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Mitch Perry Report for 9.17.15 — The good, bad and ugly from Simi Valley

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Whatever you think about who “won” or “lost” last night’s debate extravaganza from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, can even the most ardent political junkies agree that nearly 5 hours of presidential debates may be a bit too much to handle? My God, that show needed an editor. By the time the question about what female they would put on the $10 bill, the candidates look drained and hardly game for the question.

And as far as criticism of moderator Jake Tapper — I’ve come to the conclusion that these moderators are sort of like Oscar emcees — everybody’s got an opinion about why they failed.

Ok, let’s cut to the chase. Donald Trump deserved to have the most questions thrown his way, in my opinion. He’s the front-runner (by far) in the race, yet frankly has been more ogled than questioned by television news anchors over the past three months, absolutely delighted that he’ll call into their programs. Too much Trump? No, to many candidates. It’s not Rand Paul or Marco Rubio or Mike Huckabee or any of the other candidates’ fault if they were absent for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Unless they shouted, “Jake!” or “Dana!” they weren’t going to get called. That’s the problem with having 11 people on a stage. And though CNN may have thought that extending the prime-time debate up to three hours would give those 11 candidates more time to speak, it simply was too long.

Rubio had some great moments (such as on speaking Spanish) and one terrible one (trying to spin his record of missing more votes in the U.S. Senate than anyone else this year). Social media conservatives were ecstatic about his performance, but they also were after the first debate in Cleveland last month, and that translated to zero movement in the polls for him.

Jeb Bush had an uneven performance. He started off cold, but had to respond when it came to defending wife Columba. He demanded that Trump apologize for comments he made about her earlier in the campaign, but The Donald doesn’t do apologies. He may have been outshouted in their mano-a-mano over whether Trump had been denied getting a casino deal in Florida, but we live in the age of PolitiFact and other fact checkers, and minutes later on social media Bush was declared the winner of that battle.

The candidate I think I was most impressed was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He made the most of his time, and maybe his performance will help him in the polls, but he’s in desperate straits right now.

Carly Florina is getting a lot of love, and you have to love her rebuke of Trump when it came to his disparaging comments about her looks. And the acid look she had on her face after she responded? Priceless.

The emphasis on who could be tougher on Planned Parenthood obviously works in a GOP debate, but it’s hardly universal, folks. Just something to remember when the general election rolls around in a year.

Ben Carson? Please. The fact that he’s now alone in second place is almost as big a story as Trump’s ascendance at this point. Except the surge for Trump has been well documented at this point. Carson? He was extremely shaky on foreign policy, and simply isn’t ready to be president.

How about the JV debate? The critics loved Lindsey Graham, who did appear to be the most sane of the four candidates on stage. And while Trump was rude about why Rand Paul was even on the big boys’ stage with getting just 1 percent in the polls (it’s actually higher than that, but not by much), CNN and the country would have been better served if Paul and Huckabee were relegated to the earlier debate. The first debate could have used some more candidates, the second one fewer.

And what about Rick Santorum? As one of the very few of the Republicans running who supports raising the minimum wage, his comment that his party is all about business owners but won’t talk to workers was rather profound.

OK, we’ll leave it there for now. We’ll have more discussion on the debate on my WMNF radio show at noon today.

In other news…

In the wake of the WTSP-TV report on Tampa PR consultant Beth Leytham’s connection with the Go Hillsborough transportation tax, a panicked Hillsborough County Commission voted  yesterday to have its internal auditor review how Parsons Brinckerhoff get the contract with the county — event though that’s been looked at several times already this year.

In Tampa yesterday, Florida League of Women Voters President Pamela Goodman got a bit sassy talking about the issues involving redistricting. She told the audience at the University Club, “And we hope that voters who can hire legislators at the ballot box next November…can fire legislators at the ballot box in November. Remember that.”

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission unveiled its local bill that they hope can pass through the Legislature next year regarding regulating ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

There are many different campaigns ongoing to try to get on the 2016 ballot in Florida. A proposal to have “top-two” voting in primaries that would allow independents to participate is looking like a long shot at this moment in time.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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