Another Republican Presidential Debate is in the books and another mind-bogglingly clueless post-debate analysis from the media has followed. Let’s not even get into the utter uselessness of the so-called fact checking that can’t even grasp the simple concept of static vs. dynamic scoring. The fact is that so much of the media is so invested in their story that they won’t let the facts get in the way.
Again and again, we have seen the media name the winners of the debates only to be proven wrong by the people who watched them. The media called Romney the winner of the last debate, but I called it for Cain. I was not alone in my thoughts as Cain followed that debate with a straw poll victory and a rise in the polls. The media was blindsided, both the left-leaning and right-leaning media outlets. Tonight I am calling the debate for Gingrich. The mind-numbingly obtuse media analysis equated Gingrich’s success tonight with occasional applause for the JV soccer team. They will be proven wrong once again.
They also focused on the ‘heat’ of the exchanges. They revel on the candidates attacking each other. To them, this is all political theater where issues don’t matter as much as soundbites and personalities. The dumbing down of America begins with the dolts in the main stream media. Their lack of any real knowledge on issues leaves them parroting mindless slogans and focusing on hair cuts. I wouldn’t trust most of them to cover a Snuggie fashion show, let alone serious fiscal, foreign affairs and political issues. So while they report the winners as whoever they think are the hottest names, the reality is quite different. Motivated voters, particularly motivated conservatives, are trendsetters not followers. Chanting “Yes We Can” doesn’t send thrills up their legs. They want substance and leadership. So here is a run-down of the reality beyond the mindless media madness.
Gingrich has been following a fairly safe strategy to date of remaining aloof from the infighting while basically mocking all the current Obama policies as not even worth discussing because they are so bad. Tonight he was more aggressive and didn’t let the media moderators get away with giving him no time. He insisted he be allowed to speak and he connected on issue after issue. While some may criticize him for not knocking out other candidates, I believe he made the biggest tactical move of the race so far when he picked the best one or two things from every other candidate during one of his answers. That showed that he can pick the best solutions from multiple sources and be a true consensus leader. Maybe that is how he would govern and maybe it isn’t, but the appearance of true leadership combined with the subtle lumping of all the other candidates as either one trick ponies or only party right was a major victory in how Gingrich will be perceived by voters.
Perry, on the other hand, has only weakened himself further. Each debate comes with Rick Perry having remembered to talk about one thing and one thing only. This time it was a less catchy version of drill, baby, drill. I was reminded of the Bush-Kerry town hall debate in which Bush stumbled through an entire series of questions repeating one variation or another of “it’s hard work”. While a President cannot be down into every detail, he also can’t just be big picture. Successful Presidents have advisers they can trust but know enough detail to provide both the necessary oversight and the public face to often complicated policy matters. Perry just doesn’t seem to have that ability. I rate him as ‘all hat, no cattle’ and while I think he’ll stick around for quite awhile, his chances of victory are very slim. Of course there could be another backroom deal like the one between Huckabee and McCain in the last election that resulted in the disastrous nomination of media McCain, so Perry can’t be counted out entirely.
Cain has managed to avoid becoming the next Bachmann and will not be a quick flash in the pan candidate. However, I would wager that the majority of voters share my concern about adding a new taxing authority to the feds. Santorum hit the issue squarely on the head and all the explanations in the world won’t fix the underlying problem with the 9 9 9 plan: the people don’t trust the government. When trust in the government is so low, it will be nearly impossible for Cain to convince people that they can trust the government not to abuse the new taxing power in the future. I do believe Cain’s campaign will begin to fizzle as the 9 9 9 plan just can’t be trusted because it relies too much on government being responsible. When his campaign does begin to falter, keep an eye out for those black ‘leaders’ who attacked Cain for not being ‘black enough’ to blame his decline on the GOP being too racist to elect the black candidate (who suddenly will be ‘black enough’ for them then).
Romney needs no lengthy summary. He is staying on track and made mincemeat out of Huntsman and Perry. There still is no enthusiasm for Romney like there was at CPAC in 2008, but he could get it back especially if the pack thins out and his opposition’s weaknesses can be packaged as unconservative – such as Perry’s anmesty-like policies were in the previous debate.
Paul has no one to blame but himself for tonight’s poor performance. When given the chance to ask any question of any candidate, he indulged his Fed fetish and attacked Cain without even having the sources he was using in the attack at his fingertips. The moderators rarely give him a chance to speak and when they do it is invariably only on the Fed or foreign wars. His failure to use the opportunity to expand his campaign to a broader message was a huge mistake. His biggest win of the night was the bit of praise and agreement he gained from Gingrich. His core followers aren’t going anywhere, so neither is he. But, those numbers will not grow if he helps the media package him as basically a one-issue candidate with a sour attitude and with no positive vision to offer.
Bachmann improved her performance this time and will steal back some of the support she lost to Perry. What many think was a softball question to her from Romney, I view differently. I think Romney was trying to make her look like a shallow, one-issue candidate as a way to push out the attack from the right and ultimately leave him looking more conservative with Bachmann out of the race. I think she successfully turned that back on him and his plan to make her look unelectable failed. Although, honestly, I don’t think she stands a chance.
Santorum, I must admit, is a candidate for whom I have no love. As a Pennsylvania conservative, I supported him when he ran for the Senate and then opposed him when he ran for re-election. I was not alone along conservatives who left his side, which is why he lost. He may appeal to the Huckabee crowd on social issues, but he voted for big spending over and over. Now, when he is running for office, he says he made a mistake and wouldn’t do what he did if he had it to do over again. I don’t believe him. I feel his credibility is even weaker than Romney’s. He may pick up some more endorsements after his fairly good performance tonight, but those endorsements are as much a ball and chain on his campaign as they are a boost. They tie him to neo-conservatives at a time when most Republicans are headed in the opposite direction. Social issues are of less importance and fiscal conservatism is of more importance. That’s the opposite of Santorum’s record in the Senate and that is a hard hurdle to overcome.
Huntsman should just back it up now and take a vacation. His attempts to attack Romney backfired miserably. His attempt to parlay his experience as Ambassador to China on the currency devaluation issue also failed miserably. His attempts to be funny were only marginally more humorous than Al Gore. In the post-debate questioning, he said that government should put caps on how large banks should be allowed to get and put the cap at somewhere around the size Goldman-Sachs was in 1995-98. He’ll be doing damage control for weeks. Pack it up sir, you’re done.
The end result: Romney, Cain and Gingrich will be the new top 3. Perry will fall. Bachmann will rally slightly. Huntsman will seriously weigh leaving the race. Paul and Santorum will continue to only play to their existing bases of support. As a final note, Romney’s campaign blundered enormously by having Christie endorse him today. It didn’t help the debate (which wasn’t even really watchable by most voters) and was generally wasted by coming at this moment. Saving that media fascination with Christie until his endorsement would have potentially separated Romney from a smaller pack a month or two from now would have been smarter. It will be lost in the debate spin and leaves Romney with nothing to counter a Palin endorsement later of someone else.
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