Returning from a commercial break during the CNN/Tea Party Express Republican debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer casually said “the 8 Republican Presidential candidates.” It was a seemingly innocuous line and for the most part just something somebody on TV says to set the stage for what’s to come, but it got me to thinking. Where was Buddy Roemer? Is he really any less legitimate than Ron Paul?
Granted Buddy Roemer doesn’t poll as high as Ron Paul and he certainly hasn’t raised as much money. The money part is by design. Our former governor has refused to accept any campaign contribution over ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS and has challenged his opponents to sign a pledge agreeing to do the same. At one point during Monday night’s debate, money came to the forefront when Michelle Bachmann accused Rick Perry of letting campaign contributions from a drug manufacturer influence his decision about an executive order mandating schoolgirls receive the HPV vaccine in Texas. He responded by saying, “The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.” I know Rick Perry didn’t mean it this way but the question that popped into a lot of minds was “Okay…then how much can you be bought for?”
The governor was being forgetful at best, disingenuous at worst. CBS News reports Perry received a total of $28,500 in contributions from Merck’s political action committee between 2002 and 2010. In 2006, the year before his executive order mandating the vaccine, he received $6,000, and in his most recent fundraising year he got $5,000, the closest numbers to those mentioned in the debate.
What got lost in all of this was the governor somewhat proudly boasting that he raised $30 million as he was running for governor of Texas. Do you really think that money came with no strings attached? And do you think Buddy Roemer is on to something and deserved a place on the stage? If you’re saying he’s not legitimate, let’s see whose place he might have taken.
In the previous Republican debate, Ron Paul, during a discussion of immigration and border fences, weighed in saying, “Every time you think about this toughness on the border and ID cards and REAL ID’s, think it’s a penalty against the American people too. I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to leave with their capital and there’s capital and there’s capital controls and there’s people controls. Every time you think about the fence, think about the fences being used against us, keeping us in.”
When I heard that, I sat up on the couch and thought surely Ron Paul had ventured into crazy old uncle territory and destroyed his candidacy. While a certain conspiracy fringe buys into that, I think this kind of thought process disqualifies somebody from serious consideration for the nation’s highest office. CNN and the Tea Party apparently disagreed, because there he was on the stage Monday night, perched between the Ricks, Perry and Santorum. CNN says the criteria for inviting candidates was objective, requiring candidates to achieve a minimum threshold of 2 percent in national primary polls. So then we have a chicken and egg debate, do contributions drive polls and popularity, or is it the other way around?
Or maybe the debate revolves around who really is the crazy old uncle and who deserved a place on the stage? Ron Paul with his idea that border fences could be used “against us, keeping us in”…or Buddy Roemer for thinking that he could actually reform the way money influences elections and special interests control Washington? What do you think? Do we have more or less than 8 Republican presidential candidates?