Locals weigh in on Trump, debate

By Steve Mocarsky - smocarsky@timesleader.com | August 6th, 2015 11:54 pm

Some say Donald Trump is an entertainer, not a politician. Others contend he’s exactly who the country needs in the White House.

After about an hour into Thursday night’s debate among the top-polling contenders for the GOP nomination for president in 2016, the Times Leader reached out to local elected Republican officials, political scientists and a political talk show host to get their take on the debate and Trump’s performance.

Here’s what they had to say:

Rick Morelli, Luzerne County councilman

“I think his debate was consistent with his campaign. He tells the people what’s real versus what the other candidates think people want to hear. I personally like Trump because he’s a straight shooter and talks about the issues nobody else wants to talk about, that are real issues for the American people. (That’s) the reason why he’s ahead in the polls, he’s talking about the issues no one else want to talk about, and I think that’s what people want to see, something different and outside the box. He’s not afraid to ruffle people’s feathers, and that’s the key thing that differentiates him from other candidates. … Unless something happens we don’t see coming, I think he’s going to be the front runner.”

Did anyone else impress you?

“I like Jeb Bush. I know nobody wants any more Bushes or Clintons, but I think he’s done a very good job as governor of Florida and his track record is very good on taxes and I think he handles himself well. You can’t underestimate experience and that’s one thing he can bring to the table.”

Tarah Toohil, state representative, of Butler Township

“With regard to ‘The Donald,’ it is hard for me to take him seriously. I found him to be volatile and erratic. He seemed like he could get so angry that it would definitely negatively affect his decision making and his diplomatic relations.

Did anyone else impress you?

“Ben Carson so far is doing well. Marco Rubio is another favorite of mine. Rand Paul got trounced by Christie but was great on discussions about our funding our enemies. Jeb Bush is very dependable, educated, and the most Presidential. Those are my top likes.”

Toohil also watched earlier debate among the lesser-polling candidates and had this to say:

“Carly Fiorina was surprisingly excellent. She was smart, straightforward and unrehearsed. Which was refreshing. Her take on Trump is spot on where she said that he taps into the anger that the American people are feeling and rightfully so.”

Thomas Baldino, Wilkes University professor of political science

“It was Trump being Trump. And it appeared the people asking the questions asked him the most pointed and political questions. Considering the nature of the attacks in the questions, I thought he did pretty well. He was himself, which means he was over the top coming right out of the shoot, when asked would you not support the nominated Republican candidate if it wasn’t you.”

Did anyone else impress you?

“(John) Kasich, on gay marriage and several other questions. He did the best in trying to steer a middle ground, staking out the questions clearly important to him. When asked to take a position on Medicare and some other programs, I think he did a fine job. Most of the others sounded like stump speeches. But that’s a function of the format; when you’ve got two hours and 20 people and so many topics to cover, you don’t get a chance to get into detail.”

David Sosar, King’s College professor of political science

“He wasn’t impressive but he commanded the debate because he’s still speaking directly to the people in the audience. All the other candidates said, ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that.’ He spoke to the problems and that they’ve got to be answered. But that’s one of his problems, he doesn’t come up with solutions to the problems. ‘Seal the border.’ But how do you do that? ‘I made a lot of money, I’m a millionaire.’ But how do you put people to work?

“I looked at the polls. Trump is up 48 percent and the nearest person in the panel was Ted Cruz with 10 percent. … The only thing these guys did tonight in such a messed up manner was tout their own records. … None of these guys really stood out tonight. I didn’t see anyone coming to the floor. Trump is not going to get the nomination, I know that. He’s a fad. But he’s got that way to command the audience because he’s speaking a language they want to hear. He’s fed up and he’s striking that chord in them.”

Did anyone else impress you?

“Ted Cruz did himself well. He presented himself as something of an outsider - not a tea party candidate but not a regular party establishment candidate. wants to address issues of the country in a more direct way. And he’s not going to play the politics of Washington. … for him, that’s a good position for him to be in.”

Tiffany Cloud-Olson, host of The Storm, a political talk show on WYLN-TV, former Luzerne County GOP Executive Committee member

“Trump is tapping into an anger voters feel with politicians, and that public anger should be taken seriously. However, in tonight’s debate, Trump lacked specificity. Broad brushstrokes cover a canvas fast and his broad statements got fast media coverage. However, Republican voters want to know the hows, the specific tactics, and he didn’t provide enough of that in tonight’s debate. We still do not know enough about how Trump intends to execute.

“I think he gave a weak answer on the question about his company going bankrupt four times in 25 years — that was an opportunity to share lessons learned and how he’d assure this nation would not be in financial abyss and he did not capitalize. On a positive note, Trump struck a chord in his statements that we don’t have time for tone or political correctness in today’s dangerous world.”

Did anyone else impress you?

“I think (Ben) Carson, (Chris) Christie and (Marco) Rubio all had good moments this evening, while Rand Paul had a tough night. He got hit hard by both Christie and Trump. Unfortunately, (Ted) Cruz didn’t have enough opportunity to weigh in, a shame, as he was a national debating champion and it would have been fun to see him really debating. On the 5 p.m. “undercard,” Carly Fiorina was strong. Her zinger about Trump’s ties to Clinton was the most memorable statement of that debate.”

Bill Urbanski, Luzerne County Republican Party chairman

“I guess I was struck by the opening pledge question. …Will you support the nominee, and will you pledge not to run as an independent? … I have faith in the politic process and faith the cream will rise to the top, so regardless of who that GOP candidate’s going to be, I’m going to pledge support because I know that person will chart a much better course for the nation that whoever the Democrats put up there, so I think it’s unfortunate for him not to pledge to support that person.

“It’s unfortunate, too, because I remember the last time a businessman jumped in to politics in ‘92. That cost the GOP the White House. I don’t want to see that happen again. And if Trump runs Independent, I think history will repeat itself. I think it hands it to the Democrats.”

Did anyone else impresss you?

“I got the impression Rand Paul and Chris Christie were pretty combative. But all the candidates for that matter, … everyone was out there trying to make their mark tonight. I’m kind of a fan of Kasich. was my congressman when i lived in ohio. obv had home field advantage tonight. Caught my attenton. Pretty solid candidate. Kasich, (Scott) Walker, Rubio. We have a field that’s very strong. I think Rubio had the line of the night - Republicans are blessed having so many great candidates when the Democrats can’t seem to find one. Very entertaining evening.”


By Steve Mocarsky


Reach Steve Mocarsky at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @TLSteveMocarsky.