I was in New Hampshire over the weekend for a couple of presidential forums. Congressman Steve King (R-IA) was at both and on Saturday he shared a story about when he was trying to persuade a woman to vote for his presidential candidate in choice she replied, “why would I vote for somebody I haven’t met yet?”
King noted that no one in New Hampshire should find that story about Iowa odd. In the first in the nation states we know, even expect, that we’ll be able to interact with a variety of different presidential candidates. We want to personally vet and learn as much as we can about a particular candidate before we (in Iowa) caucus for them.
The trick is finding out where the daylight exists between the candidates who largely agree on most of the major issues.
It isn’t repealing Obamacare… every single candidate I’ve listened to (and I’ve listened to a good number of speeches and have had a chance to interview a few) has said, “I’m going to repeal Obamacare.”
That’s nice… how do we fix healthcare?
I’m prolife!… Great, now how would you protect the unborn as President?
You want to cut spending? Where? What specifically will you cut? Any candidate should be able to rattle of at least a few things they would like to cut. If they can’t they really haven’t been thinking about this issue much.
What is your position of judicial review and its impact on the law? (This will give you a sense of what kind of judges they would pick)
Another topic that I’ve been able to see daylight in between the candidates on is with education. “What is your position on the federal role of education?”
“Well Shane, I believe that is a role left to the states.” To dig deeper with candidates to separate the wheat from the chaff you need to do some homework as well in order to ask a follow-up question like I did with former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) on Saturday in Manchester, NH. I asked, “Well Governor, why did you apply for Race to the Top funds?”
He wasn’t expecting that. You know you have their attention when they aren’t looking for the next person in line. His answer, “well if they’re stupid enough to give us money.” He said something to the effect that every governor applied. I said, “Rick Perry in Texas didn’t.”
Neither did Sarah Palin in Alaska or Bob McDonnell in Virginia for that matter.
If he was just talking about a pass-through block grant then I could see his point, but this money came with strings attached. He also talked about Minnesota being fifth largest Federal government subsidizer. Now to be fair, if Governor Pawlenty knew I blogged he may have had a different answer, but that is precisely my point.
We as citizens have the opportunity to draw out unpolished answers that help get at the core of who a candidate is. Anybody remember Joe the Plumber with then candidate Barack Obama? Obama wouldn’t have said “we need to spread the wealth around” to a reporter.
So caucus goers and primary voters…. dig deeper with these candidates that is the opportunity and responsibility we have in first in the nation states.