From left: Sam Clovis, Joni Ernst, Matt Whitaker, Paul Lunde, AFP Iowa State Director Mark Lucas, Scott Schaben, and David Young

(Des Moines, IA) Six Iowa Republican candidates vying for the open U.S. Senate seat had their first debate last night in front of an audience of 400 in Scheslow Auditorium on the campus of Drake University.  The debate was hosted by Americans for Prosperity – Iowa, National Review and The Des Moines Register.  The debate was moderated by Americans for Prosperity Vice President Derrick Sontag,  Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register and Robert Costa of National Review questioned the candidates.  The debate was solely focused on the economy with a total of five questions asked.  The candidates: Sam Clovis, Paul Lunde, Joni Ernst, David Young, Matt Whitaker and Scott Schaben were given two minutes for opening statements and for closing statements.  Answers were also supposed to be limited to two minutes as well.

There were no exchanges between the candidates, and there were not many mentions of the presumed Democratic candidate – Congressman Bruce Braley.  While there is little daylight between the candidates on issues discussed last night (minus Lunde) it seems that the debate did separate Clovis, Ernst and Whitaker from the rest of the field based on the feedback given to Caffeinated Thoughts by some in attendance.

In my opinion all three gave solid debate performances.  Clovis had substantive answers (as expected).  Ernst made a strong case with her legislative record in the Iowa Senate being the only candidate to vote against Obamacare via the healthcare exchanges.  Ernst had the best one-liner: “I am a farmer’s daughter who grew up in southwest Iowa, castrating hogs with her dad.  I can go to Washington and cut pork.”

Whitaker had a relaxed presence, made answers personable by relating stories from potential voters he talked to, and he had the strongest closing statement.

From the feedback received and my own opinion: Whitaker and Clovis had the strongest debate performance with Ernst close behind.

I was disappointed by Paul Lunde’s inclusion in the debate.  It seemed like his only purpose for being in the debate was to plug books he wrote, as well as, a balanced budget amendment he crafted.  Schaben overall was much, much improved from a recent candidate forum performance.  I didn’t hear any feedback regarding Young good or bad.  From my perspective there wasn’t anything wrong with the answers he gave, but he just doesn’t seem to be connecting.

Here is video of the debate if you haven’t watched it yet so you can judge for yourself.

Here is a playlist of all of the opening statements:


Question on Obamacare: What’s wrong with it, and what if anything would you keep? (accidently cut one answer off so I made this a playlist)


Question: How would you deal with Obamacare facing a divided government?


Question related to government shutdown and debt ceiling:


Spending & entitlement reform:


Financial meltdown:


Closing statements:


Bonus: Post-debate comments (in the order they were done):

Straw poll: Who do you think won the first Iowa U.S. Senate GOP Primary Debate?  I have my opinion, but I want to hear yours.


Several candidates issued statements after the debate.

From Joni Ernst’s campaign:

Joni Ernst set herself apart, and above, the rest of the Republican field tonight, proving she is the candidate Republicans can trust to cut wasteful Washington spending, repeal Obamacare, and defeat Bruce Braley.

“As a farm girl who grew up castrating hogs in southwest Iowa, I know I can go to Washington and cut pork.”

Throughout the 90-minute debate, Joni clearly articulated her platform while reminding voters that she is the only candidate in this race with a strong conservative record to back up her principles.

Joni continues to gain momentum and solidify her position as the candidate in this race who can beat Democrat Bruce Braley, and her standout, winning performance in tonight’s debate proved it.

Heather Swift, David Young’s communications director, issued a statement:

Tonight, David Young laid out a clear plan for tackling Washington’s biggest problems with fresh conservative ideas and limited government values that will dismantle DC bureaucracy and make government work for Iowans again.

David’s plan to get our nation back on track begins with Iowa common sense solutions, like: zero-based budgeting and generational accounting to balance our budget, dismantling onerous and duplicative agencies to free our job creators of costly red tape, and conducting a full federal audit to shine light on and dismantle wasteful and nefarious programs to restore accountability to government.

Iowa voters know they can count on David Young to solve problems and fight for them because that’s what he’s been doing all along, fighting for Iowa alongside Senator Grassley.

Sam Clovis’ campaign manager, Chuck Laudner, declared victory today.

Clearly Sam was the winner last evening.  He’s the only candidate revealing breadth and depth on the issues. Plus, Sam didn’t check the boxes with boilerplate answers — he showed he will be a real leader. Sam proved last night why he is the frontrunner.

Clovis also made a statement:

Voters of Iowa last night got to hear solutions to many of the problems that plague our nation.  Iowans now have a clear choice as to who will provide the leadership and strength of character in the U.S. Senate.  I will always have the best interest of Iowans and our nation in mind when I am in Washington, D.C.  I will not only vote right, but fight right for you.  I am that ‘someone’ you can trust to have your back.

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