By Lisa Keen
People posting on the Log Cabin Republican’s Facebook timeline last Wednesday night overwhelmingly agreed that business executive Carly Fiorina was the winner. Of the 117 responses to the open thread question, “Who won the debate?” last Wednesday night, 50 said former Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina and 27 said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The next closest tally — 11 — was for pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
The tally from the national LGBT Republican group mirrored the reactions of most observers. And by Monday, Sept. 21, support for Fiorina had catapulted her into second place, behind real estate mogul Donald Trump. A CNN poll of 444 registered voters nationwide in the four days after the debate showed 24 percent support Trump, 15 percent Fiorina, 14 percent Carson, and 11 percent Rubio. All the other candidates, including Jeb Bush at 9 points, were in the single digits.
Most observers commended Fiorina for answering often complex foreign policy questions with informed, detailed and decisive answers. For instance, when asked how they would deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin sending military arms into Syria, Trump said he’d “talk” and “get along” with Putin. Fiorina said she’d rebuild the Sixth Fleet and the missile defense program in Poland, conduct military exercises in the Baltic states, and send a few thousand more troops into Germany.
Many also liked how she handled Trump’s remark to Rolling Stone magazine that he couldn’t believe anyone would “vote for that” — referring to Fiorina’s face. CNN moderator Jake Tapper invited Fiorina to “feel free to respond what you think about his persona.” Rather than take the bait to return the insult to Trump, Fiorina said, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said” — a line that drew a boisterous cheer from the debate audience.
Not everyone was praising Fiorina after the debate. Stampp Corbin, publisher of San Diego LGBT Weekly, posted an op-ed in his paper, noting the “ridiculous hypocrisy” of Fiorina calling out opponent Donald Trump for making an unkind remark about her face. He was referring, not to her response at the debate but, to a campaign ad, “Look at this Face.” The ad shows the faces of many women with Fiorina saying in the background that these are the faces of leadership.
Corbin said he found Fiorina’s response hypocritical, given that she “mocked” U.S. Senate opponent Barbara Boxer’s hair as “so yesterday” during their race in 2010.
“Such a double standard,” wrote Corbin. “Fiorina can say nasty things about Boxer’s hair but her mug is off limits? Ridiculous.”
Corbin co-chaired an LGBT arm of the first Obama for President campaign.
Jeb Bush Leans More To The Right
While Fiorina’s performance and her boost in the polls were the big news out of last Wednesday’s debate, there was considerable sparring over at least one LGBT-related issue during the five-hour-long, two-tier event.
The candidates took on the issue of whether Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis should be able to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The only real news that emerged from that was Jeb Bush’s step to the right to agree with Mike Huckabee.
Bush told reporters earlier this month that Davis “is sworn to uphold the law” but that there “ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience…” CNN moderator Jake Tapper noted that candidate Mike Huckabee had called the detention of Davis for contempt of court as tantamount to the “criminalization of Christianity.” He then noted that Bush had said Davis was “sworn to uphold the law” and asked Huckabee if Bush is “on the wrong side of the criminalization of Christianity?”
Huckabee said, “No,” and then launched into a heavily opinionated discourse about the Kentucky controversy. Among other things, he claimed the U.S. Supreme Court “legislated” a new pro-same-sex marriage law “out of thin air.” (In fact, the court determined that existing state laws banning same-sex couples from marriage violate the U.S. Constitution.) And he claimed the government “made accommodations” for religious beliefs in the treatment of Muslim male prisoners but not to Davis, who said she was asserting her Christian beliefs in denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“What else is it other than the criminalization of her faith and the exaltation of the faith of everyone else who might be a Fort Hood shooter or a detainee at Gitmo?” asked Huckabee. Neither of these cases had religious accommodation.
“I’m not telling you that, Governor,” said Tapper. “But Governor Bush is, because he disagrees. He thinks Kim Davis swore to uphold the law.”
“You’re not stating my views right,” said Bush. “I think there needs to be accommodation for someone acting on faith. Religious conscience is a first freedom. It’s a powerful part of our Bill of Rights. And, in a big, tolerant country, we should respect the rule of law, allow people in this country — I was opposed to the (Supreme Court) decision, but we — you can’t just say, ‘Well, they — gays can’t get married now.’ But this woman, there should be some accommodation for her conscience, just as there should be for people that are florists that don’t want to participate in weddings, or bakers. A great country like us should find a way to have accommodations for people so that we can solve the problem in the right way. This should be solved at the local level. And so, we do agree, Mike.”
Gregory Angelo, president of the national Log Cabin Republicans group, said he found that answer “confusing.”
“There are contortions that certain candidates are twisting themselves into unnecessarily with the Kim Davis issue,” said Angelo.
But overall, said Angelo, the candidates last Wednesday “merely reinforced statements made in the past.”
“I have noticed one thing that differentiates (this debate) from 2012 — it’s the willingness to talk about LGBT issues and a degree of sympathy and respect that was sorely missing from 2012 cycle.”