On January 16th, 2010, Utah Eagle Forum hosted a debate at Salt Lake Community College in Sandy, Utah between the five Republican U.S. Senate candidates. Before an audience of around 200 people, Bob Bennett, Mike Lee, Cherilyn Eagar, Tim Bridgewater, and James Williams III expounded on the issues. The only media story so far has been published by the Salt Lake Tribune, although KSL Channel 5 aired an early background story before the actual debate.
And it turned into a four-on-one fray, as the four challengers started grilling Bob Bennett on his record and platform. It wasn't long before Bob Bennett was exposed as having the weakest position on immigration, particularly after Bennett spoke of "building a high fence, but with a wide gate to permit workers to flow in and out of the country". That might have been reasonable - and digestible - ten years ago, but nowadays, immigration has become such a polarizing issue that any compromise, no matter how slight, is viewed as weakness.
James Williams III responded by calling for the revocation of driving privileges and other benefits for undocumented immigrants. He continued to stake his claim as as a voice of small business, championing limited government and a free-market approach to health care. This appearance was important to Williams, whose campaign suffers from a severe case of media disinterest.
Cherilyn Eagar called for an uncompromising return to conservative values as the best medicine for the nation. She condemned decisions to remove prayer from schools and legalize abortion. She urged an audit of the Federal Reserve. She pledged to counteract feminism's influence on national policy. The latter is of particular importance because feminism is divisive, corrosive, inherently anti-male, blaming men for all the sins of the world past, present, and future. Like Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin, Cherilyn Eagar is also out to prove that a woman can be strong enough to get things done without becoming a ball-busting feminist.
Tim Bridgewater pledged to get government out of the way of business, characterizing government's heavy-handed interference as an impediment to the private sector. Bridgewater also said he wouldn't chase federal perks for Utah. That means no earmarks. Fueled by a favorable KSL opinion poll and an interview with Utah Policy, Bridgewater appears to be making some inroads.
Mike Lee committed himself to a strict adherence of the Constitution, saying he would oppose any measure that strays from that text. He criticized the stimulus as the wrong approach to economic recovery and promised to push a balanced-budget amendment, explaining that it's easy for Congress to expand government now if they know they won't have to pay for it until later. This is the approach Obama and Congressional Democrats have employed - and they blithely assume we will be able to pay for it later. But what if they're wrong? One person in attendance posted a comment to the Tribune opining that Mike Lee stood head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates, staying within the confines of the Constitution.
So who's up and who's down after this debate? Here's how it looks from my vantage point:
-- Mike Lee &uarr &uarr
-- Cherilyn Eagar &uarr &uarr
-- Tim Bridgewater &uarr
-- James Williams III &uarr
-- Bob Bennett &darr