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On Thursday evening, the Texas Public Policy Foundation held a debate for the 5 GOP candidates running to replace Kay Baily Hutchison in the US Senate. Since few of you had the chance to attend or watch it live via the TPPF’s live stream, here are my grades for each candidate (with summary below the fold):
- Tom Leppert: A-
- Ted Cruz: B+
- Craig James: B
- Glenn Addison: C
- David Dewhurst: F
But first I’d like to commend the TPPF for hosting this debate, which was more substantive and impressive than any of the GOP presidential debates. This is what happens when we let Conservatives sponsor and host Conservative debates, instead of allowing our Liberal enemies in the MSM to set the agenda and tone. I believe that TPPF will have video of the debate posted in its entirety to their site in the next week or so. Watch it if you get the chance.
Kathleen McKinley (nice to see you again) has her summary posted at the Houston Chronicle.
Now, on to the candidates performances…
Tom Leppert — spoke in measured, but calm and clear tones. Never seemed ruffled and had good, sound answers for every question. Seems like a very smart man. Never really got pulled into some of the negative attacks and mud slinging. While some are concerned (and rightly so) about his record as Mayor of Dallas, he actually had a really good debate. However, I think once Texans take a closer look at his actual record (and how deeply he appears to be in the back pocket of T. Boone Pickens), I think he’ll be reduced to what he actually is: the least conservative and — other than Craig James — the least qualified candidate running for KBH’s vacated seat.
Debate Grade: A- for managing to keep his mayoral record from being brought up, not making any mistakes, answering questions clearly, for not going negative, and for coming across as smart and prepared.
Ted Cruz — Ted is the candidate that I am fully supporting and eagerly endorsing for the US Senate. And while he had a decent debate, I don’t think it was great. He opened the debate by calling Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst out on ducking every single previous debate held by the GOP candidates. And rightly so. But from there Cruz’ constant attacks on Dewhurst bordered on personal and obsessive. I found myself wishing Cruz would spend more enery touting his own Conservative bonafides and legislative agenda then the constant attacks on his biggest rival in this race.
Cruz’ best moment was when he did precisely that — when he discussed how he successfully represented Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court in Medellin v. Texas, which upheld U.S. sovereignty and held that the World Court cannot bind the U.S. justice system and the President cannot order the state courts to obey the World Court.
Cruz’ worst moment was in trying to answer a question on what the rate should be for a flat tax. Cruz seemed ruffled and let the moderator’s badgering fluster him.
Debate Grade: B+ for his energy and charisma, for not having to defend a solid record, and for not being afraid to take on Dewhurst and his not-so-great record in Texas over the last 10 years.
Craig James — James has probably the least chance of winning this race, but I’m glad he was on stage tonight. James would find it near impossible to find more than a handful of votes anywhere in West Texas, regardless of how good of a candidate he is (after helping get Texas Tech’s exceptionally popular football coach Mike Leach fired for allegedly locking his son in a storage room for disciplinary reasons).
James was much better prepared for the debate and did much better than I would have anticipated (if more in style than substance) compared to the more experienced politicians he shared the stage with.
I don’t doubt James’ conservative values or desire to go to D.C. and work hard for the people of Texas. But…well, there are just too many but’s about his experience.
However, he did have one of the best moments of the night when he called out the Austin American-Statesman’s Jason Embry for a “gotcha question” on who the current secretary of defense is (Panetta, which James did know, but answered only after pretty much punting Embry halfway down the field).
Debate Grade: B for exceeding expectations and for bringing a lot of much needed levity and fire to the stage. And for drop-kicking the Left-leaning and biased Jason Embry.
Glenn Addison — Addison, a small business owner (funeral homes and crematoriums) from Magnolia, TX is the candidate whom I knew the least about when the debate started. But within just a few minutes of the debate he had my interest and had me wanting to learn more about him. He pulled out his pocket copy of the US Constitution right away, a move he would repeat numerous times throughout the evening, when answering a question about the EPA, whom he called a job killer and an unconstitutional agency that should be abolished.
On his next question, he promised to serve only a single 6-year term and then come home to his day job “as our founder intended.” And after Leppert pimped his 33-page plan, Addison responded that he didn’t trust it because “that’s longer than the Constitution.”
I was all ready to jump on the Addison bandwagon — he sounded great, assured, and well prepared. He even looks like a Senator.
But then we got around to foreign policy. He started off strong, calling the UN “the most Anti-American force in the world” (which it is) and that we should “get the US out of the UN” (we should). But then his Ron Paul-esque isolationist polices started losing me, to the point where I finally tweeted, “It’s official, Glenn Addison has positioning himself as the candidate of the nativist wing of the Ron Paul movement.”
Debate Grade: C, for starting strong, but he ended up sounding like a much-less crazy Ron Paul. But Ron Paul none-the-less. He’d be better off moving to Galveston and running for Paul’s House seat than running for KBH’s Senate seat.
David Dewhurst — Dewhurst has been our Lt. Gov. for 10 years. He has the most name recognition, the most money, and is considered the strong frontrunner in this race. But he was by far the worst candidate and debater on the stage last night. So much so, that he made Rick Perry sound like Mario Rubio.
There is a reason that Dewhurst has been ducking Ted Cruz and refusing to attend any of the previous debates: he’s really, really bad at it. And not just because it’s hard to debate a poor Conservative record (such as supporting a state-income tax in Texas, and killing the anti-sanctuary city and the TSA groping bills last session).
Remember the cartoon Droopy the dog? That’s pretty much exactly what Dewhurst sounded like on stage on Thursday evening. No energy, seemed lost and confused at times. Halting, slow speech. Even his best counter against Cruz’ contest attacks (You keep this up and you’re going to give trial lawyers a bad name) fell completely flat because of the delivery.
Someone suggested that he might have been suffering from Cedar Fever (cedar was at a seasonal high on Thursday). Perhaps if Dewhurst had showed up at a few earlier debates, we’d have something to measure that excuse against. Hell if he’d shown up (as he promised to do) at today’s Saddle Up straw poll in Houston, we’d be able to see a difference.
So far in this campaign, Dewhurst has shown a galling lack of respect for Texas voters.
Debate Grade: F for talking slower than Michael Moore could run a marathon. For having no defense for his poor record, for snubbing Texas voters at every turn, and for the condescending tone he took with other candidates on stage (when he finally did decide to face his opponents).