Digging In: For Sen. Ted Cruz, it’s all about President Obama

US Senator Ted Cruz is well known to Republican voters and enjoys a strong following given his open identification with the Tea Party.  As a result, these early debates  will feel like home field for the Senator – something that lessor known or more moderate candidates will not enjoy.  Understanding this, it is critical that Senator Cruz speak to his strengths by playing is hits.

In Cleveland, Senator Cruz did just this.  His talking points all followed a well-crafted formula: hot topic/issues + note something obvious to conservatives about it + link the failures back to President Obama.  Each time the debate spotlight was pointed the Senator’s way, he executed on this plan.  It was a testament to the quality of his campaign strategy and his abilities as a politician.  Senator Cruz will do well this election cycle if he can continue to deliver in this fashion.

Linking major issues to President Obama’s administration, noting them as failures, and saying that he wouldn’t make those same mistakes further supported Ted Cruz’s core message, that he is speaking the truth.  Voters consistently highlight their distrust of politicians as a major issue so this approach may be of higher risk.  If Sen. Cruz cannot convince (or has an issue that contradicts his message) voters that he is the one to trust, then his campaign may run out of steam.

Focus on the Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy and Immigration strategies makes for great campaign slogans, but we would like to see Sen. Cruz transition toward economic policy.  The Republican Party’s core position on ISIS/Iran is well-known at this point – what will truly differentiate these candidates is the quality of their economic plans.  Sen. Cruz has said in the past that any economic plan should stress “growth and opportunity.”

Understanding how a Cruz Administration would deliver on that position will be something that voters need to look out for in coming debates.

Image: ABC/Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images


Carly Fiorina Continues to Impress at RedState Gathering

Coming off a strong performance at the Happy Hour Debate on Thursday, Carly Fiorina continued to show that she belongs in the mainstream GOP conversation.  In her RedState gathering speech, she focused on two messages: “Hillary is wrong for America” and “The Democrats want you to know that they know what is best for you.”  Her focus remains strongly on the left side of the political spectrum as opposed to the other GOP hopefuls.

There appears to be a belief among many political analysts that results in genuine shock when a non-politician is a great public speaker.  They will use descriptions like “refined” and “polished,” but in a way that indicates “she shouldn’t be.”  Given that Fiorina was the CEO of one of the largest technology companies in the country, it should come as no surprise that she understands how to work a crowd.

In this 25 minute speech, candidate Fiorina repeated some of her top lines from the Happy Hour Debate to great applause.  She is well within the “branding” phase of her campaign so these 3-7 second clips are very important to have consistent.  From them, we regularly hear the words “Leadership” and “Conservative.”  Both good words to pull from a campaign and these will resonate strongly with the Republican base.

For comparison, in the Obama-McCain campaigns, Obama’s branding word was “change” and McCain’s was “maverick.”

Fiorina is currently riding a wave through the GOP, but with that exposure will come renewed interest into her track record at Hewlett-Packard where she was the CEO.  In 2005, the USA Today ranked her as one of the worst CEOs of all time for her performance at HP.  Her competition will certainly bring this up and it will be important that her campaign is ready to deal with the fallout.

How Fiorina deals with the criticism remains to be seen, but until that point, she is taking advantage of her growing popularity among the Republican voters.

Image: Times Union

Jobs Report – Looking Under the Headline

The most recent jobs report was released today and was immediately met with a tepid response.  While the economy add another 215k jobs in July, the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.3%.  The Obama Administration took to social media to highlight this figure as the 65th straight month of job growth:

Others were not as impressed, especially on Wall St. where the employment gains were accepted as a sign of mediocrity.  One month does not make or break an economy though, so let’s look at some more detailed data:

Unemployment measure July 2014 July 2015
U1 2.8 2.1
U2 3.1 2.6
U3 6.5 5.3
U4 7.0 5.7
U5 7.8 6.4
U6 12.6 10.4

The Federal Government uses a number of different measure to gauge “employment” within the economy with the most reported number being derived from the U3 calculation.  This is the official unemployment rate and represents the percent of Americans that are unemployed relative to the size of the civilian labor force.  Critics will note that the U3 number only includes those civilians who are actively trying to participate in the labor market – meaning that if you gave up, you aren’t counted.

Instead, these group point to the U5 and U6 numbers which include all civilian workers, discouraged workers, and those marginally tied to the labor market (U5) as well as those working part-time for economic reasons (U6).  These measures both show improvement in the economy much like the U3 number, but what the U6 number also shows is that there is still a large number of individuals that are discouraged about finding work or working part-time (below their skill set) because no other job is available.

Adding 215k is a sign that the economy continues to move forward.  The data also points to an increased likelihood that the Federal Reserve will start to increase interest rates (in either September or December).  The employment numbers after that event will be the most telling.  Further, the next administration will need to continue to address the underemployed and the long-term unemployed that appear to be locked out of the economic recovery.

Image: thepoeticsproject.com

Jon Stewart Steps Down From the Daily Show

Last night was Jon Stewart’s final appearance on the Daily Show, truly an end of an era.  For many millennials, Stewart’s show was the go to resource for political news, thought leadership, and introductions to new/interesting personalities.  Stewart regularly notes that his political opinions come from a place of liberalism and progressive ideals.  This influence can be seen throughout the younger generations who have shifted away from mainstream political organizations to support candidates like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders.

Stewart used comedy to make sense of nonsense, to cut through the dense smoke screen that politicians are so adept at casting.  He excelled at it while somehow maintaining a humble persona.  Stewart was (and still is) a master at his craft.

The impact of his departure will be interesting to follow.  Comedy Central will struggle to fill his shoes, but so will the political world.  Where some individuals, like John Oliver, have proven they too have the chops to combine issues with comedy in an informative, yet enjoyable way, none have done it for decades.

Stewart’s impact on the thoughts and minds of the youth of this country were profound.  Here is to hoping he enjoys his retirement.

Image: sourcefed.com

Digging In: How Would Sen. Rubio Help Small Business?

Small businesses employ a significant percentage of the American workforce so it was great to see the FOX Moderators allow a question that asked Sen. Rubio to explain how he would promote small business in the current economic environment.  Sen. Rubio’s response was a bit rough around the edges, but could form the basis of a strong pro-small business platform going forward.

The buzzword reference to Obamacare aside, the content of Sen. Rubio’s response makes a lot of sense.  Small businesses make up a large part of the economy, but are often overlooked when significant policies and reforms are pushed through DC.  Sen. Rubio’s point to connect the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act to the struggles of Community Banks, who are the primary lenders to small businesses, is one that his campaign could solidify and present to the nation in an understandable manner.

In 2014, Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo noted in a speech to the Community Banker Symposium that:

One recent study found that loans extended by rural community banks to small businesses default less frequently than similar loans granted by their urban counterparts, and that the performance advantage is greater when the bank and the borrower are located in the same county.

A message that stresses “community, trust, and hometown business” is a hard one not to appreciate, especially with trust in the financial system at all time lows.

If there is indeed evidence that smaller creditors promote small businesses and that a fall in the number of these creditors is linked, in part, to the Dodd-Frank Act, then the Rubio Campaign has a strong plank to play to.  However, the facts supporting this plank and the overall potential strength of the position are meaningless if Sen. Rubio cannot connect the dots in a straight-forward manner.

The Senator’s response last night didn’t quite get there for the average viewer.

Regardless of the facts supporting the position that: regulatory compliance for smaller lenders is forcing these banks to close or consolidate which, in turn, tightens the credit pools for small businesses, blind calls to repeal Dodd-Frank will be met with stiff opposition from the Democrats who will respond by saying anyone in favor of a repeal supports deregulation and works for Wall St.  The opportunity is there for the taking and with the right message, this position could resonate with voters.  File this under “higher risk, higher reward.”

Where did the 25% Tax Rate Come From?

Within Sen. Rubio’s response was a call to decrease the corporate income tax rate for small businesses to 25% which was similar to the cut that was proposed by President Obama’s Administration.  This is an interesting call to make as reducing this tax rate for those organizations that may not have the resources available to adopt complex tax strategies that help to lower their rate would have a positive net impact on small businesses.

Unlike the personal income tax brackets which are progressive by nature, the corporate income tax rate is static at 35% (at the Federal level).  This rate can make it difficult for small corporations to push income back into the company that could then be used on wages, job growth, and other investments.

Sen. Rubio may have something here, but it appears this plan was also ‘out of the blue.’  There are no mentions to a corporate tax rate cut on the Sen. Rubio campaign website so any additional details about how this plan would work and to which organizations it would apply are not available.  At any rate, the Rubio campaign should explore this tax cut and determine if it is worth incorporating into the Senator’s overall economic vision.  Again, promoting small business is going to resonate with a large number of voters, but a half-baked plan will be destroyed by this candidate’s political opposition as “favoring the rich and big business.”

Image Credit: FOX News

The First Republican Debate – The Governors Show Well

The first debate got off to a bit of a rocky start with the FOX production feeling quite unpolished.  With the candidates on stage, the fireworks started immediately with Donald Trump, shockingly, being the catalyst.    Sen. Rand Paul accused Mr. Trump of hedging his bets when refusing to take a pledge that would have him support whoever the Republican nominee was.  The situation felt a bit forced by FOX, knowing who was participating, but it was entertaining to say the least.

Opening questions and remarks were focused on “drawbacks” that each candidate are associated with.  Ben Carson struggled with his response to the questions posed about his experience.  His response moved away from the question and focused on some of his campaign slogans.  Gov. Christie, on the other hand, was presented with a laundry list of issues in NJ, but was able to make them sound like minor issues relative to where his state could have been without his help.  The other candidates answered with varying levels of success.

Christie v Paul Exchange

Sen. Paul came to fight early (though his fire died down over the course of the debate) and it is a testament to his experience over the last 5-6 years in DC.  First it was with Trump and then it was with Gov. Christie on the funding of the NSA and support for bulk data collection programs.  Gov. Christie presented his case from an emotional angle by invoking memories of 9/11 which was well-presented, but lacked some depth.  Sen. Paul, who has made a stand against these programs in the Senate, came off a bit smug in his responses while trumpeting his position.  The exchange didn’t teach voters too much new about either candidate, but the quality of the debate was very good.  There was more content in Paul’s response, but the presentation gives this exchange to Gov. Christie.

Bush Inconsistent

Gov. Bush was given a significant amount of airtime over the course of the debate, which was expected as he is currently a front runner for the nomination.  While he had his moments, he struggled with his consistency and delivery.  During the closing statements, the former Governor started strong, but fumbled with the ending; a perfect summary of his entire night.  He will need to be more consistent and do a better job of showing who he actually is in future debates.

Trump Pressed, Performs Well

Donald trump’s perspectives on healthcare could have been better presented.  As a CEO of a large, cross-state corporation, his experiences are very relevant and there was a great story about state borders causing issues that he failed to tell clearly.  Altogether, Trump’s performance was not bad given his noted lack of preparation.  The question still remains: is he seriously running?  If so, why is he not taking advantage of this situation?  Trump will need to perform better or more polished debaters will pass him by.

Focus on Hillary

Overall, the debate stayed away from Hillary Clinton (and 100% avoided Bernie Sanders), but when the Democratic candidate did come up, the focus went to her issues with emails and her charity.  Hillary, as a topic, will certainly be a focal point in future debates.  The candidates feel like they have a lot of ammo.

Christie and Kasich Perform Well

NJ Gov. Chris Christie reminded the nation why he belongs in these debates.  If it wasn’t for a forgettable closing statement, he may have won the night outright.  He brought concrete ideas to the debate and had intelligent, crafty responses for questions about the issues in New Jersey.  If he is not named the nominee, it would be expected that the Governor to be on the short list for VP candidates.

Hometown Governor John Kasich also had a very strong debate which should help increase his national exposure.  He noted his background in DC with the budget and the military while also detailing the good that he has overseen in Ohio as the Governor.  His responses to the questions posed about marriage equality will not win him votes with more socially conservative voters, but his stance should resonate with moderate/independent voters that are not looking for their President to push religious ideology while in office.

Iran Gets Big Time

Iran, like in the Happy Hour Debate, was a topic that the GOP candidates universally agreed upon.  It was actually unfortunate that so much time was allocated toward Iran given that all 17 candidates believe a deal should not be made with the country.  Only Sen. Paul took a more complicated position, noting that he would make a deal, but only if the US were negotiating from a position of power.  Sen. Paul showed that he has a complex way of thinking and depth to his opinions.  What he will need to do to be successful is to discover the best way to sell those positions to the average American voter.

Along with the position of being firm with Iran, the candidates each agreed that spending on the military should be increased.  The line of the night on the topic came from Gov. Huckabee who stated:

The military exists to kill people and break things.

Probably not the complete message that the Governor wants to send, but it was very memorable.


The FOX Broadcast started rocky and never really improved.  While there were good questions that challenged the candidates, having 10 individuals on stage and 2 hours of speaking time didn’t work.  Ben Carson showed that he has a very likable personality, but with only about 3 minutes left in the production.  The field needs to be trimmed down to two flights of 6 going forward.

The winners of the night were John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz.  All presented very well and showed they were primetime.  Bush, Rubio, Paul, Trump, and Huckabee all showed well, but were inconsistent.  Walker was very forgettable and Carson has a story to tell, but his lack of experience showed.

Image Credit: NBC News

Happy Hour Debate – Fiorina Shines Amongst the Boys

As predicted by many, all seven candidates played toward their conservative-base values.  Social issues (Marriage Equality, Planned Parenthood) dominated the debate with equal time spent on Iran and ISIS.  There was less of a focus on issues such as the economy and job creation despite these topics being rated of higher importance to working-class Americans.  Only the former Texas Governor Rick Perry stressed a pro-economy platform when he, smartly, noted the positive job creation and education numbers from his home state.

The candidates were a bit rough in their respective deliveries.  Some of this is probably related to nerves, but as viewers we should hope that the candidates attempt to answer questions more directly rather than bend rehearsed statements into their responses.  Some of the misfires were certainly related to picking a response as opposed to just giving a response.

While the candidates took some shots at Donald Trump, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton, overall this debate was about establishing a perspective for each individual campaign.  For some of the more well-known and consistently positioned politicians (specifically Rick Santorum), this debate could have been used to point out flaws with the other candidates instead of rehashing older campaign lines.  This may turn out to be an opportunity lost.

Biggest Surprises?

The performance of Carly Fiorina was very sharp.  Candidate Fiorina was well-spoken and direct in her statements.  With six other candidates that had more accomplished debating records, her performance had a crispness to it that some of the others lacked.  Had this been the primetime TV slot, this performance would certainly have resulted in a bump in her campaign.  There still may be a jump, but likely not to the same level.

Additionally, Senator Graham’s dedication to sending troops back to Iraq to defeat ISIS was not expected at the degree to which he pushed that agenda.  It will be interesting to see how this plays with the general population – especially military families – who are weary of prolonged wars and the mountains of debt that are associated with them.  Americans are concerned about terrorism, but another trillion dollar war is going to be a tough sell.


For the moderate American, this debate probably left something to be desired.  While the candidates stressed that they would be strong on Iran and ISIS (pointing toward a Pew Research Poll that ‘Terrorism’ was the number one concern of voters), the focus on social issues trumped many others that are more pressing on a daily basis: the economy, jobs, and education.  It will be interesting to see if the primetime debate follows a similar course.


Be sure to follow @TCR_Show for real time analysis and feedback during tonight’s Republican debate presented by Fox.

Bernie Sanders Speaks About Voter Suppression

On the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Democrat Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders speaks out against voter suppression at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Candidate Sanders used strong language during his 6 minute speech to highlight his views on those who attempt to suppress voting in the United States of America.

We must oppose, ruthlessly, and as hard as we can, any effort to suppress the vote.

Being unafraid to take a direct position on topics, it is no wonder that his grassroots campaigns have been so successful to date.  Much like former candidate and Congressman Ron Paul, candidate Sanders’ avoidance of “side speak” appears to resonate with younger and more idealistic voters.


Democrat Debate Schedule Released

This morning, the Democratic National Committee released the dates for the first four Democratic debates for the 2016 Presidential nomination.  The final two debates will be held after the Iowa Caucus.

The late start of these debates is sure to cause some issues with the candidates not named Clinton, especially Bernie Sanders who is working to increase his national exposure.  The third debate, held in Vermont-neighbor New Hampshire, will be a key showing for the Sanders campaign and is one that all interested parties should circle on their calendars.

First Debate – October 13th, 2015 (Nevada; CNN)

Second Debate – November 14th, 2015 (Iowa; CBS | KCCI | Des Moines Register)

Third Debate – December 19th, 2015 (New Hampshire; ABC | WMUR)

Forth Debate – January 17th, 2015 (South Carolina; NBC | Congressional Black Caucus Institute)



The Common Reality will be live blogging and tweeting all of 2016’s presidential debates here and @TCR_Show.

Republican Debate 2016: What to Expect

Location: Cleveland, Ohio (Quicken Loans Arena)
When: 8/6/2015 at 9PM ET
Host: Fox

Donald Trump  Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker  Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
Ben Carson  Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio  Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Ohio Gov. John Kasich

The first Republican debate for the 2016 Presidential election is final upon us.  This event will be the first attempt to “thin the herd” given the number of nominees in the GOP field and it promises to be entertaining.

Thankfully, Fox has done some of the leg work for the viewers by selecting just ten of the seventeen current candidates for the prime-time slot.  Seventeen voices and opinions on stage at once would have been chaos, though, it is likely that ten debaters will prove to still be out-of-control with individuals like Donald Trump and former Governor Mike Huckabee on stage.  Rising above that noise to impress the viewers and “win” the debate will prove difficult for all involved.

The only name in the top 10 that may be new and/or surprising is John Kasich’s.  The current Ohio Governor certainly has an interesting story to tell and will resonate with more moderate members of the Republican party, but his inclusion here likely has more to do with the debate being in his backyard than it does with the strength of his campaign to date.  Regardless, this is a huge opportunity to build national name recognition for Kasich’s campaign so look for him to attempt to establish a firm foundation.

Content-wise, expect Trump to be the wildcard as he normally is.  He will attack anything and anyone in his path which will provided the ratings that Fox is looking for.  The other candidates are likely going to play from the traditional, early-campaign playbook: focus on the base and get the slogans out there.  The “base” of the GOP in this case will be more on the social conservative side of the political spectrum so if you are uninterested in that type of rhetoric, this may be a debate to skip.

Additionally, don’t expect the debate to be too focused on attacking each other at this point.  That will come further down the road, but the GOP knows that giving the Democrats too much ammo too early on can sink whoever is nominated.

Instead, these candidates are going to denounce the Iran Deal, denounce Climate Policy, and denounce the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) – all of the current “hot” topics and reflective of what the candidates will ultimately term: “a failed Obama Administration.”  In the end, this debate is important because it is first, but do not expect to learn anything too “new” or “interesting.”

Do be sure to follow along on The Common Reality (@TCR_Show) as we live blog & tweet during tonight’s events.