Presidential nominees spar in first debate

The major presidential candidates for this year’s election began their general election processes today, setting off to the sound of buzzers and warning bells that kept them within their time limits.

Candidates included were as follows:

  • Incumbent President Rick Canth (Conservative Party-D7)
  • Senator Peeta Mellark (Liberty Party-D12)
  • Mr. Robert F. Maxwell (Independent-D4)
  • Governor Felicia Ren (Labor Party-D8)
  • Attorney General Cecelia Paylor (Civic Party-D8)

These candidates were invited based on predetermined criteria. Former Governor Elizabeth Steinbeck, an independent candidate for president, was excluded due to not meeting the standards that were set.

Candidates were asked a variety of questions regarding their records, foreign policy, and domestic policy. Equal time was allotted to each candidate, amounting to a minute and a half for a response to an initial question and half a minute for a rebuttal to any candidate who invoked another candidate’s name. A grace period of ten seconds was also allowed on both time limits.

The highlights of the debate are enumerated below.

ON CANDIDATES’ RECORDS:


Question: “President Canth, your response to the threat of the terrorist group the Oceanian Empire has been deemed lackluster by many. Recently, Senator Mellark called your response ‘damaging and disasterous.’ What is your response to these comments?”

President Canth: “I certainly do not think my administration’s response to this threat is lackluster. The Oceanian Empire, without a doubt, is the greatest threat against the nation of Panem since the Fourth World War. There is no doubt that it should be taken seriously. That’s why I have ordered missile strikes on OE camps and key sites linked to the group. And as to what Senator Mellark said, I would like to remind him and the people of Panem that he is a legislator, not an executive. He is untested and unprepared to lead on day one.”

Senator Mellark’s rebuttal: “Mr. President, I stand by my comments. Your presidency itself has been an absolute disaster from day one, so you cannot look down upon me as some lowly legislator. If I’m unprepared, you are much, much worse off than I am.”


Question: “Governor Ren, the Labor Party over the last four years has gone from the leading opposition party to what is effectively a secondary party. You describe yourself as the best candidate for this job. How do you plan to convince voters to bring the Labor Party into power?”

Governor Ren: “I must say that I detest this sort of question. I was promised a question regarding my record, and yet here I am defending my party regarding our polling. Nonetheless, I will respond. To the voters of Panem: the Labor Party is a party for you. The Liberty Party and Conservative Party do not represent you. They represent a system of politics that is toxic to our nation, one that promotes the CEOs and other politicians before the hardworking people of this nation. I implore you to look beyond name recognition, look beyond the status quo. Join us, and vote for me in November to bring the people back to the Capitol.”


Question: “Mr. Maxwell, you recently lost the Conservative Party nomination for president before launching an independent bid. Do you think the voters will see this as blind ambition or true love for your country, and do you think that you are handing this election to the Liberty Party?”

Mr. Maxwell: “I ran for the Conservative nomination because I viewed that as my chance to reverse the damage caused by President Canth’s awful administration. I did hope to unseat him, of course. Am I running against him now? Clearly. However, it’s not out of ambition. It’s out of concern and patriotism. Panem cannot survive with President Canth in office, and I genuinely think that I’m the right person for this job. We’ve tried having career politicians as president. It simply does not work. And no, I don’t think the Liberty Party will win because of me. They are naturally competitive, but I think that I will ultimately win.”

President Canth’s rebuttal: “Mr. Maxwell, to say that you aren’t seizing on an opportunity is ludicrous. You are standing on a debate stage because you are a sore loser who simply cannot get behind his party’s nominee.”


Question: “General Paylor, your time as head of the Justice Department has been short but heavy with large cases. Do you think President Canth is fit to lead following the electoral fraud scandal in his first days as president?”

Attorney General Paylor: “While the President was cleared of all possible criminal acts in that case, no, I do not think he is fit to lead. He couldn’t keep control of his campaign staff, which caused the case. But that’s not the only reason. He refuses to reform campaign finance in Panem. He refuses to regulate pollution by corporations, which damages our environment. He refuses to actually confront the threat of OE, which has killed thousands as a result. The President should not be reelected, period, the end.”

President Canth’s rebuttal: “General Paylor has served well as my Attorney General, but she fails to see much about reality. I have moved on several of the things she has mentioned with great success, and she should look to her own failed presidency to see what true failure looks like.”


Question: “Senator Mellark, your rapid rise has many questioning your credentials these days, including your presidential rivals on this stage, who repeatedly note that you are only a Senator. What have you to say in response to this?”

Senator Mellark: “To say that I am unready to lead on day one of my presidency is categorically incorrect. I lived with the most successful president of Panem during all eight years of her presidency. I serve in the leadership of our Senate. I am not just some little legislator, and to say that is to demean every voter that entrusted their vote in the Everdeen administration and in me in District 12. Instead, let’s look at my rivals. President Canth isn’t ready on day one, just look at his past four years as president to see why. Neither is General Paylor, and you can look at her four years as president which were total failure. Governor Ren is as prepared as I am. And Mr. Maxwell is a businessman with no experience in government. None of my opponents should be questioning my experience, but rather be questioning their own records.”

President Canth’s rebuttal: “Senator Mellark, I stand by my comments. You are unfit and unprepared. I am the President. I know how the office runs, and I am ready on day one. Just because you are married to a president doesn’t make you one.”

Governor Ren’s rebuttal: “Senator Mellark was undoubtedly kind to me in contrast to his attacks on everyone else, but I must note that legislation isn’t leadership. Governing is, and that’s why I’m ready. He is not prepared.”

General Paylor’s rebuttal: “Senator Mellark, I was the guinea pig in the experiment of Panem’s democratic processes. I was learning on the job how to lead this country. Anything that any future president does is based on what I did in some part. I know how to lead.”

Mr. Maxwell’s rebuttal: “Senator Mellark, in case you haven’t noticed, the people don’t want an overabundance of government. That’s why I’ve been successful this election: I’m going to end the political crap and bring back democracy.”


ON FOREIGN POLICY:

Question: “Every single citizen of Panem is aware of the threat that the Oceanian Empire poses to our nation. What is your plan to combat OE and eliminate the threat?”

Senator Mellark: “OE’s power has grown strong through the support of nations that we have pursued diplomatic ties with. We provide funding to these nations in the name of democratizing them, and yet they continue to discreetly fund OE. I suggest a suspension of funding to these nations as an immediate initiative to prevent further funding of OE. If they continue to support OE in any way, I would recommend my Secretary of State to revoke any diplomatic ties to that nation.”

President Canth: “My plan is to continue our strikes on OE and continue to develop a battle plan based on what we learn. Right now we cannot say for certain that any given country is truly funding OE. To say that is to say something that is certainly unproven. We should focus on strategically eliminating OE’s resources through drone strikes and other methods.”

Attorney General Paylor: “I would pursue something similar to Senator Mellark’s plan, but I would not be open to sending troops into a battle in which we know little to nothing about the area, the people, and who we are facing. Yes, we know we are fighting OE. However, it is difficult to fight a group that is indistinguishable from normal citizens. I would know, considering how the Panem Revolution was fought in that way.”

Senator Mellark was entitled to a response to General Paylor, but declined.

Governor Ren: “We should pursue sanctions and other diplomatic measures against those who support OE and any other terrorist organizations. However, without a significant international effort, I would not support the insertion of troops into this conflict.”

Mr. Maxwell: “Some of my opponents continue to say that they would not support the insertion of troops into this conflict without the backing of the international community. Why? Panem is now the most significant world power in recent history. Other nations follow our lead. My plan is simple: We pursue diplomatic measures against nations who support terrorism, and we cut ties with those who don’t stop. Cut off the money flow to OE. During this, we continue to attack their supply lines and prevent their attacks before they happen. Then, if needed, we send in the troops strategically with the proper information to finish off whatever is left.”


ON DOMESTIC POLICY:

Question: “Economists in Panem are predicting the Panem economy to dip into a deep recession in the upcoming quarter. Other nations around the world have dipped into what some are saying is the largest economic downturn in a century. What is your plan to combat this oncoming downturn?”

Governor Ren: “This economy has been heading towards a downturn ever since the Liberty and Conservative Parties took power. We refuse to acknowledge that the top one percent of Panem citizens do not pay their share, and we offer too many breaks to our large corporations. My plan is to implement a progressive tax system that would tax the rich their fair share while giving the lower class a chance to thrive. I would also implement a higher corporate tax rate.”

Mr. Maxwell: “Really, higher rates for the top one percent? The top one percent already pay nearly half of all taxes paid in Panem to begin with, and to tax them more would push them out of Panem to another safer country. The same goes for corporations- do we want to push our companies away from Panem, ensuring that our economy totally collapses? No, we don’t. My proposal is that we offer tax breaks to our citizens, ensuring that money goes directly back to consumers to rebuild trust in our economy. I also suggest fixing our tax code, which is much too complicated as it is.”

Senator Mellark: “My plan is to provide tax reductions on our citizens, considering further taxation on already broken backs is ludicrous. We should be putting money back in their hands, as they know best, not the government. I also support the simplification of our tax code, preferable to as small as possible. We should also be cutting spending and making our government focus on the things that matter. Right now, our government is spending more on studies regarding geese than on our roads and bridges. We are spending money on programs that are not only useless, but also corrupt. That needs to end now.”

President Canth: “Senator Mellark is right on his plan, if only he would actually implement it. If you look at his record, Senator Mellark is a proponent of the issues that are important to lobbyists, not his constituents. He’s a proponent of pork-barrel spending, and he’s a proponent of not cutting anything. I have pleaded with our Congress to do exactly what he is advocating on this stage, and he has never moved an inch on this. He stands before you today, lying directly to your faces, attempting to represent change. I tell you now: he’s the reason there is no change.”

Senator Mellark’s rebuttal: “Mr. President, if you would simply come back to reality from your daydream for a moment, maybe you would actually realize that you vetoed my bill that would have implemented these changes. Mr. President, it was a bill that was bipartisan, and in case you aren’t aware of the term, it means that multiple parties supported it. The bill passed with support from the Liberty, Conservative, and Centre Parties because it is the right solution for Panem. And yet, you vetoed this bill, this solution you are claiming that you championed for the past term because it was too extreme and impossible to implement. Why don’t you face the camera and admit that you were wrong? That might be a change that the people of Panem might appreciate.”

Attorney General Paylor: “Well, on that note, I would say that my plan is a little bit less controversial. *laughter from audience* Mine is that we implement a stimulus package to rejuvenate our economy, followed by common sense strategy to put people back to work. Lowering taxes is nice, but right now isn’t the time. That doesn’t create jobs, and that’s what we need right now.”


CLOSING STATEMENTS:

President Canth: “I stand before you today humbled to be your President. I know that times are tough, but we need a leader who can guide us, one who is prepared for the task at hand, not someone who has no preparation for this job. I trust you, Panem, to choose the person right for this job, and I hope that you choose me in November.”

Mr. Maxwell: “President Canth is correct: Panem needs a leader who is ready for the task at hand. President Canth is not the person for that job. We need someone who is prepared to lead but has seen the flaws of our government from the outside. We need an outsider’s perspective to fix this travesty and break this political system that is breaking the back of our citizens. That’s why I need you to vote for me in November. Together we can end this political system once and for all and bring you, the citizens, back to power.”

Governor Ren: “Panem, every single election we choose the status quo. It’s time to change that. Join Labor in fighting for a free and fair Panem, one where every citizen is fairly represented. The Liberty and Conservative Parties simply do not represent you anymore; they are the party of CEOs and corporations, not the average citizens. Join us in November, and together we will bring back our country.”

Attorney General Paylor: “When I was President, Panem was a very different place. Over the last twelve years, I have faithfully served my country in our government, and I have evolved with it. I am prepared on day one to tackle the threats in front of us. Not even our current President can say that. So choose me in November and ensure that Panem will be safe for us in the years to come.”

Senator Mellark: “Today we stand at a crossroads. As citizens of Panem, we can either choose to be a country who remains terrified for our future and complacent to our status quo or we can choose to be a country that takes control of our future and return to greatness. That’s why I’m running. I refuse to believe that Panem is not great. I refuse to believe that Panem should be complacent or that we cannot fix our problems. Complacency is something that we should not strive for. We should strive towards a higher goal, one that will bring us back to what we once were. We aren’t that far removed from greatness. Let’s return together in November when you vote for me for the presidency of Panem.”


Focus groups were convened following the ending of the debate. Their rankings were as follows:

Winner(s) of the debate: Senator Peeta Mellark (Liberty-D12)
Loser(s) of the debate: President Rick Canth (Conservative-D7)
Breakout candidate(s): Mr. Robert F. Maxwell (Independent-D4)
Stagnant candidate(s): Attorney General Cecelia Paylor (Civic-D8), Governor Felicia Ren (Labor-D8)

A general vote of who won the debate was taken.

Senator Peeta Mellark – 54 percent
Mr. Robert F. Maxwell – 32 percent
Attorney General Cecelia Paylor – 5 percent
Governor Felicia Ren – 5 percent
President Rick Canth – 4 percent

These results show a landslide victory for Senator Mellark. The group was particularly impressed with his sharp rebuttal of President Canth, which contributed to Canth’s total loss for words. His closing statement also was a home run with the group, who noted it for “being genuine” and “optimistic.” Mr. Maxwell also performed well with the group, who noted that he was “very real” and “relatable.” Paylor and Ren failed to breakthrough and were not mentioned much at all in the group session.

The President’s performance was another thing entirely. The focus group eviscerated his responses, stating that “he is totally delusional” and that “the President flat-out lied to the entire nation on national television. I’d expect his numbers to drop quickly.” Canth was not only unpopular for his attempted attack on Mellark, but also for his second-term agenda. “The status quo isn’t working,” one person said. “If the president wants to run on the status quo, he can return to District 7, if they’ll take him.”

A flash poll following the debate was taken of the presidential general election.

Senator Peeta Mellark – 37 percent

Mr. Robert F. Maxwell – 29 percent

President Rick Canth – 13 percent

Governor Felicia Ren – 10 percent

Attorney General Cecelia Paylor – 9 percent

Former Governor Elizabeth Steinbeck – 2 percent

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