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My questions for tomorrow's Republican Primary debate
Helping out the moderators
Tomorrow night is the second Republican primary debate featuring the also-ran candidates hoping for something to happen to the frontrunner (who is in Michigan giving a speech for auto workers at a non-union plant). Seven candidates will be participating: Ron Desantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, and Doug Bergham. Asa Hutchinson didn’t make the cut (the picture below is from the first debate, so I cropped Asa out).
I normally write these newsletters on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Because I want this piece out well before the debate, I’m posting this today. I’ll return to my normal pattern on Friday.
The debate will be broadcast on Fox Business Channel, Univision (in Spanish), and online on Fox Nation. It will be moderated by Dana Perino, Stewart Varney, and Ilia Calderone.
As anyone who has watched a debate knows, the role of moderator is tough. Just ask Chris Wallace from the 2020 presidential debate. The questions they ask will likely cover a host of issues that have been covered before: abortion, the border, Covid, Wokeness, the weaponization of the DOJ, electoral reform. There may be new questions about the impending government shutdown, but I’m not holding my breath. Questions about whether Mark Milley committed treason would be nice but I don’t think those will happen.
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So I’m offering my own set of questions for the debate should they choose to use them.
For everybody: What three steps would you take to lower inflation, food prices, and gas prices to 2020 levels before the end of your first term?
For DeSantis and Ramaswamy: Reporting indicates that the vast majority of fentynal comes into the country through legitimate border crossings, much of which is brought by American citizens. You have argued for shooting those crossing the border with illicit drugs stone cold dead. Does your argument extend to US citizens bringing drugs or just undocumented immigrants?
For Christie and Haley: What adjustments to our asylum laws do you think we can make within the context of international law? Do we need to invest in greatly expanding our immigration law infrastructure?
For Bergham and Pence: There are state officials, like the attorney general in Mississippi, who are seeking to block interstate travel for women desiring to go to another state that maintains abortion availability. Are you concerned that these proposed actions run counter to interstate commerce agreements in the Constitution?
For Scott, Haley, and Ramaswamy: There is a certain segment of the rank and file of your party that sees the growing diversity of American society as a step backward and would prefer the dominance of maintaining past racial and ethnic boundaries. What can you say to those members of your party to see that diversity is a strength and to take a chance on your own candidacy?
For Christie, Haley, Pence, and DeSantis: In what ways is being governor analogous to being president and in what ways is it very different? How can you be president of all the states and not just the ones you agree with?
For Ramaswamy: You have argued for the elimination of certain segments of the federal government. You have also suggested that this could be done with minimal pain as essential jobs would be absorbed into other agencies. Is the real purpose of your proposal to reduce the workforce or to simplify organizational structure?
For Everybody: The Republicans in the House of Representatives is currently unable to produce a budget in spite of the debt ceiling agreement brokered in May. This is largely due to a relatively small number of Freedom Caucus members who are holding up even debate rules. What advice would you give to Speaker McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus to resolve the impasse? What role would you play if this situation repeated in your administration?
For Haley: As former Ambassador to the United Nations you have a unique view of our international structures and agreements. Which of these can be strengthened to reduce the need for the US to jump into international conflicts? Which ones are interfering with a goal of true international accord?
For Bergham: What would be your response if Texas Governor Abbott decides to bus groups of asylees to Sioux Falls? Would you provide them with support, go to court, or send them back?
For Scott: You have tried to run a campaign focused on positives and what is strong about America. Many of your colleagues have decried America as a failing culture and pitted some segments of society against others. You have occasionally fallen into that trap. Can those who make such adversarial claims, labeling those in the other party as socialists and fascists, hope to govern with a closely divided Congress?
For everybody: Last week New Jersey Senator Menendez was indicted for bribery. A large number of his Democratic Senate and House colleagues have called on him to resign. While recognizing his right to due process and presumption of innocence, they argue that campaigning during such legal difficulty would be impossible. Do you agree with these legislators or do you support his continuing in spite of serious allegations?
For Christie, Ramaswamy, and DeSantis: Many in your party have decried what they claim is the weaponization of the Justice Department. While some have called for defunding, we likely would need some form of federal law enforcement and federal courts. What steps would you take to preserve the independence of DOJ while making sure it’s not used for nefarious purposes?
For Pence, Bergham, and Haley: Campaigning against crime is a standard tactic at all levels. Knowing that most of the factors impacting crime policy happen at the city, county, or state level, what would be within the control of your administration that might help localities in their efforts to respond to fluctuations in crime rates?
For DeSantis and Ramaswamy: The same argument can be made for education. There has been a long standing commitment to local control, where decisions about education policy are made by those closest to the school. State laws you have supported that limit what can be taught or held in the library run counter to that position. Do you see a larger state or federal role on education in the future and what advice would you have for local districts who disagree with a state level DEI ban?
For everybody: Which two of the people of stage are you most like in terms of policy and why? Which two are you most different from on policy and why?
I know that nobody cares what I think the questions should be. But the purpose of a primary debate — even when it is being so dominated by the former president — is to draw real distinctions between the candidates and then to give some inkling as to the kinds of policies they would pursue if they became president in January 2025.