Differences are crystallizing at the fourth TV debate. No matter who it will be, there would be a shift to the right.
The candidates on Tuesday night in Milwaukee. Photo: ap
At the fourth TV debate, the Republican field is thinning out, and differences between the candidates are crystallizing. Their dividing lines run along immigration policy, dealing with Russian President Putin, the Pacific Free Trade Agreement (TPP) and US military interventions.
Republicans, on the other hand, are united in not wanting to raise the minimum wage. At the federal level, it stands at $7.25 an hour. During Tuesday night’s televised debate, people demonstrate outside the Milwaukee Theater for an increase to $15. Inside, however, candidates view a higher minimum wage as an impediment to growth.
Four men emerge victorious from the panel. Each of them – should they become the official party nominee next summer – would represent a shift to the right relative to previous Republican candidates. The two stars remain neurosurgeon Ben Carson and multibillionaire real estate speculator Donald Trump. Both are outsiders who do not come from the Republican Party apparatus. In polls, they unite nearly 50 percent of the base’s support behind them.
In the debate, Carson tries to rebut the accusation that he is fabricating and has embellished his CV with made-up things – among other things, no evidence can be found for his claim that he tried to stab someone as a teenager. During the debate, the neurosurgeon does not provide any additional information. Instead, in his famously phlegmatic manner, he asserts that people who know him trust him.
Trump, who rumbled loudly and alone at the start of the campaign, now cultivates a more restrained, statesmanlike tone. On Tuesday, he complained to moderators about Carly Fiorina for "interrupting" the others.
Ban abortions even after rape
The other two debate winners come from the party establishment and are a generation younger. Both have Cuban ancestry and both sit in the Senate: Marco Rubio of Florida wants to increase spending on family support by $1 trillion. He wants to ban abortions even when pregnancies are the result of violence.
Ted Cruz of Texas has made a name for himself with night-long blocking speeches in Congress and his advocacy of a government shutdown. Like Carson, he is popular with Tea Party supporters and Christian fundamentalists. He often invokes Ronald Reagan, but is far to his right.
Adding a little momentum to Tuesday night’s debate are candidates who are far behind in the polls. Some want the U.S. to be stronger militarily than it was at the height of the Cold War. By contrast, right-wing libertarian Rand Paul says the U.S. can be strong without "getting involved in every civil war in the world." He warns against supplying "weapons to our enemies." Trump shares Paul’s opposition to greater interference in Syria and Ukraine. He wants to send the Europeans – and namely Germany – more forward to these theaters: "We are not the policeman of the world."
Putin as "gangster"
Ex-manager Fiorina – also an outsider – wants to avoid talking directly to Russian President Putin. Instead, as president, she would further encircle Russia militarily: Upgrading the U.S. military presence in the Baltic states, Poland and Germany, among other things. Rubio, who speaks of the Russian president as a "gangster," wants to increase the U.S. military budget by $1 trillion.
All of the Republican candidates consider the foreign policy of President Barack Obama and his ex-secretary Hillary Clinton bad, as "weak." All also favor cutting taxes and "shrinking government" – and scrapping both health care reform and new environmental and climate rules.
International trade and immigration policy, on the other hand, are where opinions differ. Trump finds TPP "bad" because it does not include mechanisms against currency manipulation. And he wants to deport the 12 million paperless people in the U.S., whom he calls "illegals," and build a "beautiful wall" along the southern border. Other candidates, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, call mass deportations "unrealistic" and "un-American." They suggest ways to regularize immigrants in the interior of the U.S.
The man on whom the Republican Party leadership once pinned its highest hopes already looks like an ex-candidate. Jeb Bush, son and brother of former presidents and ex-governor of Florida, is showing more presence in his party’s fourth TV debate than before. But he remains a marginal figure. Late Tuesday night, there is speculation that his sponsors will switch to Rubio.