BEND, OR -- The remaining Presidential candidates vying for the Republican nomination will duke it out on the debate stage again on Thursday. During a stop in Bend, Oregon's only Republican Congressman Greg Walden talked with KBND News about the current political climate and the race for the White House.
Walden says he’s pleased to see the energy from conservative Republicans who have turned out in record numbers in some states compared to 2008, the last presidential election without an incumbent. "The energy is off on the Democratic side; they’re actually below their numbers from ’08. So, there’s a lot of pent-up anger and frustration; it seems to be more on the right than the left. But, clearly Bernie Sanders has tapped into some pretty frustrated folks on the left, too. All that is stirring around out there, state by state by state."
But, he admits things have taken a nasty turn in recent debates. "I don’t think we’ve seen this level of discourse in American politics on a debate stage in my memory. I think back to the debate between Bill Clinton and the President at the time, George H.W. Bush, and his great sin was he looked at his watch, briefly. From then on that was the big story - ‘oh my gosh, he looked bored and he checked his watch.’ Today, that’s nothing compared to what we’re seeing in these debates." Walden says he’d like to see more discussion of policy issues instead of the arguing and personal attacks. "I’d like to see a more vigorous debate about what is the best way to contain ISIS and the threat that poses; or what the Russians are doing. You know, every time they bomb in Syria, more refugees flood in to destabilize Europe; what the Chinese are doing. My own preference is you have more serious policy debates."
With each vote and each debate, the discourse among the remaining GOP candidates seems to get louder, leading some to speculate the party could be headed for a brokered convention to decide the nominee. But, Rep. Walden says, "I think the worse thing you can do for the party is have somebody that wins in most of the states, gets most of the delegates, and then say ‘oh, somebody wiser than the voter is going to figure out you’re not appropriate,’ whoever that is. I think that would be really disruptive and be like a big earthquake that would divide the grassroots from the party."
On front runner Donald Trump, Walden says that regardless of his policies, his ability to get voters to the polls is a good thing. "He’s rewriting the whole book on campaigning. If you look at how little he’s spending and how well he’s doing and the enthusiasm he’s generating." Walden adds, "Every time I think he says or does something that any other candidate at any other time it would’ve knocked him out, he seems to get stronger. So, there’s something going across the country that political scientists will write about for years to come. But, there’s a change happening and it’s real, or he wouldn’t be winning in the states he’s winning in." Walden says he will support whichever candidate is chosen as the Republican nominee.
The next Republican Presidential debate is Thursday, March 10 at the University of Miami. Oregon's primary is May 17.