State Sen. Randy Feenstra had an extremely rough Monday night. The GOP establishment’s pick in the Fourth Congressional District Republican Primary’s only saving grace may be that the debate was not televised.
And, a nearly 40-minute long “debate” about the Coronavirus among five Republicans potentially caused many listeners to check out early.
However, there is no doubt that Feenstra’s campaign was wounded numerous times. And, strangely enough, Feenstra failed to come to his own defense on numerous occasions.
Feenstra attempted to make the sell early in the campaign, pitching the Christian, husband, father, conservative Republican in his prepared opening. He made an obvious attempt to quell critics who have been questioned his allegiance to the Second Amendment after Main Street PAC gave his campaign $5,000 and announced it would dump $100,000 into the race as well. Main Street PAC says red flag gun laws is one of its top legislative priorities.
Feenstra mentioned his opposition to red flag gun laws twice in his opening, something that wasn’t lost on Congressman Steve King, who delivered an incredible opening statement. King jabbed at all four of his primary opponents, but focused on Feenstra towards the end of his remarks.
Feenstra ran into big problems when a question was asked about PAC support and PAC money. King and Taylor absolutely ran him over, and incredibly enough, Feenstra never offered a rebuttal.
King started that portion of the debate with this answer:
Feenstra told a story about an 85-year old lady one week ago bringing him a $5 bill. It was the same story he told Simon Conway on 1040 WHO Radio, more than a week ago.
Regardless, this was his response:
Taylor, who reminded listeners earlier that Feenstra called Donald Trump a “novelty act” and is being supported by the NeverTrump branch of the GOP (including David Kochel who called Trump “treasonous”), took a turn at whacking Feenstra for a flip-flop on fantasy sports and sports betting.
King took exception with Feenstra saying Main Street PAC sought Feenstra out. The Congressman delivered the knock-out blow with this response:
“Randy, you went to their school,” King said. “You didn’t just have them come to you. You went to their school to learn what they had to say. And then you end up with this endorsement from the people that killed the repeal of ObamaCare.
“And then with the US Chamber, they are the amnesty chamber. That’s the only thing we disagree on. That’s what it’s about. It’s about promoting amnesty. So we’re getting this figured out now. I think everybody doesn’t believe the New York Times, except I haven’t heard Randy tell us whether he believes the New York Times.”
Taylor wasn’t done either:
Mysteriously, Feenstra didn’t offer any response. He just took it, failed to deny any of it and tried to move on.
This was the most crushing 13 minutes of a debate I have ever heard. It shows that Feenstra, who has never had an opponent for any elected office, drastically needs to become someone who can go off-script comfortably and actually debate.
He couldn’t do that in the first forum and didn’t even try on Monday. It’s enough to make one wonder how he would stack up against J.D. Scholten in a debate.
There are other highlights from the debate, but this sequence was by far the most damaging.
Bret Richards engaged with King from time to time and also took subtle shots at Feenstra. He has mastered the art of just being an average Iowan, a neighbor, genuinely looking for conversation while running for Congress. His highlights will be explored later tonight.
It’s hard to know how Richards will fare, but there’s no questioning the time and effort he has put into the campaign. He has already far, far exceeded expectations and, even if he doesn’t have your vote, you can’t dislike him.
Steve Reeder has a compelling argument to make as a businessman, but in a race that features perhaps America’s most polarizing Congressman, Reeder needs to somehow make a huge splash.
King and Taylor did exceptionally well. King showed a killer instinct on the debate stage and offered plenty of contrast from Feenstra. It is clear he wants to retain his seat and isn’t resting on his laurels at this point.
Taylor nailed it. He needed to woo voters who feel King’s time is up but make clear he is the conservative choice rather than Feenstra.
As for Feenstra, he had two or three moments during this debate that were good.
But he failed to stand up for himself in the moment that mattered most. He backed down. He didn’t dispute what was said in that 12-minute stretch.
And he had to know it was coming. If he didn’t, then his campaign team had him woefully unprepared for this debate.
If he did, then the only logical explanation is he has no response because it is true. And if that’s the case, the goose is cooked and the secret is out.
Later today The Iowa Standard will have a complete recap of the debate.