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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Why the Republicans need Rand Paul

Reaction continues to trickle in from Tuesday night’s Republican debate, largely in the form of who “won,” who “lost” and who might rise or fall in the polls.

Such analysis is pretty standard these days. Politics is a contest not unlike Olympic Figure Skating or Gymnastics – all of the competitors are really, really good and the variances between them are so minute that Rand Paulonly judges who’ve spent decades in their respective sports are deemed qualified to pick who wins the Gold. Or, who comes in last.

If you fall during the long program or off the balance beam, even amateurs can tell who will lose. For the rest, it’s not so simple.

It’s not much different for political debates. But after observing four such events this year, it’s clear that certain “players” are just better than others. Carly Fiorina is terrific at forming sentences that synopsize the issues and grab at our emotions.

Marco Rubio is polished and speaks so fast that people just seem awed by his linguistic abilities (maybe that’s why they’re largely ignoring the substance of what he’s saying, in my opinion). Rubio is a younger, thinner version of Mike Huckabee.

But then there’s one candidate who clearly rises above his fellow competitors in this type of forum. Ted Cruz.

Jeff Greenfield of Politico Magazine agrees, writing, “…Sen. Ted Cruz again demonstrated that, in this political arena, he is simply better than anyone else.

“This is not a judgment about the merits, or even the intellectual honesty, of his arguments. It is simply a judgment, based on some half a century of debate watching (and in an earlier life, debate-prepping), that Ted Cruz understands the format in a way his opponents do not. They are playing political checkers; he is playing political chess.”

Greenfield highlights how Cruz is able to mold every answer around the bigger ideas of his campaign, touching on constitutionalist, populist and humanitarian themes, sometimes all within one 90-second answer.

The Princeton debate champion looks like he’s toying with the others at times.

Most of the candidates are good at debating and offer compelling reasons for conservatives to favor them, but Ted Cruz is undoubtedly the best at breaking ideas down and articulating them for easy consumption.

Think of that the next time a TV talker speculates on who’s a “winner” or “loser.”

How Ted Cruz would balance the budget

Watching the debate on Tuesday night, I was struck by the fact every candidate rails against government authority, yet few of them were truly advocating reducing the size of government.

They all talk about emboldening the individual, but how many really believe it can be accomplished by taking power away from the government?

Certainly not John Kasich or Jeb Bush; Kasich wants a balanced budget. Bush foresees growth. Both think government can “fix” things. Carly Fiorina likes zero-based budgeting to make government more efficient. Marco Rubio advocates a tax credit that will cut revenues… while calling for big military spending at the same time.

Donald Trump proposes cutting taxes and replacing Obamacare and “winning.” Slashing the government…? Not really.

You get the idea.

Only one candidate has seriously laid out a plan to reduce taxes and “pay” for them by taking an axe to the government the way it is today. That candidate is Ted Cruz.

Peter Ferrara of the American Spectator argues, “Cruz’s tax reform plan was explicitly not designed to be revenue neutral, because Cruz is campaigning to reduce the size of government, not raise the same revenue to finance the same government expenditures.

“Tuesday night, in conjunction with the Fox Business/Wall Street Journal debate, Cruz released part of his plan to reduce federal spending as well. He proposed to abolish four federal departments, plus the Internal Revenue Service, and 25 more named federal agencies, along with other policies, saving $500 billion over 10 years.”

In other words, Ted isn’t as concerned about the revenue side (though that should be fine with a reasonable amount of economic growth) because he intends to drop spending through cutting government.

Democrats and his opponents would accuse him of asking for pie in the sky, but at least he’s got a plan and there are Think Tanks backing it up, too.

“The Tax Foundation, which has developed a formal, sophisticated, and thorough economic model of the economy, estimates Cruz’s tax reform would create nearly 5 million new jobs, increase wages by 12%, and increase real economic growth over the next decade by nearly 14% more than under current tax policies,” Ferrara added.

Just like with his debate performances, Ted Cruz knows what he’s doing and what he’s proposing. Trump may understand the “Art of the Deal,” but Cruz appreciates the art of politics. And it shows.

The Republican race needs Rand Paul’s voice

Every time you get a group of Republicans together in the post-Reagan era you get a lot of talk about a strong America and the need to lead in the world.

Starting with the first Gulf War, that usually means a beefy American military presence.

After 9/11/01 and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, most Republicans seem to be in favor of having American troops and ships take care of every insurgency around the globe. In several of this year’s debates the candidates appeared to be vying for the title of the most bellicose.

Of course, Lindsey Graham staked his campaign on the notion that any candidate who’s not willing to put boots on the ground in the Middle East isn’t fit to be president. At last check, he’s at 0% in the polls.

Most of the others look willing enough to throw in American combat forces to try and squelch the major fires burning in Syria, Iraq and other places. They stop short of promising to go to war with Iran over nuclear weapons, but won’t rule it out.

“Leadership” to Jeb Bush probably includes shipping more men and women to Iraq and Syria to battle ISIS.

All of them except for Rand Paul, that is. Paul has used his debate platform to argue for a narrower view of American power. Paul argues the calls for drastically increasing the size of the military will put the country in even worse financial shape. And beyond that, Rand says it may not be a good idea to be on the ground in conflicts where we’re not sure who the enemy is.

To the average person, that may sound like good common sense. But among his Republican rivals, he’s seen as an outcast, as was father Ron during his presidential runs.

I’ve said Paul’s views need to be part of the conversation in the Republican primary race. Katherine Timpf of National Review agrees.

Timpf writes, “Even if you do disagree with his views, you should still be thankful that he was on that stage offering them. After all, the idea that Republicans are hypocritical for attacking government spending while supporting seemingly unlimited foreign-policy spending is a common one — and one that was mentioned by Martin O’Malley during MSNBC’s Democratic Forum last Friday night.”

Every Republican candidate has a solid argument in saying Obama and Clinton’s foreign policy has been a disaster, but if that criticism means the current administration hasn’t been willing enough to commit American troops to war… isn’t that risking the same disasters that beset the last Republican administration?

Donald Trump says it’s great that Vladimir Putin wants to take out ISIS. Jeb tells him, “Donald, that’s not what’s happening, you’re wrong.”

Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina talk about imposing a no-fly zone to protect the Syrian population. Who’s going to enforce it? Are we really going to risk war with Russia over control of Syria? Even if we won the conflict, who’s to say what comes next?

Perhaps even more importantly, what would Ronald Reagan do with the situation today?

It’s highly doubtful he would commit to an incredibly expensive and costly (in American lives) war in Syria and Iraq. ISIS can be combatted in other ways. Israel can be protected in other ways.

Having Rand Paul around to present an alternative view is very necessary in this year’s presidential race, if for nothing else, to offer a counter-balance to the honey tongued Marco Rubio who makes it sound like we can build a military that will knock down every threat just by showing up.

It’s the conventional wisdom these days that a Republican can’t win in the primaries without talking big on deploying American power. But being for a strong national defense and modest foreign policy doesn’t mean isolationism and it certainly doesn’t mean disengagement.

You can protect American interests in many ways. It doesn’t have to be just by lofting bombs.

Paul needs to be around to convey that message.

Rubio needs to answer for the Gang of Eight

Much has been written about Marco Rubio’s favorable voting record – it’s often cited when discussing his conservative credentials.

But voting tells only part of the story. When it came down to leading on an important issue of the day, Rubio was on the wrong side. Marco owes it to us to explain why.

Byron York of the Washington Examiner notes Rubio hasn’t been asked about the specifics of his immigration plan a single time in four debates. It will come up at some point. What then?

“The 1,197-page Gang of Eight bill is so far-reaching, and at the same time so detailed, that it provides a sharp picture of where Rubio would like to take the U.S. immigration system. Rubio has renounced parts of his own work, but it's not clear which parts, and it's not clear if he has renounced them for good or only until he determines they are more politically practicable,” York wrote.

Some key provisions in the Gang of Eight bill that will attract attention are:

1.) More immigration
2.) Immediate legalization of illegal immigrants
3.) Leniency for illegal immigrant criminals
4.) An unclear enforcement guarantee
5.) An imbalanced work force
6.) The legalization trigger loophole
7.) Government micromanagement and special favors
8.) Fast tracks on the road to citizenship
9.) An all-powerful Secretary of Homeland Security
10.) A disappearing back taxes requirement

There’s little doubt Marco should be talking about how his “current” beliefs differ from those he championed a mere two years ago.

Something’s not right there. The coming weeks should reveal where Rubio really stands on the issue – and whether we should take him at his word.

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