Michael Barone - Not a clown show

August 6 was the biggest night of the political year so far, for what happened on the stage at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena and for what happened offstage as well.

The stage was the scene of the first two Republican presidential debates, hosted by Fox News, which together lasted some 200 minutes between 5 and 11 p.m. EDT. What happened there did not go unnoticed. According to overnight Nielsen ratings, the two-hour prime-time debate got a rating as high as the national basketball finals — almost triple the highest rating of a Republican debate in the 2012 cycle and more than half that of the first Obama-Romney debate that fall. It was apparently the most watched primary debate in history.

That may have helped Trump, the candidate whom many presumably tuned in to watch. He has a history of getting good TV ratings and has been leading most recent national and state polls. But it's not clear that he gained (or lost) ground in this debate. He had some unhelpful testy interchanges but did nothing to disenchant those who already liked him.

The debate may also have helped, to varying degrees, the other nine candidates on the stage, each of whom had one or more memorable moments and showed he could handle penetrating, even hostile questions with aplomb. Even as Trump held up his hand and refused to abandon the threat of running as an independent — his "leverage" — the debate may have helped the Republican Party, whose national image has suffered.

That image may have been helped even more for those who tuned in for the 5 o'clock "happy hour" debate and saw the assured, aggressive performance of Carly Fiorina, footage of which the Fox moderators aired during the 9 p.m. main event.

Viewers hoping to see attacks on, or by, Trump were mostly (though not entirely) disappointed. What they saw instead was Trump acting more like a standard politician and his more conventional rivals expanding on some of his themes.

Trump had some basis, though he exaggerated, when he said that his (unsavory) comments on immigration got other candidates talking about the issue. His candidacy has also prompted rivals to acknowledge the frustrations of many voters with political gridlock and economic sluggishness today.

Some frustration is inevitable, thanks to James Madison and the other delegates who wrote a Constitution full of checks and balances — and to an electorate tilting usually to Democrats in presidential elections and Republicans in congressional contests. But Trump's campaign has prodded other candidates to expand on how they can overcome it.
Not all performed equally well. A man from Mars tuning in might wonder why Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, though competent, had been leading in pre-Trump polling. They didn't match Mike Huckabee's one-liners, Rand Paul's feistiness, Chris Christie's specifics, Ben Carson's charm, Ted Cruz's clarity, John Kasich's ingenuousness or Marco Rubio's capacity to ad lib seamlessly from his relationship to God to the conduct of the Veterans Administration.

And none could respond to an event offstage that may have more immediate impact than the debate. That was the announcement that Senator Charles Schumer, Senate Democrats' leader-in-waiting, is voting to disapprove Barack Obama's deal with Iran. This was apparently leaked by the White House to the Huffington Post during the debate — an even better time to bury news than a pre-holiday-weekend Friday afternoon.

This came just one day after Obama's disgraceful speech where he likened Republican opponents of the deal to Iran regime supporters who chant "death to America!" A White House reporter might ask whether Schumer fits into that category at the next presidential press conference.

Administration strategists hoped that Schumer would support the deal or delay a "no" vote until it was too late to influence others. Instead he announced his position, in a thoughtful and serious statement, as members of Congress fan out to face constituents. Polls show voters are increasingly skeptical for the reason Schumer found pivotal — skepticism about the deal will make Iran's leaders less hostile to America.

The "no" votes of Schumer and Eliot Engel, House Democrat and ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee (who also announced his stance on Thursday), mean there will be a large bipartisan majority against the deal. Maybe even the two-thirds required for disapproval.

That casts a cloud on what Obama regards as his signal foreign policy achievement, even as the Cleveland debates showed the Republican race is not a clown show. It was a tough Thursday for the president and his party.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

 

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Sanborn — More Affordable Homes

As of August 1 there were 1,307 residential homes on the market in the twelve communities covered by this Lakes Region real estate market report. The median asking price came in at $275,000 and there were over 400 homes under $200,000 available. This inventory level represents almost 16 months worth of inventory on the market.

Another new month and many more affordable homes have come on the market. Here are my picks for some properties you could check out if you are in the market. A new offering at 129 Belknap Mountain Road in Gilford should be a winner. This 1,200 square foot ranch built in 1968 has three bedrooms, one bath, two fireplaces, a partially finished basement, and a two car garage under. The masonry construction of this home means it is low maintenance. It sits on a 1 acre lot with great mountain views and is close to the Gilford Village. Great house, great location and a great price at $199,900.

Over in Belmont at 169 Durrell Mountain Road there's another three bedroom ranch that has been updated. You'll find a new kitchen with stainless steel appliances and lots of granite, a large walk in pantry, refinished oak floors, living room, master, and three quarter bath on the main level. In the lower level there's a family room, two bedrooms, and full bath. Out front is a great patio and a white picket fence while two driveways lead back to a 40' x 30' heated garage with overhead crane for the gear head in the family. It sits on a .46 acre level lot. This home is priced at $185,000 and is already getting lots of activity.

If beach rights are what you are looking for, the house at 6 Anthony Drive in Laconia will get you onto a nice one on Opechee. This 1978 vintage raised ranch has 1,660 square feet of living space with three bedrooms, one and a half baths, living room with a wood fireplace, laminate and tile floors, and a large finished space in the lower level perfect for an exercise room, game room, or a place for those unexpected guests that come to use the beach. Out back is a large deck for barbecuing and there's a two car garage to hold the floats and water toys. The house sits on a third acre lot and offers some seasonal lake views. This property is priced at $215,000.

If you venture up to 19 Jennifers Path in Moultonborough, you'll find a 1,386 square foot saltbox built in 1998 on a 3.5 acre lot complete with fire pit and a place to park that camper you've always wanted. This house has three bedrooms, two baths, a nice open floor plan with vaulted ceilings, a large living room with a woodstove, and a first floor master. Upstairs you'll find two guest rooms along with a full bath. There's a full walkout basement waiting for a man cave project and there are two decks for grilling and entertaining. This home is offered at $214,900 and the low taxes in Moultonborough make it pretty appealing

P​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others.

​Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 8/15/15. ​
Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

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Pat Buchanan - Taking down The Donald

If his Republican opponents will not take down Donald Trump, Fox News will not only show them how it is done. Fox News will do the job for them.

That is the message that came out loud and clear from last Thursday's debate in Cleveland, which was viewed by the largest cable audience ever to watch a political event — 24 million Americans.

As political theater, it was exciting and entertaining.

But what was supposed to be a debate among the top-10 Republican candidates turned into a bear-baiting of Donald Trump.

Make no mistake. The issues Fox News raised were legitimate. Trump's threat to run third party, his remarks about women who have affronted him, the bankruptcies that four of his companies went through as he built his real estate empire — these are all fair game.

What was wrong here was that it was not his Republican rivals raising these issues or taking on Trump. It was the Fox News "moderators" of what was supposed to be a candidates' debate. They came into the arena to do to Trump what his GOP rivals have been too timid or reluctant to do.

Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly came with their oppo research done and attack questions prepared — to sack Trump in the end zone and send him to the locker room on a stretcher.

When did that become the job of a "moderator" who is supposed to be more of a referee than a middle linebacker? Who decided to turn the first Republican presidential debate into a two-hour version of "The Kelly File"?

With the exception of Rand Paul on the opening question about Trump bolting to run as a third-party candidate, no Republican chose to follow up the Fox News attacks on Trump that were disguised as questions. They let Fox do the wet work.

The anger of Trump and his followers that he was being singled out and sandbagged is understandable, even if his reaction revealed that Fox News had drawn blood. Indeed, this debate will be recalled in political lore as the night Fox News tried to take down the Donald.

Did they succeed? What do the early returns tell us? According to an NBC poll, taken in the 48 hours after Cleveland, Trump has held first place and has risen a point to 23 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz had vaulted into second place with 13 percent. Dr. Ben Carson had risen to No. 3 with 11 percent. Carly Fiorina, who was not in the top 10 a week ago, is now fourth with 9 percent.
Together, these four outsiders can claim the support of well over half of all Republicans, while the beltway favorites — Marco Rubio at No. 5, Jeb Bush at No. 6 and Scott Walker at No. 7 — can together claim less Republican support than Donald Trump alone.

Who won the debate? According to the NBC poll, it was Carson, Trump and Cruz in that order.

With a real opportunity to capture the presidency in 2016, those leading in the race for the GOP nomination seem to be among the least likely to amass 270 electoral votes. But those most acceptable to the establishment seem, as each month passes, to generate less and less enthusiasm.

Yet, what is now clear is that the Republican establishment wants Trump out of this race, and, frustrated at his continuing strong support, is less and less willing to wait for him to implode.

Over the weekend, we heard talk of a Kasich-Rubio ticket, or vice versa. Yet, in that NBC poll, Kasich remains dead in the water after the debate, dropping from 3 to 2 percent, while Rubio is at 9 percent.

A real danger is emerging here of the split inside the GOP deepening and widening. For if it is seen that Trump has not been rejected by the voters, but driven out the race by the establishment and the elites, the value of the nomination will be vastly diminished.

Thus far in this presidential season, the rise of the Republican outsiders, insurgents, nonpoliticians and anti-politicians reveals how far the people of the United States are estranged and alienated from their political leadership.

In the Democratic Party, too, we have seen the rise of outsider-insurgent socialist Bernie Sanders to within single digits of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, and the fall of Clinton to where she is underwater in the polls on issues of trust and, "Does she care about people like me?"

If there is one lesson to be taken from this run-up year to the presidential campaign of 2016, it is that a huge and growing segment of the nation does not want what the establishment of either party has on offer.

And as insurgent parties spring up all over Europe, and the two-party system disintegrates there, the Europeanization of American politics may be at hand.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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Susan Estrich - Carly rising?

Surprise. The one woman in the crowded Republican field, Carly Fiorina, turns out to be articulate and well informed, thoughtful and independent, actually the standout in the second-tier debate and really, if you're judging, the best debater of the night.

Actually, many of the reporters covering the debate did appear a little shocked at how well she "delivered her lines," which is not exactly how I'd describe it. She is the former CEO of a major Fortune 500 company. Donald Trump could not hold his own in a debate with her about the private sector economy — if she could get the chance, that is.

This is how the script should go: a little-known but articulate candidate turns in a strong performance, which gains her media attention as a potential contender, which then translates into financial support, which allows her to hire more organizers and build support in Iowa where finishing in the first tier would be considered respectable, given that Iowa, past the winner, is all about meeting or exceeding expectations.

And as the field narrows, the candidate gets more attention, and becomes, at the least, a contender for the second spot. Getting from the very back to the very front is difficult, even if everything goes according to script, because the brutal primary schedule requires that you have money early enough to be organizing already in multiple states, and later requires even more money to pay for media, while momentum takes time to build.

So is the script working for Fiorina? Does the debate become a springboard to move her at least into the top 10?

I hope so, not because she is my personal choice for president, but because I want to see women achieve more power and influence in both parties, and all other factors being equal (which of course they never are), I'll always vote for the woman.

When I don't recognize the names of judge candidates, I pick out the women. How great it would be to have serious female candidates for president in both parties. An absolute first.
But not necessarily in the cards. Fiorina had a good ride for about 24 hours until The Donald took back the headlines with his asinine comment suggesting that the reason anchor Megyn Kelly asked him tough questions was because she was menstruating. The joke, of course, is that the questions weren't lowballs or unfair in the least. She simply repeated back to him some of the offensive things he'd said in the past. At the very least, candidates are usually prepared to deal with their skeletons. But the Republican "frontrunner" (sorry, Republican friends, but that's what the polls in Iowa say) was not.

So in the ultimate cruel irony, the one female candidate, who was poised to ride a wave of media attention for at least a few days more, has been knocked out of the story by the almost unbelievably anachronistic sexism of a competitor with no business in the race.

Which is really the bottom line. There are lots of reasons candidates run for president other than winning. Harvard Professor Larry Lessig has announced that after a lifetime of activism for campaign finance reform, he is considering running for president based on small donations to bring the campaign finance issue to the forefront — something that is difficult for candidates who are literally raising billions of dollars to do. So good for him. Gene McCarthy, for those of us who can remember, never had a chance of winning the New Hampshire primary in 1968, but his better-than-expected showing forced President Johnson out of the race.

But a candidate who doesn't have a chance to win should at least have some issue or cause that justifies distracting our attention and distorting the race. Ego should not be enough.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

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Froma Harrop - Trump playing in ballpark the GOP built

There's this great scene from "Law & Order" where Detective Briscoe shows a victim's picture to a prostitute. He asks whether she knew of anyone who had "dated" him.

"I didn't, but he's cute," she says.

"You've been at this too long, honey." Briscoe replies. "He's dead."

The political punditry seems unable to agree on whether Donald Trump's candidacy will survive the billionaire's latest barrage of rhetorical barbarities. We refer to his attacks on Fox News questioner Megyn Kelly and the infamous "blood" remark.

But all this presupposes that Trump is conducting a real, living candidacy rather than a mega-prank. By all appearances, he is using the Republican fringe's high tolerance of — nay, appreciation for — off-the-wall comments to expand the Trump brand at no cost to Trump. The billionaire also seems to be whipping up the right wing's hatred of establishments, including the Republican one, for fun and profit.

Face it. Some 24 million viewers didn't tune in to the Fox News debate just to hear Trump say outrageous things. They wanted to see him make the other candidates suffer.

Trump's performance led to his banishment from the subsequent RedState debate. Its organizer, Erick Erickson, explained, "I don't want my daughter in the same room" as Trump.

Sounds chivalrous, but Erickson's coat of armor is not without chinks. It was Erickson who attributed feminists' anger to their "being too ugly to get a date." And he called Michelle Obama a "Marxist harpy wife."

That armor evidently needs repair, for Erickson now seems hurt by the pro-Trump blowback. "I have e-mails from people referring to Megyn Kelly as a 'whore,'" he complained. "I have e-mails from people referring to me as 'gay.' I have e-mails referring to the president by the N-word and (saying) that Donald Trump is standing up to all of us."
Imagine such sensitivity coming from the man who writes such blog posts as "Is Obama Shagging Hookers Behind the Media's Back?" That's when he's not writing deep religious tracts.

This is the ballpark Republicans have been playing in. Trump may say things that are dumb and crude, but they're no dumber or cruder than the musings of the right-wing spokesmen whom party leaders routinely court.

Erickson can portray himself as a bulwark against indecency, but he's really been Trump's warmup act. Without his and others' normalization of lunatic statements, Trump would never have gotten as far as he has.

One feels for the respectable Republicans dragged into these environs. It was sad to see Ohio Gov. John Kasich pummeled at the Fox News debate for having humanely expanded Medicaid in his state. It was unfortunate but inevitable that someone (this time Rand Paul) would slam New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for having publicly hugged President Obama. The context, some may remember, was the president's visit and offer of federal help after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.

On the other hand, Christie and other Republicans had no problem sharing the stage with the likes of Erickson.

The Huffington Post last month moved its Trump coverage to the entertainment section from politics. Jay Rosen, a well-known media analyst, praised the decision as "the work of fed-up and free-thinking adults."

But the move has irked political writers at The Washington Post. Are they merely defending their turf? Or have they been at this too long?

 

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