Analysis of the CNBC GOP debate from across the Big Pond

Bookmark and Share  Sitting down to watch the CNBC GOP debate last night, the first thing that struck me was the aggressive style of questioning from the hosting panel. There was one gentleman, Jim Cramer, who clearly either drank too much caffeine or was a tree short of a forest on the evening in the manner he was asking  his questions. To be fair, I didn’t like the question regarding character thrown into the debate by Maria Bartiromo who was only doing her job. The debate was meant to focus on the economy and after almost two weeks of the Herman Cain affair, nothing objective or constructive could be obtained by posing such a question. I enjoyed her tussle with former Speaker Gingrich during the night and to their credit, both provided the night’s best moments.

The Texan boot size error by Governor Rick Perry was certainly a major faux pas, but to his credit he took to the morning shows today and openly admitted it. It was unfortunate, as up to that point in the debate, I believe Perry was actually putting in his best debate performance of the campaign so far. Yes, this mis-step will hinder him for the news cycle however, Perry should look to the positives and hopefully his experience of the military and managing the Mexican border will assist him in this coming Saturday’s debate. One major factor that may work in Perry’s favour indirectly is his recognition factor is sure to shoot up. Expectations going forward in debates couldn’t be lower at this stage, and Perry only needs one strong performance to knock the ball out of the park so to speak, time will be the biggest decider, if this is possible.

The winners in my view were as follows:

Speaker Gingrich provided a mixture of charm, assertiveness and clarity that the other candidates couldn’t match. Speaker Gingrich did have a difficult moment when questioned about his $300,000 consultancy payment for lobbying work connected to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapse in 2008 , he claimed that his advice was ignored. This may come back to haunt him and scrutiny is certain to follow in the coming days, but his back and forth with Maria Bartiromo was entertaining and in fact, made Speaker Gingrich raise his game in comparison to previous debates. The clear winner on the night.

Governor Mitt Romney put in another presidential like performance with the exception of stumbling over how long he was married to his wife, but he recovered brilliantly. Romney brought the audience to a rapturous applause when the panel tried to put him on the spot over whether he would hire Herman Cain. Romney delivered a brilliant rebuff to Bartiromo when she asked, why he made no mention of housing in his 59 point plan. Romney replied saying it’s simple, because it is a Jobs Plan not a Housing plan, an excellently executed response. Romney as in previous debates was firm, quick minded and authoritative in his delivery, another strong performance.

After two difficult weeks, Herman Cain delivered a good strong performance considering, the intense pressure he has been under in the lead up to the debate. He managed to deliver a good retort to Bartiromo when asked abut his alleged indiscretions and went back to his core message of 9-9-9 and emphasising why politics needs a fundamental change.  He had some good lines, referring to Nancy Pelosi as “Princess Nancy,” and two of the problems with the Dodd-Frank Bill, these being Dodd and Frank. While they made for good sound bites and were well received by the audience, Cain needs to have another policy area to build back his credibility. The 9-9-9 plan is good however, if he doesn’t come out with an in-depth and demonstrable knowledge ability in another policy area, he is in danger of being perceived as a one trick pony.

The remaining candidates found it difficult to break into the debate on the night although, Jon Huntsman delivered a good response on the housing crisis,” Lost in all of this debate is the fact that there are people tuning in tonight who are upside down in terms of the financing of their homes, are feeling real pain, people who probably heard today that they lost a job. These issues are very real.”

Representative Ron Paul was very good on discussing the economic issues outlining his five point plan and how he would cut $1 trillion straight away in spending. He really does have some excellent ideas on the debt crisis and economy. It is a shame that his statements on Iran in the last debate where polar opposite to most common thinking. Paul may be able to retrieve himself in Saturday’s foreign affairs debate. A good performance.

Senator Rick Santorum attempted to break into the debate, but just couldn’t turn the tide of attention away from the leading four. Santorum’s biggest problems in these debates is not just time allocation, he has developed a habit of talking in the past-tense, instead of the future tense. I do like some of his ideas. He needs to project his forward thinking ideas more into the remaining debates to match his retail politic efforts in Iowa. Maybe, just maybe, he might be able to surprise a few people there. A tall order at this stage of the race though.

Representative Bachmann actually had some new ideas and messages last night saying her everyone-pays-something plan is part of the needed reconfiguration of the tax code. She promised a big performance last night, sadly, it just didn’t materialise. Overall though, it was her best debate performance since the CNN debate to date. Bachmann needs a big performance and soon. Should Bachmann fail to gain some attention, she may be out of the race even before we arrive in Iowa proper.

The big question remains with only 60 days to the Iowa caucuses, who will be the alternative to Romney? I think it will be between Gingrich, Paul and Perry and possibly Huntsman, if he can finish in the top two in New Hampshire.

You’ve noticed no Cain that is correct. My view is based on his campaign’s inability to deal with a known on-coming crisis effectively and nothing to do with the allegations. I think Cain has lit up this campaign with his unconventional approach and straight talking approach. I just can’t see him winning the nomination or beating President Obama following the damage of the last two weeks. Cain needs another unique moment to save his campaign in my view.

Overall, I thought most of the candidates did well against some tough questions which is how it should be. The only criticism of the night was in the manner the questions were posed, not the content of the questions.

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