line-item veto.

Rudy crushes Romney on the response. Romney struggles. Rudy delivers a great line. Rudy did won that exchange.

Job losses and manufacturing.

They ask Thompson about people who lose jobs. He doesn’t say that much that is interesting.

Hunter then talks more about rules and China.

McCain talks about the new economy. "We know that the people have been left behind." He talks about the differences between health care between UAW and non-union plants. He talks about retraining. He then riffs on spending.

Trade

Romney says that he is a pro-trade guy… $9k/family richer because of trade. He talks about his business record.  He reminds the business groups that he would be their tool

Giuliani. He talks up trade more. But it did duck the question about foreign ownership.

They ask everyone about a Dubai company buying part of NASDAQ. Paul yes. Huckabee dodges and talks about tariff and tax systems. McCain yes. He then sounds like an adult on trade. Romney yes. "America can compete around the world." Thompson, yes. Hunter, no. Brownback, yes. Tancredo, no.

Taxes. Thompson. AMT. He gives a good riff on taxes. Phase out AMT. Short-term is to index for inflation.

Iraq

They ask Thompson about Iraq. He says that "this is the right policy." "Not have to leave with our tail between our legs."

They ask McCain about his criticism of Bush. He would have asked people to join the military, the Peace Corps, Americorps, etc.  Gives Rudy a back slap. Points out his Rumsfeld criticism.

They ask Ron Paul about "war for oil". Paul rejects that. So does Brownback. "I voted to go to war in Iraq to fight the War on Terrorism." Brownback plays up his partition plan and that meeting.

Congressional Authorization of an attack on Iran. This is a good question.

  • Romney: "Would you need Congressional approval?" He talks about other strategies and the Ahmedinejad thing in NYC. Romney makes a potentially colassal blunder. Marc Ambinder has the exact quote. "We’re going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and didn’t need to do." Dave Freddoso at NRO doesn’t buy it either.
  • Hunter: Maybe. On the path to building a nuclear device.
  • Paul: Yes. Need a declaration. "Just war propaganda. Continuing war propaganda." Big applause for that.
  • Huckabee: No-ish.
  • McCain: He qualifies the hypotheticals. He says that the minimum is consult. He suggests that we are closer to a conflict than people realize.
  • Thompson: Says "John has it right." Cites War Powers. Says that we should go to Congress to get political support, even if illegal.
  • Giuliani: Depends. He whacks at Ron Paul. Paul misses the right response, which is that we declared war on the Barbary Pirates. Rudy whacks Hillary and Iran.

Energy and Oil Independence

Rudy gives the generic answer…

Brownback talks about "energy secure." And says we have to chase it down. "Get more electricity involved in our car fleet." Supports ANWR and Florida drilling if it is environmentally sound.

Tancredo gives the generic answer.

McCain says that the energy companies should be using their profits to invest.

Huckabee is asked about ethanol. He says that national security is a good reason to subsidize ethanol.  Hmmmm. Huck then talks about renewables in general.

Thompson on ethanol. He repeats Huck.

They ask Romney about subsidizing farmers. He is for it. Of course, that’s not what he used to think. FLIP-FLOP.

How does the GOP win back the economy as an issue?

  • Paul: Overtaxed. Over-everything. Can’t be bailing out farmers and subsidies for ethanol.
  • Huckabee: Points to the restoration of confidence.
  • McCain: He talks about faith in the government. Good contrast with Huckabee, although the emphasis on the government is awkward.
  • Romney: Don’t be doom and gloom. "The future is going to be even brighter than the past." He talks about business and implementing health care legislation
  • Thompson: Tell people the truth.
  • Giuliani: He keeps going after Hillary. A good place for him to be.
  • Hunter: Save the economy by closing the borders.
  • Brownback: Be optimistic. And flat tax. "This place rocks."
  • Tancredo. Lemme guess. Immigration. Stop pandering.

Social Security. They ask Thompson what he would do about social security. He talks about indexing to wages. He talks about accounts. And he talks about growth.

Trade. They ask Tancredo about Romney’s comment about the Bush administration trade negotiators. Tancredo says that the agreements have been lousy. I more or less agree.

Health care. Romney talks about market dynamics in health care.

Are unions good for America?

  • Paul. People should be able to organize.
  • Huckabee. Unions will take a more prominent role as a response to income inequality. He bashes CEO and hedge fund salaries.
  • McCain. Unions have played a very important role. Advocates Right-to-Work.
  • Romney. Back slaps McCain. Some good, some bad. Praises the Carpenters.
  • Thompson. Unions are good. Same stuff.
  • Rudy. Grandma was a garment-worker.  "UAW reached a responsible pact."
  • Hunter. Praises the steelworkers. Aren’t they the worst?
  • Brownback. Can be abuses. His ma was a postal worker. DoL is documenting abuses.
  • Tancredo. Slams Brownback’s union mom. Brownback responds. "Don’t attack my mother." Awesome. "My mother is not an illegal immigrant."

GM and Ford. McCain. McCain points out that health care is a good bunch of the problem for companies like Ford and GM. "My dear and beloved Ronald Reagan. He must be spinning in his grave." Awesome.

Chrysler. Thompson. The government shouldn’t step in. The right answer is markets. Matthews pushes back. Thompson slams him, "That’s your opinion, Chris." Nice.

Internet stuff.

Giuliani. Don’t tax the internet. Police the internet. Don’t need a new organization.

McCain. Must stop internet pornography. Go after the money.

  • Huckabee S-CHIP. The issue on the S-CHIP bill was political posturing. Says Bush screwed up on the framing. Not certain about the veto. The political loss on the veto is huge. ‘I don’t trust the government, the insurance companies. I trust me."
  • Romney. Arab-American bias. We don’t discriminate. We are nice people.
  • Thompson. Dangers of a weak dollar. Will damage us internationally. Creditors. Helps our exports. Didn’t really answer the question.
  • Rudy. Too much owned by foreigners. How about we sell more things.
  • Brownback. Who would be the economic advisor? Greenspan’s thoughts. Brownback doesn’t have an answer.
  • McCain. Bernancke cut enough? McCain says "I don’t know." The problem hearing thing looks bad on him.
  • Paul. Won’t promise to support the party.
  • Tancredo. Won’t do lesser of too evils.
  • Brownback.  Will support the nominee. Nominee will be pro-growth and pro-life.
  • Hunter. Will also. Built on a respect for human beings. Sounds like
  • Giuliani. Will London replace New York as the financial capital? He is not answering the question. He is just praising the US. There are real problems. They give him a second bite at the apple. And he talks about corporate tax rates.
  • Romney. Same question? He addresses Sarbox. Says he would support people. His line about Thompson was good
  • Thompson. He says that the relationship with Canada is great. Gave a shout-out to Canadian oil
  • Huckabee. Airline issues. Cracks a joke. He talks about airlines "getting in the program." What is he talking about?
  • McCain on finding Bin Laden. Set up a new intel agency just for that.
  • Romney on the biggest threat. Sense of optimism. Good answer.
  • Brownback on the biggest threat. Breakdown of the family.
  • Giuliani on third-parties. Sure, whatever, next. Points out that education is the biggest problem.