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GOP Candidates Spend Another Debate Ignoring Wall Street

Why talk about financial policy when JEB! just admitted that he smoked pot four decades ago?

Last night's Republican presidential debate on CNN lasted more than three hours, giving the 11 candidates on stage ample time to talk so much but say so little.

Much of the first 45 minutes was spent in an ersatz encounter session with the primary's anti-hero, Donald Juarez Trump. Seemingly every candidate got a chance to tell Trump how he had hurt their feelings and/or the party, after which Trump would shrug and/or remind them that they are not physically attractive. It also included Trump reminding JEB! Bush that he was born without an ounce of energy or charisma and apologizing to Carly Fiorina for saying that she's ugly by admitting that he actually finds her kind of hot.

After that, it got silly.

JEB! "humanly" copped to having gotten high at some point in the 1970s while Mike Huckabee came across like a man who was frozen in 1948 and thawed out in 2000. Dr. Ben Carson - who apparently likes to pop a tranquilizer before hitting the debate stage - kept doing whatever it is that appeals to his growing voter base. And Carly Fiorina reminded everyone that her time as CEO at Hewlett-Packard makes her a lot like Steve Jobs, which is not unlike Tara Reid reminding everyone that her appearance in Sharknado 3 makes her a lot like Meryl Streep.

Moderator Jake Tapper gave the panel ample time to gang tackle issues that proved their conservative bona fides. The candidates obliged by jumping all over red meat issues like abortion, gay rights, Obamacare, Iran and Hillary.

But like the first debate, there was virtually no discussion of the GOP's newest frenemy; Wall Street.

The actual phrase "Wall Street" was uttered twice during the painfully long affair, and both of those were actually references to The Wall Street Journal. When the financial sector was fleetingly discussed, the candidates instead chose the hot new foil of "hedge funds."

When asked if he agreed with a tax plan that would raise taxes on hedge fund managers by doing away with the carried interest loophole, former Lehman Brothers executive John Kasich threw irony to the wind by saying "I don't at this point in terms of changing the incentives for investment and risk-taking."

That was by far the most knowledgable and promising intro to a serious debate over Wall Street all evening. It was also the sum total of what Kasich was willing to say about the financial sector.

For some reason known only to him, Tapper posited a hedge fund question to Huckabee, who promptly mangled the hedge fund angle and instead used the spotlight to praise the memory of St. Ronald of Reagan.

But the most entertaining Wall Street-related moment of the night came when Trump answered a question about his soon-to-be-unveiled tax plan, which he has been touting as the one that will be very hard on these hedge funders who are "getting away with murder."

When asked what his plan will look like, Trump rambled like only he can before closing with this:

I think people are going to like it, it's a major reduction in taxes. It's a major reduction for the middle class. The hedge fund guys won't like me as much as they like me right now. I know them all, but they'll pay more.

Ignoring for a moment that Trump has been bashing hedgies for weeks and that they already don't like him at all, it's pretty amazing to hear him claim that he knows ALL the "hedge fund guys."

But even Trump's bombast is something that we'd heard before. There was no Wall Street talk from JEB! (who's raking in tons of Wall Street money), or Ted Cruz (who keeps bashing the finance sector while his Goldman Sachs managing director wife works the phone to raise money for his campaign), or even Scott Walker (who's hedge fund-backed campaign is dying a slow and painful death right before our eyes). Chris Christie, who is the Governor of a state economically intertwined with Wall Street, was also mum and chose instead to focus once again on his 9/11 origin story.

Two debates into a seemingly everlasting election cycle, the GOP has yet to have a concrete group discussion on Wall Street. While Bernie Sanders makes hay bashing away at the banks, pulling Hillary and even Trump along with him, the Republicans are focusing instead on Kim Davis and the legalization of marijuana.

Today the Fed might decide to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade. That was not mentioned once during last night's debate, but we do know that Rand Paul's Secret Service nickname would be "Justice Never Sleeps."

At least we get to do it all over again in October.


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