Impressions of the Tea Party Candidate Forum
Some impressions of a somewhat rowdy event:
1. The format was somewhat chaotic in the small room, but seemed to work well, encouraging audience participation (very exuberant at times). The panelists were well prepared, and Everett did a good job of moderating the event. Having only one candidate in the room at a time allowed more in-depth questioning and was a good contrast to debate or town hall venues.
2. Ed Lynch was polished and came across well, although at times he didn’t seem to answer the questions that were asked. His theme of having worked for the CD19 constituents on a variety of issues since the last election, and the credit he gets for exposing some of the questionable practices of Congressman Wexler worked well. Many in the room were Lynch supporters and they were enthusiastic in support of their candidate.
3. Joe Budd was challenged on the content of his bio (as told in an ad) in a confrontational way by panelist Chad Lincoln. The questions were too complex for the format time limits and the audience may not have got the point of them but they involved some aspects of his businesses prior to coming to Florida. Joe answered the questions and from a style perspective seemed to put the matter to rest, although it is not clear this issue has been fully explored. During his presentation there were several crowd eruptions around the issue of accepting welfare and paying it back but the meeting was soon brought under control. Joe addressed the issue of not supporting Lynch if he won the primary, but I did not think he explained his reasoning clearly enough to satisfy the many Republicans in the audience. All in all, I thought Joe showed passion for his positions, held his own against some hostile questions, and did very well.
4. Curt Price was a surprise. The like-able, easy-going newcomer who stumbled a bit in the Boca debates has been replaced by an energetic, confident candidate with novel ideas and clear sense of the current political environment and his place in it. He was the only candidate to describe reaching out to democrats and independents in the district – a clear necessity since only 25% of CD19 is Republican. He also laid out in a vivid way that for the first time in his life he sees people who actually fear their government – and what that should mean to us. He was also asked about his statement that he would not support Ed Lynch, but I found his explanation more compelling than Joe Budd’s. Curt explained that although he voted for George W. Bush twice, the excesses of the Republicans in Congress led him to drop his party identification and become an independent – returning only when he decided to run for office. Since I know a lot of folks who have done the same (isn’t that the essence of the grass roots uprising against both parties?) his explanation that supporting the Republican primary winner is not necessarily a matter of duty seemed right. Witness the NY23 race and how the Independent was the right choice, not the Republican.
5. My net: From a policy perspective, all the candidates are acceptable conservatives. On the character issues, I don’t think any conclusions can be drawn from last night’s forum. On who set the room on fire last night I don’t think there is any doubt – Curt Price is on a roll. His ideas, outreach beyond the republican base, and clear independence of thought make him the CD19 “Scott Brown” candidate. He even has a pickup truck. He is coming from behind in the primary (I think – who knows without polling) but in my view could do quite well against Ted Deutch in an election that is sufficiently nationalized.
I am looking forward to the 9-12 Town Hall on Wednesday 1/27 in Wellington to see if the same conclusions can be drawn in that kind of venue.