A seldom-mentioned debate occurred Tuesday night hosted by West Virginia University. The debate involved four candidates (yes thats right, four) vying for the coveted West Virginia Senate seat. The big names were there and made the most noise — Joe Manchin for the Democrats and John Raese for the Republicans. However, there were two other candidates who made their views known in the debate.
Jesse Johnson, representing the environmental-oriented Mountain Party, and Jeff Becker of the Constitution Party were also featured on stage for the debate.
The mud was slung and talking points were plentiful on Tuesday night. Everything from global-warming being a myth, to repealing parts of "Obamacare" to 9/11 conspiracies (I can’t make this up) were tossed around the table as West Virginia Public Broadcasting aired the debate in its entirety.
A link to the debate can be found here on C-SPAN
Lets start with Jeff Becker, the crowd favorite no doubt. (Constitution Party)
Becker’s performance was painful to say the least. He was clearly a stranger to debates of any kind and often found himself fumbling through sentences and not answering the question asked. His defining moment, if you can call it that, was when the question was asked regarding troop increases in Afghanistan. Becker, instead of answering the question, used the allotted time to rant about 9/11 and how there were falsehoods with the coverage and lack of conclusive evidence. This was his only real contribution, with the exception of wanting to repeal the 17th amendment mentioned on more than one occasion. . . .
Jesse Johnson (Mountain Party)
Jesse Johnson had, what I believe to be, a great showing at the debate. Johnson wasn’t afraid to call out either of the bigger party candidates on issues and rebutted quite sternly. Particularly memorable was Johnson’s rebuttal to Raese’s claim that the healthcare bill was "pure, unadulterated Socialism."
Johnson rejected the reference to socialism, calling health-care reform "capitalism on steroids."
"You’re having to pay a private corporation, and you’re under penalty of law for not doing so," he said "This is not socialism by any stretch of the imagination."
(Source: Charleston Gazette)
The discussion of Socialism would not be complete without Johnson’s response to another misinformed jab by Raese about the Socialistic tendencies of the government today.
"This country is a melting pot of race and religion and ethnic background. And we are also an amalgam when it comes to who we are," said Johnson. "And Robert C. Byrd certainly stood up for the Constitution. The Constitution dictates and spreads the promise of this country. That is not just capitalist, but we have socialistic constructs that are intrinsic to our identity. Our success in the 21st century is born of the fact that we have policemen, we have firemen, we have tremendous infrastructure. And if we were purely based on capitalism alone, we would not have that."
(Source: Talking Points Memo)
Johnson concluded by claiming that the two-party system was flawed, something that is up for contentious debate in itself. Overall Jesse Johnson added an intellectual ferocity to the debate, something few expected from a little-known third party candidate.
John Raese (Republican Party)
Raese, receiving an endorsement from the always enchanting Sarah Palin Today (although as Palin thought Raese was running in Pennsylvania), was running the Tea Party agenda like it was a race. Right off the gun, Raese threw punches about federal earmarks and how they spawned career politicians. He took the opportunity later in the debate to directly call Manchin a "career politician." The token agenda items were pushed forth: less government, lower taxes, extending the bush tax cuts, socialism, obamacare, etc… When cap and trade reared its ugly head, somehow the subject caused Raese to go off on a tirade in another direction.
Raese agreed with Manchin on the potential dangers of the legislation for the state, but took his argument one step further by calling global warming "a myth," and adding that the idea that man causes global warming is also a myth. "I don’t believe in that myth," Raese said.
(Source: Politics Daily)
Possibly the single dumbest statement of the night (factoring out Becker’s rant) was Raese’s irrational claim about the new healthcare bill:
"You’re going to have a patient-bureaucrat relationship, because the first person that patient has to go to is a bureaucrat"
Patient to Bureaucrat relationship? Thats enough to scare the tea-party faithfuls for sure. While Raese, whose residency in the actual state he is running in is still in question, tried this claim with the audience, politifact was quick to refute it and label it as the coveted "Pants on Fire" statement.
The only other memorable moment for Raese, which those who follow him had come to expect, was his reiteration of abolishing the minimum wage. Taking the Republican/Tea Party rhetoric one crazy step further, he claims that the free market is the one who should set the wage, Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Raese also had the audacity to claim that "Manchin and Obama, they enjoy people working for $7.25."
Overall, Raese made himself known as a Tea Party first-string. He stuck to his party lines.
Joe Manchin (Democratic Party)
Manchin was surprisingly impressive in the debate Tuesday evening. He was not too obnoxiously blue-dog. He did voice his opposition for the cap and trade legislation, claiming that it was bad for West Virginia and its industry. He also addressed the parts of the healthcare bill he was interested in repealing, specifically the individual mandate. Manchin was in defense of earmarking if he knew where it was going. Citing infrastructure in West Virginia, like roads, sewage, etc. claiming government aid in the state has been a big help and will continue to be under his watch.
"I believe that basically every time this country got in trouble every time time we hit bottom, it’s the Democrats who stood up and helped people, the average person trying to make it, people trying to take care of their families," Manchin said. "I believe very strongly in that."
Manchin made sure to distance himself from President Obama to a overwhelmingly anti-Obama voter base in West Virginia.
"I will be independent, I have always been independent," Manchin said. "When you see what’s happening in this country, I’m as mad as you are. When [elected officials] put their parties first and they put their own ambitions before they put this country, that’s got to change."
(Source: Politics Daily)
Overall, Manchin kept his blue-dog "good ol’ hometown boy" mentality, but added to the mix a sensitive side that appealed to a more moderate base of Democrats.
To sum this debate up would be difficult in few words but here’s a shot. The candidates who stand a real chance at winning the seat brought to the table two very different points of view. Manchin split significantly from party lines and appealed to a hurting and exhausted West Virginia voter base. Raese towed the tea-party line further than most and had plenty of outrageous claims to accompany it. Jesse Johnson was the biggest surprise of the night, and gave one of the best performances a third party candidate ever has in a debate. And this there’s Jeff Becker…. Well, he gave it his best shot.