The GOP Debate Disconnect

Moments ago, the Republican candidates finished yet another debate.  This time, CNN and the TEA Party Express were the odd couple sponsors.  Blitzer was in liberal heaven, getting every question the left wanted the candidates to quarrel about on the record.  But there were some very bright spots, which brings us to our debate winner:

I call Newt as winner

Newt Gingrich.  The GOP debate disconnect seems to be how Newt consistently delivers stellar debate performances, and in fact directs the flow of the debate away from where the moderators want to go, and yet continues to flounder in the polls.  Other candidates were taking their cues from Newt, and Newt was again successfully making the case that every candidate on that stage was better than Obama.  At the same time, he was showing why at least in debates, he is the best candidate on the stage.  Newt hit a couple home runs.  The first was in the Social Security squabble between Perry and Romney where Newt reminded us that it was Barack Obama who threatened twice to cancel Social Security checks if Republicans didn’t vote for his liberal budget policies.  Gingrich’s second big home run came again when other candidates were arguing about job growth.  Newt pointed out that Americans create jobs, not government.  He then gave credit to other candidates for what they did to create job growth, but ultimately gave the credit to the American people.  Lastly, on green energy tax loopholes for GE, Newt destroyed Obama’s attacks on the oil industry.  Newt showed that he is the smartest and most studied candidate on the stage.  When asked about whether he would compromise with Democrats in power, his answer was perfect.  Whether or not that reflects in the polls will be seen.

Michele Bachmann was on the attack, but her strikes were good conservative strikes and they hit their

Bachmann had a good showing

targets.  Bachmann came across as the conservative constitutionalist on the stage with a balanced approach to getting our nation back to the constitution.  Her strikes landed on Perry with Social Security, and the HPV vaccinations, she struck Romney on the constitutionality of his healthcare plan, and she landed shots on Perry and Huntsman for their help to illegal aliens.  She did not come across as someone struggling to take down the frontrunners ahead of her, but more like a principled conservative attacking the liberal tendencies of her opponents.  And no one hit her back on anything.

In this debate, Santorum finished a solid third place.  I had a feeling Santorum would do well with the TEA Party audience.  He looked far more relaxed and in control than in the last debate.  He maintained his conservative credentials, but introduced a new element: how he won multiple times in a blue state.  He also was able to identify himself with some of Gingrich’s success.  Santorum hit hard on Perry’s HPV issue and delivered a deadly blow on it.  Santorum and Bachmann are key elements in where I score Perry tonight, and both walked away unscathed.

Mitt Romney took some tough shots.  But despite the tough shots, he continued to show class and to handle attacks.  He was hit hard on Social Security, and in fact his position on Social Security was easily exploitable in front of this TEA Party audience.  Overall, he did a good job at taking some clean shots and his seven things we need to do to fix the economy and budget were spot on.  Romney fell into the expected trap and tangled with Perry too much on Social Security, and Romney’s support for Federal Social Security won’t win him TEA party support.

Herman Cain did a good job, but he continues to look amateurish compared to some of the more experienced heavy hitters.  Cain did well to expound on his 999 plan this time around, and he picked up the Perry/Romney social security fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.  But other than that his performance was unremarkable.  When Newt talked about private accounts for Social Security, he connected far better than Cain’s repeating of Neal Boortz talking points on Chile and Galveston.

Perry took it on the chin

Rick Perry took another beating, and this was a good one.  On social security, HPV and illegal immigration, Perry seemed to slip into his deer in the headlights slo-mo’ mode.  Perry’s argument that his state’s version of the dream act for illegal aliens was somehow a states rights issue was off-base and will not sit well with the TEA party.  Santorum and Bachmann nailed him on HPV and that one will stick.  At the same time, Perry’s role as the attack dog against Romney has soured this race somewhat.  Perry looked kind of amused/detached for a good part of the debate.  That mixed with his slow, Texan accent will remind some voters of a previous Texas Republican Presidential candidate, however unfair that comparison may be.

Ron Paul redeemed himself somewhat from his last debate performance.  However, his dodge on the Medicare Part D question may spark some serious questions that have been lingering in the darkest cellars about Ron Paul.  Is he as much of a purist as he seems?  Instead of quickly putting Medicare Part D on the chopping block, Paul kind of hemmed and hawed about other programs that should be cut first, including his biggest applause getters of the wars, the department of education, etc.  Paul, who is normally eager to take on unconstitutional spending programs, seemed to give an “if I get to it” response on Medicare Part D, which was one of the biggest social spending programs under George W. Bush.

Jon Huntsman just has nothing left in the tank.  His good answers were echoes of other candidates, and his bad answers were echoes of Barack Obama.  His Kurt Cobain joke fell completely flat.  His tax plan sounds exactly like Obama’s.  His stance on illegal immigration was wrong.  His Afghanistan rhetoric was meant to sound like the Afghan people needed to take more responsibility, but instead came across like America just wasn’t strong enough to fight anymore.  The best thing that happened to Huntsman tonight was no one asked him about global warming.

If debates drove polls, Newt Gingrich would be the front runner after tonight.  How Perry remains such a strong front runner with debate performances like these speaks to his clout and ability to run a public campaign away from the debate stage.

4 Responses

  1. Rarely would I agree entirely on the order of such a list but you are spot on. Gingrich has been the grown-up in the room for several debates now but tonight he was stellar. Who can come up with that “Principal” to present to the American people when you refuse to compromise with the Democrats as he suggests? Only Gingrich, I’m afraid. I agree with the exact order of the rest of the candidates as well which, again, amazes me.

    But, before I leave Gingrich,sadly, genius and purity of thought is not enough. Without mentioning names, I can recall other candidates, local and national, with similar grasp, who could not win. It is not so much the disconnect but, with their past exposure to the inside loop of a high office combined with genius often, as in the case of Gingrich, they will not or can not submit to the expertise of their staff.

    Such was the case of a man who once asked me to head up his grassroots efforts as he ran for the top office of his state. He too, had served a conservative President in his cabinet and had international exposure and was very intelligent. But, I said no. His style was a subtle type of abuse because he could not help but do whatever he wanted to do. And, even though I knew that I knew more than him about grassroot campaigns, I also knew he would not listen to me. It is terribly terribly sad.

    Once, I helped organize a fundraiser with Gingrich as the key note- absolutely brilliant, even the liberal reporters and camera men fell silent in the wake of his tide of superior rhetoric. Very sad, indeed.

  2. Thank you, by the way (:

  3. Thank you for the comments!

Leave a Reply to Grace Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: