Nolan creams Cravaack in first debate

Wow, what a difference two years makes. In 2010, Chip Cravaack was swept into office with the Tea Party wave, capitalizing on the movement's aggressive, confrontational tactics to take Jim Oberstar by surprise. This time, the landscape is much different, and Cravaack's ability to debate substantive issues is important. From what I saw a couple of hours ago, that's going to mean trouble for him.

Nolan had clearly done his homework. He spoke intelligently and forcefully on the issues, making a strong argument for his policy ideas and refusing to cede an inch to Cravaack. In comparison, it quickly became apparent that Cravaack had only prepared a handful of vague talking points. Refusing to allow Cravaack to fall back on these vague talking points, Nolan repeatedly rebutted him, leading to discussions in which it became clear that Cravaack was just repeating the same line over and over.

Below are what I thought were a couple of the highlights of the debate. I don't think we have the archived video of the debate available to embed yet, but it's well worth a watch. I'm going to refer to a few sections that you should definitely check out, even if you can't watch the whole thing.

Nolan came out swinging, using his opening statement to introduce a litany of criticisms of Cravaack's record:

Congressman Cravaack has voted repeatedly to end Medicare as we know it, increasing costs for our elderly; Congressman Cravaack has voted numerous times to increase military spending while cutting domestic spending for our infrastructure, our education, and our human-development initiatives; Congressman Cravaack has voted repeatedly to provide more tax cuts for the super-rich in this country, and additionally provide tax cuts for the big multinationals to outsource and move their manufacturing overseas.

(Watch this at about 3:00 into the video)

The discussion on the economy was where I thought Nolan was the strongest, making an excellent, logical case that a strong economy is built on consumer demand:

As a businessman, you can give me tax breaks all you want, from now 'till kingdom come, and I'll say thank you -- none of us are excited about having to pay taxes -- but I'll tell you, there's only one thing that stimulates a real, honest-to-goodness business owner to invest in new equipment, and to hire new personnel, and to build new facilities, and that's a demand for your product. Demand for your product comes from a middle class. The growing inequalities between the rich and the poor and the destruction of the middle class is one of the most terrible things that is happening to this economy today...

(Watch this at about 20:00 into the video)

Cravaack's response was ridiculous. He argued, very helpfully, that the way to bring back the middle class was to "create jobs." Nolan saw Cravaack struggling with a vague, meaningless talking point, and he wasn't shy about pressing his advantage. That led to the following exchange:

NOLAN: If you look at the studies by the National Federation of Small Businesses, they will tell you it's not tax breaks that stimulate them to invest. It's a demand for your product. So you've got this thing upside down -- you voted repeatedly to give more and more tax breaks to the richest and most powerful people in this country, under the guise that we're helping small business. I am a small businessman. And I'm in a difficult industry, in the forest industry products. We don't have a problem with regulations, for crying out loud. We want to have healthy, safe working conditions for our workers. We don't want to pollute our neighborhood and our environment. But we do need demand for our product. Give me a tax break, why would I invest in new equipment, new personnel, new buildings to have it sit there idle? What I need is another order for a load of pallets everyday, and if I get that I'll put people back to work. And to get that, I need demand for my product.

CRAVAACK: And to get demand for your product, you have to get people back to work. The people create the demand.

NOLAN: Exactly.

(Watch this at about 24:30 into the video)

Cravaack was literally left talking in circles, without a meaningful point to make, basically making Nolan's point for him.

There's a lot more that I could cover, and I may try to get to some of it later. All in all, the debate was an absolute rout. I think it will be clear to just about everyone who watched that there was only one person on the stage who knew what he was talking about.

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