Who won the Senate debate?
Mon June 25, 2012 7:15 am

The debate was hosted by KERA in Dallas. Shelley Kofler of the host station, Peggy Fikac of the Express-News and the Chronicle, Ross Ramsey of the Tribune, and Crystal Ayala from Univision were the panelists. The following summary is from notes I took during the debate. It is my best approximation of who said what–and who landed the best punches.

The first question was directed at Cruz.

There are 11 million undocumented aliens in America. There is a  crisis in illegal immigration. What would you do about it?

Cruz: First we have to secure the border. Second, I oppose amnesty, it’s wrong and it’s unfair to people who came here legally. Third, I celebrate legal immigration. [Follow-up: What about a guest workers' program?] I do not support any expansion of immigration until we secure the border.

Dewhurst: I don’t support a guest workers’ program until we secure the border. I would add 40,000 more Border Patrol agents

[This is one of several instances in which the sequence of the questions was such that Dewhurst was reduced to making a "me-too" statement.]

What about the people who are already here?

Cruz: I would encourage anti-sanctuary cities legislation.

Dewhurst: I passed anti-sanctuary cities legislation. We need to enforce all of our laws.

Question to Dewhurst: Should the federal government have bailed out General Motors?

Dewhurst: Washington is broken. Texas is an example of what good government should look like. I’m proud of the Texas miracle, we have the fastest growing job base.

Question to Cruz: Without the bailout, there would be 2500 fewer [GM] jobs in Arlington. Didn’t the bailout help Texas?

Cruz: I don’t support bailouts, period.

[I just want to point out here that the bailouts worked extremely well, that they kept the American automobile industry alive through the worst of the recession, that most, if not all, of the money has been paid back, not only in the auto industry but also in the financial industry, and that the opposition to them is an example of how ideology can be blinding, even when we know all of the facts. Isn't it clear to everyone by now that the bailouts saved the international financial system?--pb]

Question for Cruz: One in three Americans is underemployed, what would you do to help them get jobs, pay their bills, and pay off their student loan jobs.

–President Obama has waged war on jobs. He should start by revoking the ban on offshore drilling

–Dewhurst: Look at the contrast between Texas and Washington. I cut taxes 51 times, cut school property taxes by 1/3, balanced five straight budgets without raising taxes

Question for Cruz: Should unemployment benefits be extended?

–I don’t think the answer is more government. Taxes have gone up.

–Dewhurst: The Club for Growth [which supports Cruz] says the Texas tax structure leads the country. By cutting taxes we grow revenues. That was the lesson of Ronald Reagan in the eighties.

Question for Dewhurst: Is there anything your opponent has done that says he lacks integrity?

–Dewhurst: I’m proud of my record of doing what I said I was going to do. I never compromised my conservative principles.

–Cruz: The lieutenant governor served in elected office for over a decade, he made compromises with Democrats. He may have cut taxes 51 times but there was one very big tax on business.

–Dewhurst: I eliminated business taxes for 40,000 businesses.

Then the format allowed each candidate to ask a question of the other:

Cruz to Dewhurst: Did you support a payroll tax or a wage tax?

–Dewhurst: No.

Dewhurst to Cruz: When I got out of college, I volunteered to serve in Vietnam. I joined the CIA. You went to Harvard Law School and practiced law. What qualifies you to be a United States Senator?

–Cruz: I spent five years defending the Constitution [as solicitor general in Texas].

Question for Dewhurst on Social Security: The Social Security system is out of balance. How would you fix it?

–Washington politicians have kicked the can down the road. We need to raise the retirement age and eventually we will have to do means testing.

–Cruz: We must have entitlements reform. Older workers will get their social security. For younger workers, there need to be three changes. Increase the age limit, control the increase in benefits, establish private accounts.

–Question for Dewhurst: Texas has the highest percentage of people without health insurance. What would you do about it.

–Cruz: Repeal Obama care. First thing I would do. I think the Supreme Court will cut the baby in half, leave some, repeal some. We need fundamental reform with market based solutions, like a 50 state market for health insurance

–Dewhurst: I will throw Obamacare in the trash can. It will break every state. Tort reform in 2003 provided medical malpractice insurance for doctors, now 24,000 new doctors in Texas

Question for Dewhurst: What do we do about developing more energy?

–The EPA is out of control, wreaking havoc on Texas and other states. Texas is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, we need to expand our use of natural gas.

–Cruz: We should get the federal government out of energy exploration. For the first time, America can envision energy independence. We don’t have to rely on countries that hate us.  The EPA stands in the way. [This is sort of old news. The EPA did not list the sagebrush lizard as an endangered species--pb]

Question for Cruz: Do you support the Keystone pipeline, and do you believe that eminent domain should be used to allow the pipeline to cross private land?

–The problem is that Obama shut it down and killed jobs. Now the oil will be sent to China, it makes the U.S. more dependent on foreign oil.

The questioner tried follow-up questions on the subject of property rights, but Cruz did not really respond except to talk about a key Supreme Court opinion. Then there was a follow-up question to Dewhurst: What should we do for landowners?

–I worked for six years to get eminent domain through the Legislature. The pipeline must sit down with landowners, look at alternate routes, find a fair market value.

Question for Dewhurst: Mexico is our largest trading partner. How would you keep the gate open for commerce?

–We’ve got to keep trade going across the border.  We must close the border by tripling the size of the Border Patrol.

–Cruz: I support free trade, but there is a crisis on the Border. People die crossing the Border. More and more people are OTM “other than  Mexicans”

Question for Cruz: Should we cut defense spending?

–No. But we should stick to the budget requested by the Pentagon, stop Congress from spending above and beyond the budget.

Follow-up to Cruz: Do you support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

–We were correct to go in, but we stayed too long. We shouldn’t engage in nation-building. Don’t try to build a democratic utopia.

–Dewhurst: We went to war with a noble purpose. The Iraq war was based upon information about weapons of mass destruction. Obama is anxious to cut and run. We should follow overriding principles: (1) Only go to war if a vital matter of national security is involved; (2) keep our military as strong as possible. (3) Stand firm with our ally Israel.

Question for Cruz: Should the U.S. intervene in Syria?

–No. It’s not our job to intervene all over the globe.

–Dewhurst: What is in the best interests of the U.S? Allies are providing arms to freedom fighters. We would respond if Scud missiles are fired at Israel.

* * * *

I thought Dewhurst won the debate. Here’s why: On several occasions he was able to refer to his record of achievements while in office:

–”I cut taxes 51 times”

–”I passed tort reform in 2003, which brought 24,000 new physicians to Texas”

–”I worked six years to pass eminent domain”

–”I passed sanctuary cities legislation”

Furthermore, he was able to mention that he had volunteered to serve in Vietnam and that he had joined the CIA. These are impressive credentials, and it told viewers something about who David Dewhurst was that most of them probably didn’t know. He also pointed out that the Club for Growth has said that Texas’s tax structure leads the country, and the Club for Growth is supporting Cruz!

Cruz, when asked by Dewhurst, what qualifies you to be a United States senator, answered, “I spent five years defending the Constitution.” He might have elaborated about cases he had won–a ruling that allowed a monument for the Ten Commandments to be placed on the Capitol grounds, for example–but he didn’t. In short, Dewhurst was able to point to a record of achievement and Cruz was not. Dewhurst was able to expand what people knew about him, and Cruz was not. I can think of only one instance when Cruz had Dewhurst on the defensive, and that is when he asked the Dew if he had ever supported a wage tax? Dewhurst said no, and Cruz indicated that he had evidence to the contrary. If he has the goods, we will undoubtedly hear it from the Cruz campaign in later ads, but on Friday night, Cruz didn’t lay a glove on Dewhurst. He was more articulate than Dewhurst, to be sure, but that isn’t where the battles are won and lost.

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