Synopsis of TIPAC Debate

October 21, 2008

TIPAC DEBATE: “What's on the Horizon in the Political and Regulatory Environment"

This section has been condensed for brevity.

Debate Chris Abbinante, Moderator
Grover Norquist, Republican Strategist
Richard Goodstein, Democratic Strategist

Norquist and Goodstein each made the case for their Presidential candidate. Although both agreed that anything can happen in the final two weeks leading up to the election, Norquist conceded that Obama would likely win the race for the Presidency.

Both blamed the other party for the current economic crisis. Goodstein said Clinton inherited the debt from the Reagan administration and created a robust economy—the stock market was up, employment was up, the deficit turned to surplus, and the country was respected around the world. Norquist credited the Republican majority for the economic boom during the Clinton administration, and blamed the current Democrat majority for the current crisis. Norquist said that people want government to leave them alone and get out of their way. Goodstein asked: Did the people of Katrina want to be left alone? Did the people who were poisoned by products from China want to be left alone? Do the people with asthma breathing in dirty air want to be left alone?

ABBINANTE: What impact does the Internet have on elections?

Goodstein: The Internet has allowed people to verify whether allegations against candidates are valid, such as whether Senator Obama is a Muslim, or cavorted with a terrorist. People see Obama as measured, reasoned, someone who talks plain sense, and conveys a sense of assurance

Norquist: The Internet provides the public with instant information as opposed to waiting for CBS to tell them what's going on. It allows for peer to peer communication and a wider distribution of a “get out the vote" message. I don't think you can point to an election and say when the Internet had an impact. You Tube has a big influence because people can access information that news outlets won't share.

ABBINANTE: Normally, when economy is strong, candidates run on social issues; when it's weak, they run on economic issues. What now?

Norquist: People take a look at their 401K. Obama has no clear plan to make it stronger. He has made a strong effort to tie the problems to Bush/McCain, but Obama's spending proposals are much more closely aligned with Bush's than are McCain's proposals.

Goodstein: When there are tough economic times, people typically favor the Republicans. But people's investments fared better with a Democrat (Clinton) in the White House. If people are truly looking at how to feather their own nest, it's not even a close call.

Norquist: Presidents don't operate alone. There's also Congress. During the first two years of the Clinton administration, there was a zero increase in value of the stock market. The day the Republicans took the House and Senate, it shot way up.

Goodstein: A new President's budget doesn't kick in first year; there's an 18-month window before the new economic policies kick in. Clinton's fiscal discipline hadn't been seen before, and hasn't been seen since. And regardless of which party is in the majority, Presidents can veto. Can we say we're in the mess today because the Democrats took over? It started to take a dive before Pelosi.

ABBINANTE: How seriously should we take the polls when they put Kerry and Gore ahead in previous election campaigns?

Goodstein: Kerry and Gore were not as far ahead as Obama just 16 days before their elections. To see the latest poll averages, go to The other interesting fact is that pollsters can only use land lines. Younger voters, who are more likely to vote for Obama, use cell phones. This skews the numbers.

Norquist: It's a good question on what the polling means. Who will likely vote? There's a huge problem with ACORN and voter registration fraud, which makes it difficult to get an accurate poll. (Norquist further made the case for Obama's tie to Chicago mob politics.)

Goodstein: Tying Obama to ACORN and Chicago politics is merely an attempt to discredit him if he wins. Obama disassociated himself from ACORN. Anyone involved in voter fraud should go to jail. The notion that Obama is involved with ACORN or the Chicago political machine is absurd. He took on these people.

Norquist: Google Obama's first election and you'll see that he knocked the other three candidates off the ballot. He can't distance himself from the Chicago political machine. He has said ‘yes' to every interest group on the left. Clinton led the country on free trade (NAFTA) and made the country richer, forcing members of his own party to vote for it. Obama wants to do away with it

ABBINANTE: Who's going to win and why?

Norquist: If McCain had run a different campaign he probably would have won. There are no substantial differences in policy. If this was a standard Reagan campaign it would be over. McCain is a maverick on a number of issues, but his perceived excitement over occupying other countries not a vote getter.

Goodstein: If you draw correlations with the outcome of previous elections, it's very uncommon for the same party to be elected after a two-term President. After eight years people want change. Bush's approval rating is an all-time low for the office, down there with (former President) Nixon. He's an albatross around McCain's neck. Right now people identify with the Democrats. People look to McCain's selection of Sarah Palin—a decision that speaks to his judgment. Palin has never even thought about national or international issues. If you think of 9/11, is she someone you would want in that bunker? When McCain picked Palin, he did not put the country first, he put his party first.

AUDIENCE: Most of ALTA's members are small businesses. Why should we vote for your candidate?

Norquist: McCain will reduce the tax rate and personal income tax rates, currently at 35%. Obama wants to saddle businesses with higher social security taxes, bringing the rate up to 55%. Obama wants your employees to be able to unionize, which will lead to organized crime, threats, intimidation, and corruption—which will be devastating to small businesses.

Goodstein: People making under $250K a year won't have higher taxes, which represents 95% of the population. Look at the deficit—people want a sound economy now and going forward for their kids. Americans dream that their kids will be better off than they are.

AUDIENCE: Which states are we going to be watching on election eve?

Goodstein: There's been all this talk about changing the electoral map. When Florida and Ohio results come in early, and there is a clear winner there, the game is over.

Norquist: Watch 2000 announced Florida had gone to Gore, and it was announced during the election, and Republicans went home. We have to watch out for that. Also, exiting polls that include a high number of people voting provisional ballots aren't valid. So exit polls are suspect—we won't know until you match polls with actual voting.

AUDIENCE: This talk about "would you want Sarah Palin at the switch" because of her lack of experience is ironic when McCain has 40plus years in government compared to the inexperience of Obama. I'm not sure I want Obama at the switch either.

Norquist: The Democrats started attacking Palin's weak experience and she actually has more experience than Obama. But I'm not sure how much this experience stuff plays. I think Obama will turn the country into a Chicago with its crime mentality instead of focusing on foreign involvement.

Goodstein: Look at how Obama responded to the economic crisis, and who he consulted with, people like Warren Buffet. McCain has flip-flopped all over the place—over the state of the economy—it's good, it's bad—then he's not going to do the debate, then he is. We saw in real time how the two reacted, and the Independents liked Obama's approach.

AUDIENCE: People are afraid over their 401Ks and retirement. The Democrats tend to provide reassurance and comfort. Why don't the Republicans?

Norquist: They don't want to reassure people that everything will be OK when there are such big problems. They want to focus on fixing the problems.   

Goodstein: I don't hear Obama saying everything's going to be OK. He says don't panic, which is reassuring to people. Republicans believe that if you take care of the people in the upper bracket, it will trickle down. That's been the problem, and it hasn't worked.

AUDIENCE: Part I) What about the contributions that have funded the Obama campaign, and all the small amounts coming in from unknown sources. Part II) Companies are outsourcing and sending our jobs to countries like India because they get tax breaks. These countries now control our records. Realistically, do you think something's going to happen to change that and bring jobs back?

Goodstein: Of the two candidates, Obama is saying more about incentives for job creation in the U.S. Obama feels we need to get that house in order on this issue. As for contributions, his campaign is taking in so much money it's absurd to think he is beholden to anyone.

Norquist: Trial lawyers and labor unions put so much money (into Obama's campaign). He voted with the Chicago political machine on everything. He's against welfare reform. Trial lawyers get what they want from him. It's very clear who he is beholden to. McCain wants to lower the tax rate in the U.S. so companies will keep jobs here. The Democrats will beat companies to death with tax increases.

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