Rand Paul

GOP Debate Showed What the Republican Primary Looks Like Without Donald Trump

It's not more libertarian, but it is lot more substantive.

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Tonight's Republican debate on Fox News offered a brief glimpse at a race without Donald Trump.

And what that glimpse showed us was a race that is smarter, more substantive, and better at revealing the spirited differences of policy, personality, and ideology in the Republican primary field.

The two candidates who benefited most from Trump's absence were Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. Without Trump on the stage, Bush actually seemed to have some life and energy — and his record as governor and policy knowledge came across more clearly. Sure, Bush could still be halting and awkward at times, but he didn't look like a skinny nerd getting bullied on the playground, as has often been the case in his encounters with Trump.  

Rand Paul, meanwhile, had what was arguably his best debate so far. Partly that's because he was more polished than he has been, more fluent and eloquent, especially on foreign policy. And partly it's because, without Trump around, Paul became the foremost voice of opposition on the stage, the best counterweight to the GOP's conventional wisdom — which, of course, there was a lot of.

Make no mistake: The GOP minus Trump is no haven for libertarians. It's still hawkish and restrictionist and focused on social conservative identity issues. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both of whom were once among the GOP's most outspoken immigration reform advocates, engaged in a lengthy back and forth over their respective flip-flops on the issue, with each accusing the other of supporting amnesty. (Ted Cruz got dragged into the amnesty fight too.) Rubio led the field in demanding that America's military budget, which is already bigger than the next seven largest national defense budgets combined, be massively increased.  And even the most libertarian-leaning candidate, Rand Paul, got in digs about the need for stricter immigration screening.

Yet the Republican party represented on stage tonight was less overtly ridiculous, less prone to childish insult games, and more willing to engage in substantive debate about issues ranging from Obamacare and Medicaid to ethanol and immigration, than it has been since Trump entered the race last year. It seemed more like a contest of ideas and ideology, and less like an insult-comic throwdown.

In short, tonight's debate was something like an actual presidential debate rather than a form of crass political entertainment. And for that reason alone, I think it was the best debate yet. Admittedly, that's a pretty low bar, but at this point, I'll take what I can get. 

NEXT: Rand Paul Covers Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform in Debate Answer on Ferguson

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  1. Hope Rand holds out as long as possible.

    1. I wouldn’t describe it as Rand’s best debate just due to him not getting alot of airtime. I do believe he will outperform the polls in Iowa and finish 3rd. That will hopefully get him back into the top 3 and give him an opportunity to get more press. Once that happens I hope he can attract more voters because he is different then the rest of the GOP. I think Trump and Cruz are 1&2 in and rand definitely can convert those low info voters over the rest of the primary

      1. then the rest of the GOP

        than/ pedant

        1. I wouldn’t let that affect/effect me, to/two/too.

          1. Francisco is an old crank who hates America.

            1. I’d go farther/further than/then that!

              New restaurant tonight; good food and service, price not bad, LOUD!
              I MISSED THAT, WHAT DID YOU SAY?! I SAID LOOOUUUD!!!

            2. Most of you are old cranks, that was what brought me here. =)

        2. I’m never going to be able to poke fun at Ted if you do shit like that, Frank.

          Helping, or hurting?

    2. Honestly Suell I also like Rand Paul, however like Taran was saying on, an earlier thread. The Republican party has been re-infected with Mercantilism, and the Democratic party has been re-infected with Socialism.
      That’s a hard combination to beat.

      1. The fact that an avowed socialist is polling way higher than a libertarianish is disconcerting, but no surprising.

        1. “Free Shit” is a hell of a sales pitch.
          Mad Man Muntz: “I wanna give ’em away, but my wife won’t let me!”

        2. +1 “Those who would rob Peter to pay Paul, will always have the support of Paul.”

      2. The only question anyone has to ask themselves this election is who they want choosing the next three supreme court appointees. Bernie/Hillary, or literally anyone else.

        1. That’s a pretty irrelevant question IMO. But hey – good luck with the ‘gotta vote for the sack of pus with the R label’ fearmongering.

          1. It’s probably the most relevant question on the planet right now. The supreme court has FAR more long term impact on the country and our freedom than any one president ever could, and the next president will choose the next three appointees (at least). So the next president will, essentially, lay the foundation for all constitutional policy for the next twenty years or so. And with the first, second, fourth, and fifth amendments essentially one vote away from nullification right this minute, I’d say it’s a pretty fucking relevant question indeed.

            With Bernie/Hillary we are guaranteed another Kagan or Sotomayor. I mean, shit, Hillary just said she’d be open to nominating Obama.

            With a republican we at least have a shot at another Thomas, Scalia, or Alito.

            There is literally nothing more important than the supreme court right now. But hey, good luck being a totally edgy and hardcore super libertarian. Fuck everyone if they’re not 100% on your side, amirite? I mean, the core principle of libertarianism is getting exactly what you want all the time and only dealing with people who totally agree with you. I think John Adams said that or something.

            1. Except you’re wrong. A lot of libertarians on here are perfectly willing to compromise and vote for one of the several imperfect candidates on this stage. Whether its the libertarianish Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and there are even a few on here who would support Trump (ugh). The candidates that most of us definitely won’t vote for is Christie, Rubio, JEB!, and Carson. And why should we?

              Compromise to me, even when I’m in the minority position, is you offering Ted Cruz who isn’t a libertarian but a great fiscal conservative and most here would vote for him. A fuck you is offering up Mr. Screw States Rights on things I don’t like Christie, another Bush, or fellow Drug Warrior (fuck states rights), fellow NSA Spying cheerleader and interventionist candidate Rubio. Why would we support them? There is nothing vaguely libertarian about these guys. Even on fiscal issues they’re not inspiring, (except Christie whose as at least talked about reforming Medicare and Social Security).

              And your conservative Supreme Court gave us the Kelo, Raich, and Sebelius decisions. You’re not gonna get much support from us on that issue when a Rubio, Christie, or JEB! could just as easily appoint another Roberts, or Kennedy instead of a Thomas.

              1. Don’t vote based on compromise, vote on likely outcomes . The best thing from a libertarian point of view is a president that isn’t activist, vetoes a lot of bills, and is too weak to manipulate either Congress or the public. A libertarian leaning activist president may well be worse than a conservative dud.

            2. Except with the R picks you get tough on crime fucks who think it is ok to lock up people for their entire life for minor shit. You get a supreme court willing to trample on peoples right to love whomever the fuck they want to love. You get Roe v Wade overturned allowing the government control over ones own body. The Rs will allow the NSA to spy on me without cause. Taking my property to give to Donald Trump so he can enrich himself. So yeah we will be fucked no matter which ass clown wins. The Rs are just as bad as the Ds.

              1. “You get a supreme court willing to trample on peoples right to love whomever the fuck they want to love. You get Roe v Wade overturned allowing the government control over ones own body.”

                If that’s how you honestly view those issues, then you’re not a libertarian anyway.

              2. Except for the most important right of them all… when the dissenters in the Heller decision claimed with straight faces that the 2nd amendment is not an individual right, the stakes got much higher.

                1. Spot on. Kagan and Sotomayor had no problem lying about being anti-gun during their confirmations, then immediately went anti-gun after they were installed in the Supreme Court. All it takes is one more of these liars, and we could see the 2nd Amendment kneecapped at the state level in many states.

                  For instance, a case challenging the per-ammo-cartridge tax may make it all the way to SCOTUS, and then it is allowed (“it’s just a tax–just like with Obamacare,” never mind that taxing a fundamental right is criminal like taxing voting with a poll tax). This would be a de-facto ban on the use of firearms in that state, and then other states could follow suit without challenge, etc. As long as a few states remain that don’t do a per-ammo-cartridge tax, the anti-gunners could claim that there is no nationwide ban on the 2A, saying “states’ rights” were upheld on a matter that was so important even the Founding Fathers saw fit to federalize it.

                  1. On the other hand, Sotomayor has been excellent on civil liberties. Unlike the conservative fucksticks on the Court.

        2. +1 Penaltax
          +1 Raich
          +1 Kielo
          +1 The ACA doesn’t mean what the text says, and not what Congress intended as they wrote it, but what some in Congress wish it said now.

          Awesome!!!!

  2. And partly it’s because, without Trump around, Paul became the foremost voice of opposition on the stage, the best counterweight to the GOP’s conventional wisdom…

    Been saying this for a while…Trump took Rand’s planned position of attacking the establishment and went full retard wit it. Trump stole Rand’s thunder.

    1. “Trump stole Rand’s thunder.”

      Or sorta stood in front of him and made loud noises.
      ‘Opposition’ he might be, but I suspect he opposes any position that isn’t 100% pro-Donald. His principle is easily understood; self-promotion by any means possible (without getting arrested).
      I don’t like Rand’s anti-abortion plank, especially since he floated a bill about it. Other than that, he’s about as good as we’re gonna get.
      If he did get nominated, I’d vote R for the second time in my life (the first was a sacrificial R mayoral candidate in SF).

      1. Or maybe Trump just farted in Rand’s general direction. This election is kind of a Monty Python skit so far.

      2. I don’t think Trump is against doing something that might get him arrested. I think he is against getting caught. And there is an important difference in there.

  3. I never knew how much Shikha luvs her some Jeb! Her twitter was enlightening.

    1. Jeb sounded like a reasonable, rational, experienced adult. Had Trump not jumped in, he’d absolutely be a leader — if not THE leader — right now.

      1. Who is this Jeb you are talking about, It certainly is not Jeb Bush.

  4. Peter Suderman

    “Tonight’s Republican debate on Fox News offered a brief glimpse at a race without Donald Trump. And what that glimpse showed us was a race that is smarter, more substantive, and better at revealing the spirited differences of policy, personality, and ideology in the Republican primary field.’

    Washington Post

    “DES MOINES ? The first Republican presidential debate without Donald Trump still took on a Trumpian tone at times, with the seven other top candidates here Thursday night voicing anger, talking tough and vowing to do away with political correctness.’

    1. Hmm.
      ‘Women and minorities suffer most!’? Over/under on WaPo blaming R’s for Flint?

      1. The New Republic is spinning the same tale =

        Trump wins debate he didn’t attend

        Trigger Warning = ESB

        1. I’m gonna guess most of those “stories” were written well in advance and modified as required to avoid blatant lies during the debate.
          ‘The GOP ignores Flint’s water problem’? WIH does Flint’s mismanagement have to do with a President?

          1. The FEEELZ man, the feeeelz. It is a problem because it doesn’t FEEL good! To hell with making sense or having facts or being a decent president who understands the constitution…..if it feels good, say it!

        2. FUCK !!! Gilly !!! At least let me put on my cup before you kick me in the nuts !!!!

    2. Is there a name for it when your actual story actually contradicts the headline and the lede?

      “Cruz began by mocking Trump’s reputation for insults: “I’m a ‘maniac’ and everyone on this stage is ‘stupid,’ ‘fat’ and ‘ugly.’ And Ben [Carson], you’re a ‘terrible surgeon.’ Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way .?.?.”

      From there, however, little more was said about Trump, few direct attacks were leveled at him and the overall atmosphere was notably calmer than in previous debate.”

      1. and yes i use the word ‘actual’ too much. and ‘apparently’

        1. Actually, in speaking, I use “actually” too often, but how about “Lie” when the story does that.

          1. My three year old just learned “actually” and he uses it profusely. It is, actually, very funny.

            1. Like salt, it’s required but should be rationed; I’m working on it.

            2. That’s a total proud kid word. I remember when my daughter first learned how to employ actually. She actually did everything for awhile.

      2. I would say that’s called “bullshit.”

  5. Rand got crushed when he twice refused Wallace’s question on state rights, proving yet again the hypocrisy of both Paul’s on states rights.

  6. Wallace exposed Rand’s hypocrisy, as Rand twice refused to answer the question on federalism and liberal states, dodging and diverting. Like his dad, fence-straddling instead of principle … for all but tribal libertarians.

  7. Good thing Reason was able to tell me how it looked like, because I wasn’t watching Faux after they snubbed Trump like the elitist immigration loving biased muslim activist inviting megan kelly shilling pathetic station they are. I’m done with Faux 200% and can’t wait for Trump to make America Great Again.

    1. Your handle is appropriate, sir or madam.

  8. I wouldn’t know if the debate got better after the first few answers seemed to be variations on the theme of exactly who was advocating nuking the terrorists the most and then Rand started criticizing the open borders sorts who don’t even want to properly keep out the browns. I just couldn’t take it any more, started thinking if Trump showed up the debate would actually get better. Am I that out of touch with the mood of the country that I don’t understand why candidates think it’s a winner to go all foaming-at-the-mouth over killing as many A-rabs as possible?

  9. Immigration screening is not a libertarian issue either way as long as our government spends 40% of the GdP “for the public” and imposes non discrimination laws. That is, in a libertarian country, there wouldn’t be any restrictions on immigration, but people would also not be forced to hand over thousands of dollars in benefits to be arrivals and accommodate then in their businesses. Right now, every immigrant the federal government lets into the country amounts to forced association and forced redistribution. The fact that, on average, immigrants are a net benefit to the country doesn’t change that.

    1. When you import people you import their politics with them.

  10. It was the first Republican debate.

    Trump is a Democrat, an old school, racist, xenophobic, protectionist, big government, machine Democrat–Tammany Hall comes to the White House.

    With him gone we actually got a glimpse–far too late–of the field.

  11. Great review of debate which should show what Trump brings to a debate ABSOLUTELY NOTHING Someone like Rand Paul is the only hope for this country. Rand should really consider a 3rd party run because the youth of this country is getting sick of the status quo politicians

    1. Third party run guarantees Hillary in 2016. We saw this movie in 1992.

      1. Not necessarily. Bernie as a Thirdie would be good, and Bloomberg, potentially, could pull votes from her, as well. Honestly, if we end up with Trump v Sanders, someone like Bloomberg would go a long way to help the republicans win. Not, necessarily, that I want that, but still.

  12. It’s not more libertarian, but it is lot more substantive.

    More substantive? No wonder the MSM is behind Trump.

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  15. so that’s like saying if only for michael jordan, scotty pippen would have gotten all the glory?

  16. as of right now according to the people who have “skin in the game”, even if it is just a skin-flute, hillary clinton wins by a landslide……nothing will be more horrible than an ego-driven, menopausal liberal fascist baby boomer as the next president……

  17. “And even the most libertarian-leaning candidate, Rand Paul, got in digs about the need for stricter immigration screening.”

    Which makes him Da Devil!

    REASON ROCKZ OPEN BORDERZ! WOOHOO!

  18. Stay in, Rand!

  19. Stay in, Rand!

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