Jamboree brings out local candidates

Every two years, during the summer of an election year, the county GOP hosts a “Jamboree” – an old fashioned political picnic for candidates on the upcoming ballot to introduce themselves to the party activists. With a barbecue lunch under the pavillion roof, surrounded by covered booths hosted by candidates and political clubs, it is gathering place for the GOP faithful and those who seek to represent them at all levels of government.

Senate Candidate Ron DeSantis at the RCNPB

Describing the country’s mood as “malaise”, and a feeling that neither party has a clue, Ron suggested that if Obama had been President during World War II, we would have lost.
Militant Islam, he said, is not limited to a few terrorist groups like ISIS, but a wider problem – witness the reaction at the Turkish Soccer match when calls for a moment of silence for Paris were met with chants of “Allahu akbar”. And ISIS is not the only Muslim Caliphate – there is a Shia version spreading from Africa to Asia led by Iran. Obama’s weakness has demonstrated to them that we can be attacked with impunity.

Three Takeaways from the Sunshine Summit

The Sunshine Summit, last weekend’s gathering of the Republican grassroots in Orlando, brought together 14 of the 15 candidates currently competing for presidential primary votes, along with most of the Senate candidates.

Unlike the events of the last two cycles in 2007 and 2011, which featured both televised debates and straw polls, this was mostly a candidate showcase – each was given 20 minutes to make their case. The extreme number of candidates this time, and the fact that Florida does not vote until March 15 – after 26 states will have already assigned their delegates, probably reduced attendance at the event. Still, there were upwards of 1000 in the hall, and the media presence was considerable. CSPAN covered the event live, and lots of recognizable on-air personalities could be seen roaming the halls.

External events played a role in what transpired, as reaction to the Paris attacks on Friday were integrated into the Saturday speeches, or in the case of Chris Christie, dominated their remarks. And the Democrat debate on Saturday night offered a unique opportunity to compare all of our contenders to Hillary Clinton and her two pesky sparring partners.

All the candidates remarks can be seen streaming on CSPAN.

After watching all the debates and attending the Heritage Action Event in South Carolina (with 10 of the candidates), I thought I had a good idea of the dynamics of the race and who was on my short list. That said, I left Orlando with a few new insights.

1. The outsiders have captured the imagination of large portions of the Republican base, even at an event comprised mostly of “insiders”.

As an event sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida, with a large number of blue-badged party officials in attendance, I expected a great deal of support and enthusiasm for the “favorite sons” Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, and less for the outsiders Trump, Carson, Fiorina, and (some would say) Ted Cruz. This was clearly not the case.

While Jeb and Marco have strong support, it was the outsiders who were the rock stars.

Ted Cruz laid out the red meat with a flourish and hit all the hot buttons from Obamacare to the border, the Iran deal, a flat tax, and support for Israel, to thunderous applause.

Donald Trump, avoiding any criticism of his rivals this time, took on illegal immigration (need a Dream Act for Americans), winning again, incompetent leaders, and suggested that college students should be taught about the first amendment. The response was widespread and overwhelming.

Ben Carson, after a quiet start discussing his upbringing, lit into an extensive litany of all the things he would do if he wanted to “destroy America” – all of which Obama has put into motion. His was the most complete and devastating attack on the incumbent President of all the candidates and the crowd responded with enthusiasm.

Carly Fiorina, the last speaker of the event, focused on the Paris attacks, the feckless and dangerous foreign policy of Obama/Clinton, and what she would be doing about ISIS. It seemed like Margaret Thatcher channeling Winston Churchill and left no doubt that she would be a serious and effective commander-in-chief. The response was loud and enthusiastic.

2. Almost all of the Republican contenders are displaying the vision, determination, skill and experience that could believably repair the damage that 7 years of Obama have wrought. Clinton is clearly not in the same league with these people, in spite of her over 25 years on the national stage, and tenure as Senator and Secretary of State.

One thing that has become obvious to many people is that there are many kinds of relevant experience besides being an elected official. The office of President is a unique job, unlike any other, and it takes a generalist to oversee a diverse set of tasks, a communicator to inspire the country and lead it in a positive direction, and a visionary to see our potential as a people and set the wheels in motion to carry us forward. Governors, Senators, Business Leaders – all have skills that are relevant to the job, and all of the candidates now in the race have been successful in their lives and bring serious qualifications and abilities to the table.

Some would say that the terrible state that the country is in – anemic growth, unsustainable debt, corruption at all levels, an abdication of world leadership – is a result of professional politicians and insiders (lobbyists, big donors, etc) having screwed everything up. Hillary Clinton, who is unarguably the stereotype of all those things, would represent more of the same, as could be seen on the debate stage in Des Moines. It was apparent in Orlando that our candidates (to a greater or lesser extent), reject the status quo and will lead the country in a different direction.

3. The weeding out process is going to be long and arduous, as very few of these contenders can be counted out, despite their current standing in the polls.

Until the first delegates are selected in the Iowa caucuses on February 1, the polls will be unreliable, as most likely voters appear to be making tentative selections. Many people, until they have to commit, will lean to the candidate that meets their ideological goals, appears to speak “for them”, says the “right things”, or wins debating points. When the rubber meets the road though, issues of electability, consistency, honesty, ethics, contrast with the Democrat candidate, and other issues will rise in importance. As this year is unusual in the number of candidates and the widespread dissatisfaction with elected officials, predictions are hard.

Some weeding out has already begun, as few would expect Lindsey Graham or Jim Gilmore to become the nominee, and two candidates have already left the race. But all the rest have ardent supporters and judging by the enthusiastic response at the summit to most of the candidates, there are many “acceptable alternatives”. It is truly a deep bench.

PBCTP Candidate Forum Highlights CD18 Candidates

The Florida primary election for all but the Presidential race is on August 30 – about 11 months from now. Even so, there are already 12 candidates (9 Republicans and 3 Democrats) that are competing for the CD18 seat currently held by Patrick Murphy. Six of them came together at Abacoa this week for a PBC Tea Party candidate forum hosted by channel 5’s Michael Williams.>

Heritage Action Candidate Forum

Last week in Greenville, South Carolina, Heritage Action hosted a Presidential Candidate Forum at which 10 of the Republican candidates participated. Unlike the two cable news debates, this event avoided pitting the candidates against each other, and actually focused on policy.

Heritage Action Sentinel Program

This forum occurred during the annual meeting of the Heritage Action Sentinel program, which is the grass-roots arm of the Heritage Foundation. Combining the think-tank and lobbyist muscle of Heritage with a nation-wide grass-roots army of Sentinels is becoming a very effective way of advancing the Conservative agenda. If you would like to become a Sentinel or learn more about the program, visit: heritageaction.com/sentinel/

Stretching from 4:00 in the afternoon to after 9:00pm with only a short break, each candidate was given about 20 minutes on stage, with questions provided from a panel of Heritage Sentinels and CEO Michael Needham. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley closed each session by providing a personal story about the candidate and asking them to expand on it. What came across was an in-depth look at their positions on issues, and a sampling of their human side – some that have not been seen before on the campaign trail.

From this unique format, a very good contrast can be found, and it is worth at least sampling the video from the candidates you are interested in. Links to those segments on the Heritage Action youtube channel can be found below.

Although all of the candidates were enthusiastically received by the audience of about 900 sentinels on the floor and over 10,000 more in the stands of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, two candidates really stood out.

Ted Cruz rallied the crowd with the theme of “don’t elect a President to manage the decline of America”, and was clearly the policy favorite with talk of judicial retention elections, a flat tax, and “breaking the cartel”. But it was Carly Fiorina, when asked by Governor Haley what her most difficult job as a leader has been, who spoke from the heart about the anguish that comes from having to fire a close associate who, although competent and a satisfactory performer, proved to be ethically challenged and could no longer be trusted. Her answer revealed a very admirable mix of courage, compassion and loyalty to the goals of the enterprise.

Following is a brief synopsis of the major points made by the candidates, in order of their appearance. Click on their picture to see the Heritage video of their segment.


Jeb Bush

  • Need for “disruption”, “change the culture”
  • Block grants to states for Medicaid, school vouchers, zero based budgeting
  • Gridlock is dangerous – Congress will come along with right leader
  • Energy – states should decide offshore drilling, expand leases, support XL
  • No federal control of education but states need high standards

Scott Walker

  • Cancel Iran Deal
  • Send power back to the states
  • Defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare
  • Refundable health tax credits, cross state lines, HSAs
  • Approve XL
  • Eliminate NLRB – make all states “right to work”

Ben Carson

  • Congress should call Obama’s bluff on Planned Parenthood
  • Seal the border, cut off the “goodies”, farms need workers but no citizenship
  • Eliminate regulations, implement a flat tax
  • Obama doesn’t get to decide if we are a Christian Nation
  • Was radical liberal until heard Reagan speak

Ted Cruz

  • Don’t need next president to manage the decline of America
  • Need someone as conservative as Obama is liberal to fix things
  • Break the “cartel”, repeal Obamacare, implement flat tax
  • Judicial retention elections to rein in rogue judges
  • School choice is civil rights issue of our time
  • Day of appeasement and apology for America must end

Rick Santorum

  • “Blue collar conservative”
  • Flat tax, stop illegal immigration, incentivise manufacturing
  • Supports Ex-Im bank, federal minimum wage
  • Refugees – all the Syrians are Muslim, where are the Christians?
  • Reform social security by indexing retirement age

Marco Rubio

  • Reform education – emphasize alternatives to college, trade schools, etc
  • Must address debt and deficit, reform social security by extending age for younger people
  • Moral clarity on foreign policy, expand military, take care of veterans
  • Immigration reform: close border, e-verify, visa tracking, entry based on merit not family
  • Need president with “sense of urgency”, term limits for Congress

Rand Paul

  • Lower taxes, less regulation, defend 2nd amendment
  • Take message to new audiences
  • Resist encroachments on religious liberty
  • Too many government agencies have swat teams
  • Reform social security and medicare with higher retirement age

Carly Fiorina

  • Fix tax code – make it 3 pages long
  • We never roll back regulations – just talk, want to do
  • After winning Senate – should have made a difference
  • Can lead congress through technology, public pressure
  • Core values matter

Bobby Jindal

  • Religious liberty created the USA
  • Need to fire everyone in DC to make things work
  • Don’t accept there is no way to end Obamacare with Obama in White House
  • If Republican party can’t do the job, create a new one that can
  • Education dollars should follow the children

Chris Christie

  • Make the GOP live up to its rhetoric
  • Entitlement reform – raise retirement age, eliminate for those >$400K retirement income
  • Freedom of religion not only for churches, but officials must follow the law
  • Would enforce federal marijuana laws on the states
  • Education – refinance loans, have national service option , colleges should itemize bills

Freedomworks 9/12 Summit Spotlights Freedom Caucus

Glenn Beck, who ended the 9/12 Freedomworks event in Orlando by announcing that Ted Cruz had won 41% in a straw poll of the thousands of attendees, at first joked that Donald Trump had won. (Trump actually came in third with 8%, and Ben Carson was second with 12%). The groans in the audience indicated that many prefer the steadfast conservatism of Cruz over the Trump phenomenon.

Carly Fiorina’s Debut in Palm Beach County

In a quickly expanding field of GOP Presidential hopefuls, several candidates stand out for what they are not.

Most have been in the political arena for much of their careers and currently are sitting (or former) Governors or Senators, and few of these have made much of a mark in the private sector.

Only two – Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, are known for their accomplishments outside of politics and have not held public office. Carson, a leading neurosurgeon, was inserted into the national psyche when he took on Obama at a national prayer breakfast. Fiorina, well known for being the first woman to lead a Fortune-50 tech company, made an unsuccessful attempt at a Senate seat from California. One of these, Carly Fiorina, visited Palm Beach County on Wednesday and spoke to a good size crowd of party regulars.

Considered a long shot, barely registering in the polls, Ms. Fiorina should not be overlooked. Since her debut on the national stage, she has rained fire on the presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, deftly turned the tables on snarky media types like Chuck Todd and Katie Couric, and staked out her own territory in the emerging campaign narratives.

For whatever reason, Clinton is getting a pass from most of the other candidates, in spite of hiding from the press and having new scandals emerge on a regular basis. Carly Fiorina on the other hand, is not shy about pointing out Clinton’s most outrageous failings, from the Benghazi coverup, to the server in her basement, to the “pay to play” aspects of Clinton Foundation slush fund collecting millions from foreign governments as she handed out favors as Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton will not be able to hide behind the “war on women” shield with this candidate.

Speaking forcefully on the characteristics of leadership and what she can bring to the table, Ms. Fiorina’s themes are compelling.

There is an uneasy feeling in the country she says, that we are losing something precious. The country that has offered the most opportunities to all people, regardless of who you are or where you came from, has lost its way. Oppressive regulations like Dodd-Frank have consolidated the too-big-to-fail banks, while driving smaller regional and community banks out of business. Crony capitalism is alive and well, and only the larger companies have the financial and legal resources to effectively deal with big government. Our foreign policy is in disarray as we curry favors with adversaries like Iran while turning back on our traditional allies like Israel and Egypt.

Carly Fiorina lays out a reasoned case that our government needs change, making the arguments without resorting to red meat and applause lines. Whether her campaign will catch fire is anybody’s guess, but she brings a new perspective and should liven things up as we go forward into the debate season.