Hats off to Fox Business for staging a debate that focused on the substance of economic policy. For the first time, it became clear that Republicans have fielded a group of remarkably smart and articulate candidates for the presidential nomination.
The exception was Donald Trump, who stood by his plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and wall off Mexico (“We will have a wall. The wall will be built.”), and twice earned boos from the audience for personal attacks on others (To Kasich: “I don’t have to hear from this man”; to Fiorina “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?”)
—Immigration is the bright dividing line – and may prove the Achilles heel – for the Republican party. John Kasich and Jeb Bush both forcefully dismissed Trump’s plan, while Ted Cruz gave a more artful defense of tough border policies, saying the intelligentsia might feel differently if lawyers and journalists were flooding across the border. Rubio won the issue by staying quiet.
–The tax debate got interesting, with all of the candidates advocating massive reform, and two of them – Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – arguing for a value-added tax – which economists view as more efficient than corporate income or payroll taxes, but many conservatives fear would become a money machine to feed big government.
-While polls show a slight majority of Republicans voters favor an increase in the minimum wage, none of the Republican candidates were willing to go there. Even Ben Carson, who opened the door to a minimum wage hike in an earlier debate, backed off this time. Donald Trump bizarrely talked about “wages too high.”
–The star of the night was Wall Street Journal editor Gerard Baker, who earned kudos on Twitter as “the British guy,” and even won a standoff with the Oscar music attempting to herald a commercial break. Baker ignored the music and continued to ask his question, forcing the music to retreat.
It’s not clear the debate changed anyone’s mind – in a CNN focus group of 200 people, only one person switched allegiance. But here is my read: Rubio remains strong, Jeb survives another day, Cruz is a force to contend with, Kasich offers an interesting alternative, and Trump and Carson have passed their peak.
If you missed the debate, we’ve condensed the highlights into a four minute video that you can watch here.
More news below. Share the CEO Daily.
• InBev, SABMiller finalize deal
The world's two biggest brewers have officially agreed to the terms of their proposed $105 billion merger after weeks of talks, a merger that also comes with a side transaction to sell SABMiller's 58% stake in the U.S. MillerCoors joint venture to Molson Coors for $12 billion in cash. Molson Coors will now fully control about a quarter of the U.S. beer market. But Fortune also notes that there were no signs that Anheuser Busch-InBev and SABMiller resolved similar antitrust concerns in China. Fortune
• Valeant CEO defends firm
Michael Pearson told investors and analysts on Tuesday that he didn't believe the specialty pharmacy company – under the microscope amid an investigation into its drug pricing practices – had done anything wrong. But Pearson also admitted that he doesn't really know. "For a company of this size, it's impossible to have full knowledge of everything that is going on at all times," Pearson conceded. Tuesday's presentation offered little in terms of substance about the state of the board's investigation as it tries to determine if the allegations of misconduct are in any way true. Fortune
• McDonald's won't pursue REIT
The fast-food chain told investors that it didn't see the benefits of pursuing an activist investor-proposed plan to spin off the company's U.S. restaurants into a real estate investment trust (REIT). McDonald's says that such a move would be risky and not offer investors enough upside. Rental payments are a huge cash driver for McDonald's. In fact, the company said that those payments have risen 26% between 2009 and 2014. That's helped offset the uneven sales that have been reported at domestic locations of late. Fortune
• Anadarko approached Apache about takeover
Anadarko Petroleum has reportedly approached Apache about a combination that would create an explorer that pumps more crude than Ecuador. Bloomberg reports that Apache rejected the initial proposal from its rival, and it is for now unclear if talks will resume or if other bidders may emerge. Apache is notable in the oil-and-gas industry as it is one of the biggest leaseholders in the Permian Basin in Texas, and the only one where oil output keeps growing even as drillers slash spending and idle rigs in the face of low commodity prices. Bloomberg
• Fantasy sports sites face another setback
The New York state attorney general ordered the fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel to stop accepting bets in New York, saying the operations were essentially illegal gambling. The fantasy sports industry has come under scrutiny recently following reports last month that an employee at DraftKings won $350,000 from a $25 entry in a contest run by rival FanDuel, using what reports have said appeared to be insider information. The Justice Department and the FBI are both reportedly probing the industry. Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
• Snapchat valuation slashed
Snapchat, currently #5 on Fortune's Unicorn list, generated some headlines that the tech startup would certainly love to see disappear. It is reportedly now worth 25% less than the company's current $16 billion valuation, at least according to one of its biggest investors. Mutual fund Fidelity, which invested in Snapchat's latest funding round, dropped its share valuation to $22.91 at the end of September after marking them at $30.72 three months earlier. Re/Code
• T-Mobile enabling binge watching
The nation's third-largest wireless carrier has unveiled the details of T-Mobile's "Binge On" service – which will let customers watch more online video from Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services without paying for it. The carrier has a new addition to its monthly wireless plan: watching video of certain apps won't count in data coverage. That's a huge, bold move considering watching video on mobile devices has exploded, though using those devices to watch video clips also eats up a lot of data usage and can be costly depending on the plan. USA Today