Values Voter Debate Review

None of the candidates on the debate stage last night can legitimately claim they were short changed on time. The debate format was very fair and equitable. In the first round, each candidate got to answer each question. The second round consisted of a series of yes or no questions that the candidates responded to by illuminating a green or red light on the front of their podium. Round three was a series of questions posed to a specific candidate, but each candidate was asked a question.

The four absent GOP candidates were represented on stage by an unused podium. Each candidate had a set time to answer questions in each round and each was allotted a two minute time bank they could use to finish answers or extend or elaborate on answers or rebut another candidates answer. All the candidates did quite well in staying in allotted time. Only a couple of the candidates had used all of their extra two minutes at the end of the debate.

The debate kicked off at 7:30 PM Eastern. About twenty minutes was taken up with opening remarks by the debate hosts, prayers and a choir. In no way did those preliminaries cut into the time for the main event. The entire program lasted three hours; about two hours and forty minutes of that was devoted to the questions and answers.

All the groups that participated in the debate invited delegates to the debate who would vote in straw polls before and after the debate. Janet Folger explained they went to great lengths to make sure these delegates were representative of values voters and were in no way connected or associated with any of the candidate. Folger went to great lengths to make clear these straw polls are not like the straw polls we are accustomed to, as the candidates did not bus in their supporters, buy tickets or provide food or entertainment. It was a straw poll of strictly values voters.

(All emphasis in quoted passages were in the original text.)

“Unlike other straw polls where candidates have bussed in supporters or paid for their tickets, forty national leaders chose hundreds of delegates who accurately represent America’s largest voting block,” said Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel, and Values Voter Debate committee member. “This is the most important straw poll yet.”
During the question and answer periods the delegates had a means to indicate their reaction to each candidate's answers. There was no on air indication of what those reactions were and I have not found anything after the fact showing those results.

Before the debate the delegates voted on which candidate they favored at that time. After the debate they voted once again and the debate sponsors tabulated the results to see what shifts took place from hearing the candidate's answers to the questions.

I missed the first few minutes of the after debate wrap up. The after debate results showed that the four absentee candidates had all suffered losses from the before debate polling. Ron Paul also suffered a big drop but still polled in the top three or four in the after debate poll.
“The big losers last night were the no-show candidates Fred Thompson who placed at 4 percent, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain who each received 1 percent and Mitt Romney who was the only candidate to receive zero votes at the end of the night.
Considering the audience and the questions, unsurprisingly, Mike Huckabee came out the big vote gainer and runaway winner in the after debate straw poll. Folger seems to think this might coalesce values voters behind Huckabee's campaign.

While many very good candidates attended the event, Governor Mike Huckabee was the clear winner,” said Janet Folger, President of Faith2Action and member of the Values Voter Debate committee. Huckabee received nearly five times the votes of the other candidates.
Again, there is no place I've found that shows the before and after polling results. All this is from releases from the debate and what I jotted down as they were explaining the results.

This debate was almost tailor made for these seven participating candidates. Even though some of the questions might have been a bit controversial for the four absentees, I don't see how they gained anything by skipping this forum, and think some of them lost quite a bit of credibility by not showing up. Even if their positions on some of the issues are not totally in line with groups sponsoring the debate, their appearance would have at least shown they are willing to face those who do not totally agree with them.

I can't help but wonder how the democrat presidential candidates would fare in this debate, being asked the same questions. There's obviously a reason they all declined an invitation to participate in a similar format sponsored by the same groups.

I'll make another post with some specifics from the debate and my impressions and observations of the candidates.