Ask me to name a member of Congress that I actually like and you’ll have time to go get a cup of coffee — in Colombia, no less — before I could give you an answer. I guess you could lump me in with the three-fourths of the country that disapprove of the job that Congress is doing in the District.
Yet, as much as I feel spurned, ignored, and somewhat played like a fiddle by our elected leaders in Washington, I’m still fascinated with our democratic process and I’m enthralled by election season every four years.
Thursday night featured the first of what will seem like a marathon of presidential debates as the leaders in the Republican field of candidates met on stage in Cleveland, Ohio, to present themselves to the country.
In an effort to be transparent and honest with you, I’m not the world’s leading political analyst. In fact, if political pundits were a pack of marathoners, I’d be smushed somewhere near the back, way behind the Kenyans.
However, I try to stay educated and informed on the topics, platforms and positions of the candidates running. I’d recommend you read articles from fact checkers for accuracy and truth behind what is proclaimed in these debates.
With that said, here are my opinions and assessments of each of the candidates and where they stand after Thursday night’s debate.
Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor
Politicians are naturally in the public eye because they’re supposed to be relatable to their constituents. What bothers me is when they seep into popular culture for non-business reasons. I really didn’t need to see Christie hugging Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during an exciting moment of a football game last year. What does this have to do with his policies? Well, nothing, really. Just an observation. Christie spent a lot of time last night referencing his role in going after terrorists in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. While I am sympathetic to all those affected by the tragedy, and while I will live by the motto “Never Forget” for the rest of my life, I’m not interested in a one-trick pony. He touched on how he brought New Jersey from a being in a state of despair into much better conditions, and I’d like to hear more on how he can translate that success to America’s economic troubles.
Marco Rubio, Florida Senator
Rubio was one of my favorite candidates of the evening from a presentational standpoint. He was polite, direct, articulate, well-spoken and seemed genuinely compassionate toward the American people. I don’t know enough about his policies, though, and would like to hear more about his record and how he intends to fix our nation’s problems. He’s an up-and-comer of the Republican party, who was even chosen to deliver the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013, but is he still too raw at age 44?
Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon
Every election cycle there is a “flavor of the month” candidate who captures the attention of the nation and may even lead in some polls based on his success in debates and making headlines. Last election cycle it was Herman Cain, a former pizza company CEO, whose use of the “9-9-9” slogan resonated with the general public. He led the polls for a short while before ultimately fizzling out because he wasn’t prepared for office. I suspect this year’s version is Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and political pundit, who is very intelligent — obviously! — and clearly has well-thought-out plans. But he was also asked an introductory question by the debate moderators, prefaced by his relatively minuscule familiarity with foreign policy and American political history. He has the capacity to learn, but do we have the patience for growing pains in such an important office?
Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor
Living just across the border in Illinois, I’ve become more familiar with the governor of Wisconsin in recent years. He seems to have a loyal, passionate fan base, at least within his state. He’s the son of a Baptist minister, so his positions are rooted in faith. He doesn’t quite come off as presidential, but that’s only an appearance and that can change with time. I think he had strong opinions on issues that Christians would be concerned with and I hope his answers weren’t standard lines from a stump speech, but instead strong convictions on his policies.
Donald Trump, real estate magnate
Clearly the highlight of the evening, the brash business owner was positioned center stage and was the focal point for much of the evening. I have severe reservations about Trump as a presidential candidate. For starters, I don’t trust his character or integrity. He’s brash and often abrasive, and has insulted many throughout his life in the public spotlight. He’s got no experience in government — which some say might be a positive, but I won’t concede that. Experience is not the problem in Washington; it’s policies and procedures that matter. Nowhere in his rambling drivel last night did it sound like he was a man who cared deeply about the people of this country. Instead, he sounded like an angry businessman who was upset the government was taking too much of his money. I will say that his best response of the evening was that he thinks this country is worried too much about political correctness.
Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor
I don’t have quite the same concerns that many in America have about “dynastic politics,” as one moderator phrased it last night. For instance, my refusal to accept Hillary Clinton as president has little to with her husband already serving that role and more to do with her insane political positions. I understand that much of America might still be suffering from “Bush fatigue” but I won’t hold that against Jeb. My observation of the younger Bush brother last night was that he didn’t quite seem presidential. Maybe it was opening night jitters, but he didn’t seem to have the same conviction and resolve that his older brother had. From my understanding, he seemed to have a relatively successful run as Florida Governor and helped lead the state into the top five in job growth. It never hurts to have two family members lending presidential ideas and support, which is one reason why I’m encouraged and intrigued by Jeb. But let’s see how he carves out a name for himself during this process.
Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor
Huckabee was one of my favorite candidates during the 2008 election season but I’m a little less interested in him this time around. He served as a pastor early in his life and I love his devout faith. Much — if not all — of his platform is influenced by his faith, which I think is the best way to lead, even if it makes some of his ideas sound radical by the secular nation. What I also like about him is his courage and conviction and his directness in the way he communicates his stance on tough subjects.
Ted Cruz, Texas Senator
I had known very little about Ted Cruz prior to last night’s debate, but his performance definitely won me over. He’s probably near the top of my candidate preference list at this point, but that could vary in the months ahead. I was confused how a man born in Canada could run for president, but apparently he’s okay to do so. I would imagine that if he somehow “made the cut” after this large list of candidates has dwindled down, that the controversy over his birth place would pick up, but let’s first see if he gets that far. As Senator in Texas, Cruz obviously has strong opinions on immigration and trying to keep out the illegals, which would definitely help the job sector.
Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator
I was extremely turned off by Rand Paul before the debate and all the more put off afterward. The son of perennial third-party presidential candidate Ron Paul, Rand has made a name for himself the past several years as an outspoke critic — of just about everything. I like a candidate to have convictions and stand by what he believes, but I also can’t stand one that is overly confrontational. Paul got into it with Chris Christie last night, among other candidates on the stage, and his annoying southern drawl only further damaged his likeability. (Don’t take that to mean I don’t like southern accents; I actually think they’re by and large charming). Paul seems to me like too much of the establishment politician and I want to find a candidate with a different voice who is less interested in fighting across the aisle and more interested in helping his constituents.
John Kasich, Ohio Governor
Ironically, Kasich had a “home court advantage” last night because the debate took place in Cleveland — one of the cities he currently governs — and yet he was my least favorite candidate next to Paul. His constituents may have cheered his responses but I found nothing he said to be noteworthy. He seems too wishy-washy on many of his policies and I don’t find anything in him personally endearing that would captivate my attention and devotion. He’ll have to do a better job communicating where he stands on the issues and tell me why he can help the country focus less on social issues and more on fixing the economy.