The GOP Undercard Debate Would Have Been Less Terrible If Lindsey Graham Had Been In It

Here’s what happened at the kid’s table.

Rainier Ehrhardt/AP

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The lowest-polling GOP presidential candidates—Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina—squared off prior to the main GOP debate Thursday night, trying to answer a very basic question: why are they still in the race? Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was also invited to the undercard debate, but declined to participate if he wasn’t given a spot at the main event. Paul announced that he would instead host a “tele-town hall” on Facebook.

Ahead of Thursday’s debate, the three remaining undercard debaters were polling at about 4.5 percent combined (Santorum was polling at zero), according the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Fiorina came out of the gate with a sharp dig at Hillary Clinton:

The candidate’s responses to question on major issues were more or less predictable: On the economy? Obama has ruined it and pushed jobs overseas. On foreign policy? Obama can’t handle ISIS but they can. Along the way, they managed to sneak in a few zingers.

Fiorina, for instance, took a shot at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump: “Despite Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin, Russia is our adversary.”

In one of the event’s most memorable exchanges, Santorum offered an interesting spin on mass deportations. He described sending the children of undocumented immigrants back to their countries of origin as “gift” that would enable them to improve their home countries. He called this “exporting America” in what can only be described as perhaps the worst study abroad program ever. At another point, Santorum suggested people Google him to see how he once stood up to Hillary Clinton. But you probably want to avoid Googling “Santorum.”

Huckabee kept to his normal tack of decrying Obama’s policies on all fronts, including repeating the mostly false claim that, under the Obama administration, the US navy has shrunk to its lowest level since 1915.

Overall the event seemed flat, and certainly could have used the lovable flourishes of erstwhile GOP candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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