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Final brief thoughts… nobody did poorly.  Schaben had some sketchy answers, but re. entitlements sounded strong.  Jacobs dodged some questions, but answered others well.  Whitaker and Ernst had a solid debate.  If I were to declare a winner I’d have to say Sam Clovis.  He gave solid answers, provided good push back on some questions and assumptions made with some questions and the most detail.  All did well, but Clovis did the best, in my humble opinion.  The following rankings I would give… 2. Whitaker 3. Ernst 4. Jacobs and 5. Schaben.  Good night!

And we are done.

8:26p – Marriage – how has it changed Iowa?  What a crappy question!  Jacobs and Ernst affirmed their belief in marriage between a man and a woman.  Schaben says it hasn’t.  Whitaker has religious liberty concern.  Clovis said the decision put a chill on the notion that the people of Iowa have a voice.

8:24p – Candidates now answering changing culture.. etc…  Also what would you work with Obama on.

8:21p – Term limits – Clovis, Ernst, and Whitaker said they would term limit themselves.  12 years, and supports a term limit amendment.  Jacobs said we have term limits – elections.  Schaben said Founding Fathers said Founders didn’t intend that.  Whitaker pointed out we had a tradition of citizen legislators.  My point – U.S. Senators  used to be appointed by State Legislatures as well.

8:18p – Affirmative Action – Clovis – it has hurt minorities more than it helps.  Leave it up to the states.  Whitaker said there are examples in our history where affirmative action helped.  I’m not calling for eliminating it, but let states decide.  Supreme Court ruled that Michigan citizens have the right to decide this for themselves.  Jacobs – for people of Michigan to decide.  Everybody should be entitled to opportunity, but not guaranteed success.  In some instances it could be helpful.  Ernst… it’s a state issue.

8:15p – Ukraine: Clovis – no red line for boots on the ground there, but putting troops in Poland to bolster NATO commitment is fine.  Ernst – not for military presence in Ukraine.  Jacobs – cheapest war is the one we don’t have to fight.  Obama has been a poor leader.  Schaben said he was in favor of sending troops to Iraq, but not Afghanistan.  What???? Most people would switch that around.  Whitaker – this President’s foreign policy has been feckless.  There needs to be an actual national security concern.

8:11p – Edward Snowden/NSA spying – Jacobs – they need probable cause, there was a lack of oversight, and we do need whistleblowers.  Whitaker – we need to gather intelligence on foreign agents, etc., but not diminish constitutional rights.  Ernst – I’m glad we have the info, but takes issue with him releasing classified information.  Clovis – Snowden could be called a traitor and a hero.  He’s worked with NSA… I almost lost job for speaking out against Patriot Act.  Snowden shouldn’t have revealed classified sources.

8:08p – Ernst voted in favor of a cannibus oil bill today in the State Senate, not medical marijuana.  States should decide this, not Feds.  Jacobs said we need to fast track the research.  Whitaker said he’s concerned by an Attorney General who said if you disagree with a law you don’t have to enforce it.  Congress should regulate the things that harm people – hard drugs, etc.

8:05p – Who would stand with Cliven Bundy?  Both parties need to uphold contract.  The land, however, should be controlled by the state.  Whitaker said he’s concerned by the force used.  Nobody have opinion.

8:02p – Immigration – Whitaker – we need secure borders, and look at what our economy needs.  Jacobs – doesn’t support amnesty, doesn’t believe illegals should be allowed to progress to citizenship or voting rights.  Agreed with Whitaker’s ideas.  Clovis would support securing borders, deport criminals, everybody else has an opportunity to stay, pay fines, pay back taxes, but allowed to stay.  No citizenship unless they repatriate themselves.  Ernst supports guest worker programs and securing the borders.  Doesn’t support blanket amnesty.  Let’s enforce the laws that are on books and go from there.  Schaben said we need to look at our courts and those who have overstayed their visas.  Fence is not the answer, part of the solution, but not the answer.

7:57p – Jacobs we need choice and price transparency with health insurance.  Both Clovis and Jacobs agree that the market would regulate insurance.

7:56p – Ernst points out Braley’s opposition to tort reform.  Whitaker believes tort reform is better done at the state level, pointed out Texas’ recent reform.  Nobody opposes having health insurance sold across state lines.

7:54p – What to do with people who buy into Obamacare if you repeal it?  Jacobs – insurance plans expire… has had a negative impact on work hours, etc.  Ernst – how many people have actually paid… we know 8 million signed up.  Many Iowans lost health insurance plans because of Obamacare.  Instead of addressing the problem of a few we caused a problem for many.  Clovis – Obama will still be in office.  We need to dismantle Obama piece by piece, and make small reforms that can made.  Repeal McCarris- Ferguson, tort reform… no dollars for abortion.

7:50p – Schaben people shouldn’t have to buy health insurance if they can prove self-insurance… so he does support the individual mandate?

7:49p – Farm bill – crop subsidies – Ernst, against.  If we are going to cut them it needs to be across the board at the same time.  Very little of Farm Bill actually addresses agriculture most of it is pork.  Clovis says Iowans are subsidizing other people’s crop insurance.  Whitaker… crop insurance subsidies do make sense for that economy because they are so affected by the weather.  Better than going from crisis to crisis.  Jacobs would vote for Farm Bill.

7:45p – How to compare with Bruce Braley’s federal government, when you don’ t have a federal voting record.  Ernst, I have a voting record and it is a conservative one.  Jacobs… that’s ok, Bruce Braley does and it is a horrible one.  Whitaker points out Braley’s horrible record, “you can look at my life.”  Schaben talks about his election voting… huh?  Clovis points out his military record and small businesses record.

7:41p – Showing a Grassley clip from 1980… wow, he looked young.

7:38p – Clovis with Social Security said that we don’t need to raise age, but shift to a private model – individual accounts that stay with the individual.  Older folks grandfathered in. Nobody supports raising age.  Whitaker said we need to keep politics out of the process and put all of the ideas on the table.  Ernst said we need to keep our promises to the older generations, but we have to address younger people.  Jacobs – sacred obligation to keep promises.  Need bipartisan group to find solutions.  The “biggest lever we have is to increase the economic growth in our nation.”

7:34p – Whitaker said he supports baseline budgeting and balanced budget amendment.  Does not support Ryan budget.  Clovis it doesn’t touch entitlements.

7:33p – Schaben said Ryan Budget doesn’t balance the budget fast enough and doesn’t create a path to solvency.  Ernst, I wouldn’t vote for Ryan budget, but it is a step in the right direction.  We do have to get there faster.  At least the House offers a budget something the Senate has not done in years.  Nobody supports the Ryan budget, but Jacobs said that he supports the conversation.  He said he’s concerned about some of the medicare cuts and cuts to Pell Grants.

7:30p – Schaben goes back to infrastructure.  Budget for it.  Discretionary spending cuts alone won’t be enough.  Need to balance the budget.

7:29p – Jacobs there is no checks or balances with the federal regulatory process.  Has a lot of experience with EPA.  Borg tried to get him to attack Ernst on wanting to close EPA and Dept. of Ed.  Whitaker agrees with U.S. Department of Education.  Clovis would as well.

7:27p – Gas tax: Jacobs is concerned about infrastructure, but this is an issue of prioritization.  Spending needs to be addressed.  No on raising taxes.  Whitaker said with Stimulus package (not supportive of it) if we were going to spend it infrastructure should have been the target, not special interest groups.  Clovis said earmark some of the corporate taxes collected.  Ernst said cut spending… start with closing IRS, and Department of Education… EPA….

7:24p – Ernst said she would be willing to get rid of income tax, but that it would take a lot of cooperation to get there.  Obradovich asked how would you fund the federal government.  She didn’t specifically say what she would replace it with.  Just fairer, flatter tax rate.  Clovis touts fair tax.  Whitaker said of he would get rid of it as well.  He’s a flat tax guy.  Jacobs said he’d look at this from a longer-term perspective, but wouldn’t do it without repealing the 16th Amendment as he’d be afraid we’d have an income tax and sales tax.  He is in favor of simplifying the tax code.

7:19p – Jacobs said that raising minimum wage is something that can be discussed.  It treats symptom rather than problem.  We need better paying jobs.  We have a skill gap.  Vocab training & bolster community college.  Ernst said she wouldn’t raise it.  Agreed with Jacobs, but said it is a safety net.

7:18p – Whitaker says that just corporate tax breaks will help since most jobs are created by small businesses.  Need balanced budget amendment, and bring certainty for these business owners.

7:16p – Henderson asks Clovis question about blue collar workers.  Get rid of corporate taxes… which will repatriate dollars from overseas which will be used for capital investment which would benefit workers.  Fair tax, etc.

7:15p – Ernst says it doesn’t matter, takes time to point out her military record.

7:13p – Whitaker follows up – being a small business owner makes a different because you can empathize.  Clovis – you are responsible.

7:12p – Jacobs – Federal government doesn’t create jobs, the private sector does.  Doesn’t answer Obradovich’s question about how many jobs he created.

7:11p – Borg followed up are you too conservative for the general election?  I hate this format.  Different questions run by journalists who are not conservative makes for a crappy Republican primary debate.

7:09p – Henderson to Clovis: What do you say to those in GOP who say you’re too conservative.  Clovis said, “I don’t know how you can be too conservative.”  Focus on principles, not ideology.  Bruce Braley is an ideologue.

7:08p – Obradovich to Whitaker: what sets you apart from Bruce Braley who is also a lawyer.  “I am uniquely in this economy.”  Touts small business experience.

7:07p – Lynch asks Ernst about which quality – conservative, mother, soldier is more important.  Why no mention of legislative service.  She hits on that, and mentions fiscal mess that we’re in.

7:05p – Henderson starts off with Jacobs.  What business person in Congress would you emulate.  “I’m my own person.”  Biographical… and didn’t really answer the question.

7:03p Today is the first day of early voting… who’s decided yet?  According to most polls only about 40-45% of likely Republican voters are.

7:01p And the debate is about set to begin.

6:30p: Iowa Public Television will hold a U.S. Republican Senate Candidate Debate on Thursday, April 24, 2014. The 90-minute Iowa Press Debate will begin at 7 p.m. in front of a live audience at IPTV’s Maytag Auditorium in Johnston.

The following candidates for Iowa’s open Senate seat will be participating in Thursday’s debate: Sam Clovis (R-Hinton), Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak), Mark Jacobs (R-West Des Moines), Scott Schaben (R-Ames) and Matt Whitaker (R-Clive).

Dean Borg, host of Iowa Press, Iowa Public Television’s weekly public affairs program, will moderate the debate. Reporters joining Borg will be Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa news director, Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for The Des Moines Register, and James Lynch, political reporter for The Gazette.

I will liveblog the debate at 7:00p, I hope you can join me.  You can watch the debate on Iowa Public Television at 7:00p or their livestream here.  Updates will be at the top.

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