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A Debate Disappointment

This blog is about crime and not politics, but the next presidential election will have a huge effect on the direction of the Supreme Court and therefore on criminal law, so we have to pay attention to it.
Polls this early normally don't mean anything, but unfortunately this year they do.  We really should hear a debate this Thursday among the candidates who have a realistic chance of being the Republican nominee, but it looks like at least one will be cut out.

When the balloons drop about a year from now, the nominee will be a person whose views are consistent with those of the mainstream of the party and who is judged to have a realistic chance of winning the general election.  It is not going to be a bomb-thrower like Donald Trump.  It is not going to be doctrinaire libertarian like Rand Paul in a party where only 12% regard themselves as libertarians, according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll (p. 31).  These candidates may have a substantial slice of the early poll numbers while the mainstream Republicans are divided among many other candidates, but in the end the mainstream will choose the candidate.

However, the first debate this Thursday will be among the candidates who are in the "top 10" in current polls, and it is looking like Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rick Perry are competing for podiums 9 and 10, with one being left out.  That is unfortunate.  They are all credible candidates, and we should be learning more about where all three stand on the issues.  Debates force candidates to say something about the issues they choose not to include in their stump speeches and on their web sites, and these are often the issues that illuminate the choice between them.

Update:  Here is a suggestion for Fox News.  Perhaps taking into consideration the margin of error, a tie can be declared for tenth place, requiring a bending of the rules to allow eleven candidates on the stage.


Rick Perry did not make the cut. The ten will be: Donald Trump; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Donald Trump in. Carly Fiorina (who has been extremely impressive) out. Too bad.

With only 7 participants and lacking the circus of The Donald, it could be a blessing in disguise for one of the JV crew. Someone like Perry or Fiorina could easily shine against the likes of George Pataki.

I'd be very curious to hear what single question you all would like asked of all the GOP candidates on crime and punishment issues. As I have written on my blog, I am very interested to hear more of their views on clemency decision-making and on federal marijuana policy. I am wondering what all threee of you --- Bill, Tarls and Kent --- would like to hear from all the candidates.

Doug --

My pleasure. For the single question on crime and punishment issues, I would ask this: "Which more nearly reflects your view: That, as Attorney General Holder and some Republicans have said, we have too many people in prison for too long; or that we haven't yet done enough to keep criminals off the street?"

Sorry, Doug. I did not get back here until today.

I am more inclined to keep close to the status quo (bad guys in prison), so any questions I came up with would likely have disappointed you.

The most pressing crime and punishment issue for me is illegal immigration/sanctuary cities, the only such topic covered in either debate. As important as sentence reform is to you, it just is not a big deal to the American public.

I do want to toot my own horn about my comment upthread on Fiorina. Prescient! ;-)

Thanks, Tarls. Your immigration concern sure got lots of attention and it even prompted a question about a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for illegal re entry. I wonder if you and bill would support not only such a mandatory minimum, but whether it ought to be much longer to really have some impact.

Meanwhile, i found it more than a bit curious that the only other criminal justice question was a quirky query about the BlackLivesMatter movement.

I suspect you are right that much of the voting public is not to focused on sentencing reform. But I would bet a large sum that a lot of questions on Facebook brought up marijuana reform, and yet that notable topic did not get a sniff from the moderators.

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