The Seventh Republican Debate – In Backronyms!

I reviewed the last Democratic Debate as if the candidates’ initials stood for how they did, so I’m going to take the last GOP Debate a step further and see what their names might be if they were backronyms – an actual word that means creating a fake acronym from an existing word.

CRUZ: Candidate Reciting Underwhelming Zings

If there’s one thing you could say about Ted Cruz before this debate, it’s that he thought he was awesome. I wonder if he thinks that now. Trump wasn’t at the debate, making second-place Cruz the de facto frontrunner. And, the frontrunner in these debates takes most of the heat. To be fair, Cruz spoke the truth for perhaps the first time ever when he said the moderators were pitting everyone against him. But, since he never had a problem with it when the people ahead of him in polls took heat in other debates, it wasn’t a very effective whine. Cruz kept trying to return to his talking points, but they’re all starting to sound the same – even for him.

RUBIO: Running Up the Bill In Overcompensation

Rubio has two main problems: 1) He hasn’t done a whole lot in the Senate. 2) One of the things he has done, work on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, has caused him more problems than doing nothing else has. Rubio co-authored a bipartisan immigration bill, then very vocally tried to keep it from passing. It’s pretty much been downhill from there, and video clips played at the debate put his immigration all-over-the-boardness on full display. However, he still sticks to his talking points about how he’s the only Republican who can take the country in a bold new direction. Of course, that new direction could be different tomorrow than it is today, then change again next week…

BUSH: Bringing Us Some Harebrainedness

I’m not sure anymore why Bush is running for president, and he comes off like he’s not sure, either. Having said that, he has gotten stronger in the last few debates. However, there was a curious thing he did in this debate that might have undone all that. When Rubio was being hammered for constantly changing his views on immigration reform (something he’s even managed to change from debate to debate), Bush took the opportunity to also hammer him. Then, when Rubio accused him of also changing his mind on the issue, Bush said that, yes, he had, but he at least admitted it. But, instead of using this as a moment to talk about the nuances of the issue, he just made it sound like he admitted to doing something bad…

KASICH: Kicking Ass Since Inching Closer in Hampshire

Up until this debate, I thought Kasich was basically the GOP Debate equivalent of Martin O’Malley – He said the same things in every debate; he complained about the complaining other candidates were doing; and he jumped into other candidate comments or arguments whenever the chance presented itself. He did all of those things in this debate, too, but he also said a few new things. He’s making a real play for New Hampshire, which he pretty much has to win to have even an outside shot at the nomination. Kasich has about as much charisma as a rock, but New Hampshire is the Granite State, so maybe it will play well there…

CHRISTIE: Congratulating Himself Regarding Idiotic Sounding Tactics In Empathy

Chris Christie has been a somewhat moderate governor, but since he doesn’t want primary voters to know that, he tries to talk to the audience directly – by literally saying he’s talking to the audience directly. It’s pure pandermomium as Christie says that people don’t want to hear what the other candidates are saying, because only he knows how they’re feeling. He also dodged a bullet in this debate, because while Cruz and Rubio got videos showing their flip flops on pure display, no one else did. Christie went on and on about how terrible these guys were, even though his flip flops and exaggerations are also well-documented…

CARSON: Courageous Action Reel Star On Nyquil

It seems like Ben Carson’s answers have gotten better as his poll numbers have gotten worse. Carson was leading the pack for a little while, and what demoted him back to the ranks of the mediocre was his complete and total lack of foreign policy knowledge. So, Carson did what anyone who doesn’t have time to learn something they really need to know does – he crammed. Carson’s foreign policy ideas now sound like Michael Bay movies with random names of real foreign leaders sprinkled in. Of course, his delivery is still boring enough to put you to sleep, but if you really listen, you may have the next blockbuster on your hands. And, they’re way more entertaining than his constant jokes about not getting called on enough…

PAUL: Pretty Amped Up Lameness

Paul missed the last debate, so he was making up for lost time…I guess. He was pretty much exactly like he’s been at all the other debates, trying to get both the libertarian and conservative votes but only succeeding at getting neither. He also still sounds like he’s trying to do an impression of a stereotypical Southern aristocrat, which makes his outrage at other candidates sound more like a character from Django Unchained than a character in a presidential debate. And, he’s still the candidate you hate to agree with when he’s accidentally right. But, don’t feel too bad – the only time he’ll ever be president is when he dreams about it tonight…

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Fourth Democratic Debate Mnemonics

Candidates, what are some mnemonic devices people can use to remember your performances in the fourth Democratic Debate?

Hillary Clinton

Having a Cow: I was on point with my attacks, Obama admiration, and policy positions. Unfortunately, my husband has all the charisma in the marriage, so I’m somehow having trouble against a septuagenarian socialist whose ideas on taxes are a pipe dream.

How Contrived: You’d think I’d have learned how to not sound so scripted by now, but they never can seem to fix that part of my programming. So, somehow this is looking like 2008 again. At least the competition this time has zero minority appeal, one main idea he draws his other ideas from, and only two states where he really has a chance…

Heir Candidate: Yes, I know it’s usually more of a Republican thing for someone who ran last time to win this time, but seriously – What more do I have to do to get the nomination? It’s my turn, dammit.

Hollering Contender: When I raise my voice, it sounds like I actually have some emotion. As long as I don’t Howard Dean myself, I might be on to something…

 

Bernie Sanders

Bustin’ Sachs: I hate big banks, and I made sure everyone remembers that Hillary Clinton has benefited from Goldman Sachs.

Billionaires Suck: In case you didn’t notice, I like to talk about how billionaires control everything.

Bullets Suck: Yeah, yeah, I have a terrible record on gun control, but that’s probably just because billionaires control everything.

Boring Sonsofbitches: I constantly had to start my turn by saying I agree with the boring talking points of my opponents before going into my much more glorious talking points about how we can give everyone but billionaires free everything. Of course, since they’ll be taxed so much, they won’t remain billionaires for long, so they, too, will be able to take part in this glorious new country.

 

Martin O’Malley

Marvelous, Oh, Marvelous: Despite the moderators’ best efforts to pay attention to the head-to-head matchup that doesn’t include me, I had a decent performance.

Millionths Of Millionths: Despite my debate performance not being terrible, this is probably the most my poll numbers will rise in the next few days.

Man, Oh Man: I hit the ball out of the park with that line about how we shouldn’t call people’s kids, “boots on the ground” when we send the military in to fight an insurgency. It got a lot of applause, because idioms are stupid.

My turn, Oh, My turn: Every few hours, the moderators called on me, but I had to interrupt to get heard a lot of the time. I wish these guys would pay attention to my dominating 1-digit poll numbers…

 

YouTube

Yeah, Terrible: What was the point of having YouTube clips and popular YouTube hosts asking questions via video? It was awkward, but since we cosponsored the event, we figured we had to do something…

 

Democratic National Committee

Do Not Consider: Scheduling debates when people might actually watch them. Saturday nights and nights before holidays are ideal.

Sixth GOP Debate: Who Needs Moderators When You’ve Got Vendettas?

The Sixth GOP Debate must have been easy for the moderators, since most of it was candidates either fighting each other or fighting existential crises. Let’s take a look:
 
Trump vs. Cruz: The Main Event
Round One
You just can’t keep a good birther down. Trump’s been hitting Cruz hard on whether or not he’s a natural-born citizen – an argument which probably doesn’t hold water but which Trump continues to raise, both because Cruz’s American mother was in Canada when she gave birth to him and because Cruz has become a threat to him in Iowa. Cruz was ready for this line of questioning as soon as the moderators raised it, and he came out, guns blazing. As with many of his debate answers, the bullets didn’t always make sense, but he sounded very confident shooting them. There was a back-and-forth between the two, and while Trump didn’t exactly back down, Cruz appeared to get the better of him.
Round Two
If you want to know how to completely and totally screw up an attack, watch Cruz attack Trump for his “New York values,” implying that New Yorkers (specifically Manhattanites) are too liberal to be true Republicans. After coming out of nowhere with some Manhattan conservative name-dropping, Trump did the most predictable thing ever: He invoked 9/11. The Giuliani Gambit paid off, as did one of the conservative moderators taking offense, since she was also from New York.
Winner: Tie
 
Cruz vs. Rubio: The Anti-Senator Takes on the Random Rubio Generator
If Rubio is known for constantly changing his views on his own bills in the Senate, then Cruz is known for doing everything he can to stop the Senate from passing bills at all. The two senators squared off on the debate stage in a classic battle of overpreparation (Rubio) versus overconfidence (Cruz). “New York values” may have been a costly turnover for Cruz, but it was actually his second of the debate. His first was accidentally bailing out Rubio. When asked a question about illegal immigration, Rubio’s answer was basically, “Something something something ISIS.” Cruz pounced, and his counterattack about Rubio trying to deflect attention from his inconsistent immigration stance at first seemed to work. Unfortunately for Cruz, Rubio’s counter-counterattack about inconsistencies in Cruz’s own record worked even better. To make matters worse, Cruz’s counter-counter-counterattack trying to link Rubio to people Cruz didn’t like completely fizzled. As with the New York Trump moment, Cruz proved to be a one-counterattack pony. The other major fight between Cruz and Rubio started with an entitlement question, then devolved into technical tax talk. In this case, Christie took advantage of the situation and interrupted both of them, getting off a zinger about senators arguing forever about things that have nothing to do with what they’re supposed to be talking about.
Winner: Tie (Rubio and Christie)
 
Rubio vs. Christie: The Battle of New Hampshire, in South Carolina, right before Iowa
Whether because he’s been losing ground to Christie and others in New Hampshire or for some other reason, Rubio was less at ease in this debate than in past ones. Most of his good moments came against Cruz, but outside of those, he seemed too scripted. He did show some adeptness at subject-changing, but Christie beat him on zingers and getting away with saying blatantly untrue things. Rubio may have gotten the better of Cruz, but Christie got the better of Rubio.
Winner: Christie
 
Bush vs. Trump: The Formerly Inevitable vs. The Future Unelectable
This brief battle brought back memories of the first few debates, before Bush’s poll numbers were in the hundredths and before Trump had gotten used to debates. Bush made more sense, came off as more presidential, and made you wonder why he hadn’t done better in prior debates. Trump was Trump. For every Muslim ban Trump defended, Bush pointed out why it would be counterproductive, and for each tariff argument Trump presented, Bush pointed out why it would be counterproductive. By the way, if you ever play Trump in poker, he raises if he’s holding a Full Muslim Ban or better, but if all he’s got is a Pair of Tariffs, you can probably scare him away from the pot.
Winner: Bush
 
Kasich vs. Kasich
If there’s one candidate who’s been consistent throughout the debates, it’s Kasich. A lot of what he says makes sense, but his demeanor, responses, and interruptions never seem to change. This is why you don’t ever see that he won a debate, but you don’t ever see that he lost one, either. In this debate, Kasich didn’t disappoint, but he didn’t not disappoint, either. Honestly, the moderators could probably just get a Kasich 5000 and push the appropriate buttons when he’s asked questions. Of course, the Kasich 5000 also comes with an argument interrupt button, so you never miss one of those patented, this-is-why-people-don’t-like-politicians responses to when two other candidates are going at it.
Winner: Makers of the Kasich 5000
 
Ben Carson vs. Naptime
I hope no one was planning on using Carson as a sleep aid last night, because shockingly, he was a 2/10 on the excitometer – That’s 5 points higher than he’s ever been before! Carson delivered a joke or two that were somehow funny, and his answers were so unrealistic, they came off more as action movie plots than policy proposals. Still, this is Carson we’re talking about. For the most part, he stuck to his way-too-calm demeanor, although he occasionally interrupted the moderators to address how his ideas compared to whoever had just spoken. It came off like he was trying to remind everyone he was still there, which is never a good thing to have to do in a presidential debate. Some of those policy proposals sounded pretty awesome, though…
Winner: Ben “Yipee-Ki-Yay-Motherpresident” Carson
 
Moderators vs. Actual Moderating
If you thought the previous debate moderators were bad about letting candidates go way over time, way off topic, or after each other for the lamest of reasons, I’d like you to meet Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartilomo. Something obviously happened between the last debate they moderated and this one, because they interacted with the candidates only slightly less than people watching at home. And, who could blame them? When Donfirmation Bias, Ted “Reigning Subject Changing Champion” Cruz, Marco “Round and Round And Round He Goes – What Are His Positions? Nobody Knows” Rubio, Chris “Exaggeration Schmexaggeration” Christie, and Jeb “Don’t Forget About Me” Bush are at each other’s throats, it’s just too entertaining to pass up. Unless they actually injure each other, in which case Carson might have to get more involved. And, really, who wants that?
Winner: Viewers
 
Undercard Debate: Mike “My Predictable Jokes Are Hilarious” Huckabee, Carly “Did I Mention That I Come From the Private Sector?” Fiorina, and Rick “Please Forget That I Said to Look My Name Up on Google” Santorum vs. Barack “Antichrist” Obama and Hillary “Antichrister” Clinton
Considering this was the debate for candidates barely registering in polls, it was surprising to see how much the candidates talked about how confident they were they could beat Hillary Clinton. Although, I’m pretty sure Mike Huckabee was just trying out material for a new show, since he bafflingly left his recent TV show to run for president again. Fiorina may as well have put on a recording of her previous debate talking points (Did she?), and Santorum made a big deal about how he’d defeated people the Clintons had backed and about how religious he was.
Winner: Me, for missing part of it
 
Rand Paul vs. Not Pouting
The main debate criteria was just narrow enough that it kept Paul out (If a poll carried out before the deadline but released just after it had been included, he would have made it on), and he probably should have been let on the main stage. But, since he wasn’t, he refused to take part in the undercard debate. This was a weird choice, since A) Paul loves to talk, B) Fiorina performed well enough in the undercard to make it to the main debate a few times, and C) Christie actually fell into the undercard and performed well enough to make it BACK to the main debate. There was literally nothing for Paul to gain by skipping the undercard debate. Unless you count Santorum’s joke about using some of Paul’s time when his answer went over…
Winner: America

I’ve Made a Huge Mistake…

If you’ve ever watched “Arrested Development,” you know the sense of dread a character gets when they say, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” If you’ve never watched “Arrested Development,” just pretend you’re one of the people currently occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and you might get the same idea. That’s because your leaders, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, have led you into quite the predicament. You were just minding your own business with like-minded militia members whose version of the American Dream is one in which “government” is spelled, “N-O-N-E,” and the next thing you know, you’re in the middle of Nowhere, Oregon, with nothing to eat but guns and bad arguments. How did it come to this?

After all, Cliven Bundy got away with feeding his cattle for free on federal land for 20 years, and when the feds came to take the cattle as payment, lots of militia people showed up and forced them to back down. If Cliven could pull something like that off, surely his sons could do the same, right? I mean, they share the same genes, so they must share the same outcomes, too. Besides, the argument in this case was way better than Cliven’s: Dwight and Steve Hammond got re-sentenced for committing arson on federal land, because the original judge refused to give them the mandatory minimum sentence. What are you supposed to do when something like that happens – NOT occupy federal land using people who hate the federal government, don’t live anywhere near the area, and lack support from the people who were put in jail in the first place? You even tried sweetening the pot by not only demanding the Hammonds’ release, but also that the land you’re occupying be divvied up among local ranchers. What more do they want?

And, yet, not only are the Hammonds themselves saying this was a bad idea, but some of the locals are even against you, wondering why you forced yourself into local matters when you aren’t even from the same state. It’s almost like they think taking over land and demanding it be given away isn’t the best way to approach concerns about what can and can’t be done on that land. Perhaps worst of all, some militia groups have even turned against you. And, when radical groups committed to overthrowing the government based on fictional versions of American history tell you something’s a bad idea, it really makes you stop and think. Perhaps for the first time in years…

The Candidates We Lost in 2015

I don’t usually do year-end reviews, but we’ve had so many candidates drop out of the presidential race this year, I just couldn’t help myself. So, without further ado, here are the Democratic and Republican candidates we lost in 2015 (in order of entertainment value):
 
Bobby Jindal – The Poor Man’s Trump (June 24, 2015 – November 17, 2015): A few years ago, Jindal was floated as a potential presidential candidate, and he was talked about as a levelheaded establishment conservative who could win the presidency. Clearly, he wanted to prove his backers wrong. Whether because too many establishment conservatives had already entered the race, or because too many evangelical conservatives had already entered the race, or because too many tea party conservatives had already entered the race, Jindal had to stand out from the crowd. And, boy, did he stand out from the crowd. Scholars of the English language may claim that “the” and “of” are the most commonly-spoken words, but when Jindal’s speaking, those words become “Obama” and “socialist.” But, Jindal doesn’t just think Obama is terrible – the way he talked about his GOP opponents made them sound like either Satan or the spawn of Satan. And, where someone like Trump might focus his fire on a candidate’s weakness, perceived slight, or the complete exaggeration of something a candidate might have potentially done in his imagination, Jindal uses more of a shotgun approach, throwing all kinds of insanity at his opponents and hoping something sticks. The best part of this was when he would be in a debate and all the other candidates would say something like, “Anyone on this stage would be a better president than Obama, Clinton, or Sanders.” He would stick out as the one to say that only he would be a better candidate, because all the rest of them were either Obama lovers or socialists.
 
Legacy: The Jindal Point. Any candidate can make a talking point, but only a select few have mastered the Jindal Point. A Jindal Point starts with a talking point that’s already a bit out there but isn’t completely unsafe to use. Then, it’s Jindalized, which exaggerates it beyond all semblance of reality. Of course, anyone who’s listened to talk radio knows that that’s not that hard to do, but the real genius comes with the delivery, which only Jindal can provide. Jindal Points are delivered with a unique blend of desperation, thinking you sound way smarter than you actually do, and the kind of fiction that even the best writers could never hope to achieve…
 
 
Scott Walker – 2015’s First to Worst Champion (July 13, 2015 – September 21, 2015): Walker’s quick turnaround from frontrunner to frontdropper was something to behold. He vaulted to the front of the pack when he gave a speech at the Iowa Freedom Caucus, then showed there was nowhere to go but down. It was pretty amazing to watch someone who’s been elected governor 3 times give so many contradictory statements in different interviews, rack up several Most Boring Debate Performance nominations, and try to out-Trump Trump without having anything remotely resembling charisma. Walker was originally seen as a candidate who could win both evangelicals and establishment conservatives. And, to be fair, he did unite them both in disappointment. He seemed to think he had this one in the bag, so he (mis)spent his campaign funds like he wasn’t running against 16 other candidates.
 
Legacy: The Walker Method. Scott Walker revolutionized how not to answer questions. From the noncommittal answer, to giving different answers in different interviews, Walker seemed to think it would never catch up with him (even though it always did). Some politicians can get away with non-answers, but Walker can’t. His answers ranged from making it look like he supported building a wall between the US and Canada to not answering foreign policy questions when visiting foreign countries. Bill Clinton’s answers may depend on what the meaning of the word is is, but Scott Walker’s answers seem to depend on the type of dice used in Dungeons and Dragons…
 
 
Lincoln Chafee – Best Moment in the Sun Since Icarus (April 9, 2015 – October 3, 2015): Chafee’s most memorable moments came in the first Democratic Debate, and that’s not a good thing. In fact, the only sense I could make out of Chafee’s debate performance was that he must have wandered in thinking it was a brainstorming session for how not to debate. Chafee’s debate answers were similar to Walker’s, in that they made you think, “How did this guy get elected governor?” However, while Walker’s were mainly over-rehearsed talking points, Chafee’s were mainly under-rehearsed “Huh?” points. Chafee didn’t seem like he wanted to be there and was barely paying attention at times. Of course, the best moment was when he was asked about voting for a bad bill, and his explanation was that he had just been elected, he was tired, and his dad had just died, so the moderator should cut him some slack. And, just in case there was any confusion, he was asked if that’s what he really meant to say, to which he said, seriously, they should cut him some slack.
 
Legacy: Chafeean Independence. Chafee used to be a Republican senator, and he made a big deal about voting against things most Republicans voted for. He doubled down on this legacy by showing how independently boring he was in his only debate performance. Ben Carson may put you to sleep when he talks, but at least he sounds like he wants to be there. Chafee sounds like he wants to be somewhere else in the same way that a student who forgot they had to give a presentation to the class until 5 minutes ago sounds like they want to be somewhere else…
 
 
Lindsey Graham – Least Convincing Campaign of 2015 (May 18, 2015 – December 1, 2015): With the possible exception of Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham seemed to have the best time running for president. Maybe it was because his poll numbers never rose above the zero digits, or maybe it was because he was McCain Lite running 8 years after McCain lost, but he never seemed to care that his chances of being president never went up. He had some of the best lines from the campaign and made some of the best jokes, but many of his views (like sending ground troops all over the place and talking about how much he missed George W. Bush’s Administration) didn’t really resonate. Graham was also one of the first candidates to try to take Trump down by attacking him, which resulted in a funny YouTube video, but not much else.
 
Legacy: The Grahamnachronism. Throughout the campaign, Graham’s tone, policies, and overall demeanor seemed like they would have worked great in a different election or a different era, but he never stood out from the field enough to have a chance in this one.
 
 
Rick Perry – The Road to Redemption is Paved with John Kasich (June 4, 2015 – September 11, 2015): 2011’s First to Worst Champion primed himself for a comeback in 2015, and he avoided many of the 2012 mistakes that set the bar so low for him this time. Unfortunately, John Kasich’s entrance to the race came right before the first debate, and his late rise in the polls bumped Perry from his 10th place standing, pushing him off the main stage and into the undercard debate. While Perry was a much better candidate this time around, he wasn’t better enough to raise enough money or stand out from the crowd, leading him to become the first GOP candidate to drop out.
 
Legacy: First Casualty at the Battle of Also-Ran. Perry was the first candidate who’s previously run for president to fail this go round. However, Rick Santorum (2012), Mike Huckabee (2008), and Jim Gilmore (2008) don’t look like they’ll be around for much longer, so stay tuned.
 
 
George Pataki – Why Career and Charisma Aren’t the Same Thing (May 28, 2015 – December 29, 2015): Pataki has been Governor of New York 3 times, which is 3 more times than he’ll be President of the United States. His argument for joining the race was that he was more moderate than the competition. If you know anything about presidential primaries, though, that can be a steep mountain to climb. The passionate and the opinionated turn out for primary elections, and moderates don’t become a reliable force until the general election. But, what he lacked in opinionatedness he…also lacked in charisma. And, it didn’t help that there were other moderates and moderate conservatives who’d raised a lot more money. Pataki was pretty much doomed from the start, and his debate performances were pretty uninspiring.
 
Legacy: Polltaki. It was always going to be an uphill climb for Pataki, but he never got higher than 3% in polls, and as Nate Silver’s website points out, his combined total in all 221 polls didn’t even add up to 100 percent. Which basically means that, most of the time, he registered at 0%.
 
 
Candidates I didn’t include:
 
Jim Webb (July 2, 2015 – October 20, 2015): Although Webb has dropped out of the Democratic nomination race, he’s hinted that he might run as an independent (Not sure who would vote for him. Himself, maybe?).
 
Lawrence Lessig (September 6, 2015 – November 2, 2015): Lessig’s campaign lasted less than 2 months, he was arguably a one- or two-issue candidate, and he didn’t participate in any debates. But, I’m mainly not including him because I need to finish this up, and finding out as much as I would need to about someone I haven’t kept up with at all would probably take too long. I sincerely apologize to any hardcore Lessigites out there…