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On Monday night, West Virginia Public Television hosted the one and only debate between the candidates.  Joe Manchin and John Raese were in attendance, as were two other candidates from the Mountain Party and the Constitution Party.  C-Span also carried the event, and it may be watched in its entirety here.  The audio of the debate is here.

There has been lots of press on the debate (more than I can count), including comments from me. Most of the stories are simple briefs of the exchanges.  So, I will analyze Raese and Manchin’s responses in this debate.  Much of Manchin’s answers are similar to unchanged from talking points he has repeated for the past few weeks.

Joe Manchin

Opening Statement

Manchin repeats the canard that he has put politics behind him.  It is as if he is using Obama’s campaign strategy from 2008, but does that really work anymore?  Unlikely.  People have had one election promising post-partisanship, and they seem to think that promise was a false promise.  But, again, the argument begs the question:  why are you a Democrat if both Democrats and Republicans have failed to govern in a non-partisan way?  Manchin claims he brought “all the sides together.”  As I stated before, this is a farcical statement since, in W.Va. the Republicans are such a minority on the state level that they may be safely ignored.

Round 1 Question

Manchin defends earmarks and federal government spending in the states.  Manchin points out that if W.Va. did not have roads, the state would be hurt.  Markets cannot provide for roads like the federal government does.  Manchin says that the federal government should be a business partner not a business dictator.  This is the reason I consider Manchin, at heart, a big government Democrat and progressive.  He never really says markets are good in themselves like Raese does.  He claims the government has to provide for certain things that the market cannot (or he assumes cannot).

Round 2 Question

A deficit question:  Manchin claims he can pay off the debt for the most part and says a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Manchin here is at odds with the past and present W.Va. Senators here.  He cannot have it both ways–to be for earmarks and government spending in the market, but also shrink spending.  Sen. Byrd was part of the problem in this regard.  Manchin at once links his train to the memory of Byrd, and then detaches it when he talks about his fiscal frugality.

Round 3 Question

Manchin says he is for the tax cuts “in the time of recession.”  Does that mean he would be for tax hikes after the recession concludes?  He implicitly conceded he is for higher taxes in good economic times.

Round 4 Question

Manchin states he is against cap and trade, and Obama, on this issue.  Manchin wraps his rhetoric lovingly around the coal industry.  Manchin says we have to have coal, and gas, in this state and for this country.  BUT, Manchin’s patriotic defense of coal for our country, is limited given there are many other energy sources available to this state–like Nuclear.  W.Va. has a moratorium on nuke plants however.

Health Care Repeal Question

Manchin actually states, again, he supports health care reform, and Obamacare, for the MOST part.  He says that we need to care for others, we need to force the insurance companies to pay for care, and not drop customers.  Manchin thus wants to keep most of the bill–how he can lower taxes based on just that position is unclear.  Manchin comes out for most health related social welfare programs.  But, he also is against the 1099 provisions and the mandates.  Despite these repeals, should they happen, it would still put in place a huge government expansion.  Taxes will increase and quality will decrease even with Manchin’s modifications and repeals.  Manchin shows his big government progressivism again by stating he is for such things as social security and medicare–all those things that are causing economic pressures on the government at present.  Manchin says he is conservative on fiscal matters.  However, how can he be when he is for the expansion of government and many progressive policies?

John Raese

Opening Statement

A very negative opening from Raese.  He is pessimistic to Manchin’s uber optimism.  There is no doubt where Raese is coming from–he is for free markets, and against state run and operated industries–Obamacare.  Raese paints W.Va.’s best days are ahead of us, IF we turn back from our present path. The question about Raese is whether the people will respond positively to his strident tone and message.  The question for Raese is:  where does the market end and the government begin?  Just how much should be left to the market?  Is seems like, for Raese, a lot.

Round 1 Question

Earmarks:  Raese repeats his disdain for government spending, and that earmarks are bad for the common good.  Government handouts make us dependent on government.  Raese is clear, yet again, that limited government powers is necessary to allow us the most freedom possible.

Round 2 Question

Raese once again comes out against nearly ALL government spending and stimulus.  He attacks Manchin on taking stimulus and he states the obvious–government spending in the market has not worked.  Manchin responds that we need government spending and indirectly blames Bush and Obama by not blaming Bush and Obama.  Manchin never admits the stimulus package worked.  But, he does assent that government spending and stimulus was proper.  Would Manchin, as Senator vote for another stimulus as Senator?  It seems so.

Round 3 Question

Raese wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.  Raese attacks the national Democrat Party and blames them for allowing the tax cuts to expire, thus resulting in a tax increase.  He attacks Manchin again for not supporting the tax cuts.  Raese really goes on the offensive against Manchin at every opportunity, but Manchin never responds.  Does that help Raese?  Is Manchin’s failure to return fire an hindrance or a positive for the governor.

Round 4 Question

Raese opposes cap and trade.  In a pretty fantastic statement, he says global warming is a “myth.”  It is a strident message that is really not determined.  In other words, he has taken a position that even many scientists will not take until further, peer reviewed, research is completed.  Raese also loves coal, and blames the global warming myth on an effort by the government to control markets and people.  He attacks Manchin on believing in global warming–a charge Manchin does not answer (which means he believes in global warming?) Manchin rebuts that there is a transition period from coal and he states W.Va. should be leading the research and coal is a “mainstay” for many years to come.

Health Care Repeal Question

I have skipped a couple rounds here.  Raese calls Obamacare “socialism.”  Markets, again, are best to provide care for the people.  Bureaucrats will run health care.  Government spending will explode with all the agencies that have to be created.  He is for full repeal of the bill.  What kind of reforms would Raese be for?

Minimum Wage Question

Raese flatly states his opposition to it because it creates a ceiling to wages, and is a barrier to employment.  Raese is for high wages.  Raese almost says the minimum wage makes us slaves to the government.  Considering this is a hot topic, one wonders whether Raese should keep bringing it up.  He might be correct about the economic effects of the minimum wage, but is it prudent to run on this issue?  Even though he answered the question deftly, it likely hurts his chances.

Closing Arguments

Manchin makes a huge mistake by repeating Raese’s attack on him:  “I am not a rubber stamp.”  He makes this mistake twice!  This is a rookie mistake and a big gaff.  A candidate should never, in a closing argument, make his/her opponents case for the viewers.  Raese cannot believe his good fortune here, and pounces.  Manchin sounds like a man on the defense and Raese says he sounds like a career politician.  It is effective in this year of anti-incumbent mood.

Manchin does defend himself against the local cap and trade bill.  Of course the problem is, he defended Obama on cap and trade to an extent. Manchin then repeats that he wants his presidents to be successful no matter the party–except he believes Bush was an 8 year failure, as I noted last week.

Raese’s closer is just as forceful as his open.  He is for tax cuts, against cap and trade, and he is for going in another direction–free markets and free enterprise, entrepreneurship, are all a part of his final statements.  I feel like I am on the John Galt Line.

Manchin’s close is about post partisanship.  He is an independent.  Independent?  No, he is a Democrat.  If he is independent, why not be Independent?  Manchin closes that he is a W.Va. person with W.Va. values.  He, again, never attacks Raese for anything.

*******

One thing I found on the net yesterday is this:  Manchin is buying radio ads making a more explicit defense of Obamacare:

So who won the debate?  Nobody in my opinion.  Raese and Manchin were articulate, and stayed on message.  Manchin’s non-knockout blow may make the advantage to Raese.  However, this race is going to be close.  It is anyone’s game until I see more numbers from a reliable poll.

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