The GOP candidates faced something Saturday night that they haven’t seen in a long time, a friendly moderator. In a round table discussion without buzzers, all but one of today’s contenders shared personal stories, tears, and their faith. It was a very personalizing debate where Americans got to see these candidates discuss the issues facing family values voters. So here is the official review:
Newt Gingrich opened up and shared a real personal side of himself with the audience. He personalized the healthcare debate in a way that would make pro-Obamacare liberals rethink centralized health planning. He also was the most genuine in sharing his failures with the crowd. His failure and the resolution of turning his life around through God’s help is exactly what resonates with this crowd. He presented solutions on judicial activism without betraying a sort of militant anti-homosexuality that will be a turnoff to some states rights conservatives who shy away from a marriage amendment, but in a way that should satisfy pro-amendment conservatives who see the courts stampeding over states rights on marriage.
Rick Santorum had a chance to connect with audiences and take enough time to overcome some of the perception of irrelevance that comes with mainstream media consumer based debates. This will help him especially in Iowa where social conservatives are searching to an anti-Romney with a clean record. Santorum helped his changes in Iowa, although even if he wins in Iowa he will probably not take any other states.
Herman Cain played to his strength: being real. Although there are questions about Cain’s foreign policy know how and tax plan, one thing that has made him endearing to Republicans is his realness and his ability to connect on that personal level. He may have harmed himself though when as a failure he pointed out that he spent too much time working to the top of the corporate ladder and not enough time with his family. That is a regret that will not resonate with most Americans, and for those who it does it will not be seen as a good thing.
Michele Bachmann did well, but was once again forgettable. Her answer on schools was good by itself, but was a shadow of answers given by other candidates. She must find a way to distinguish herself if she hopes to be relevant again. Perry tried to make himself relevant, but his tax plan was trumped by Gingrich’s flat tax. Santorum has not been able to make himself relevant again. Bachmann’s best shot recently at making herself relevant has been apparent support for a $10 surtax on all Americans to make sure everyone is paying something in. That is not a defining plan that will rocket her back to relevance.
Ron Paul was able to be personal and share his faith, which is important for him among social conservatives. However, it may also be damaging among libertarian voters. Paul showed support for DOMA, which will hurt him with libertarians. His advocacy for moving issues like gay marriage to the church and family are admirable, but naive like his foreign policy. Paul does not seem to understand the militancy of some liberal homosexual groups. Paul also hurt himself with his greatest failure, suffering sports injuries that kept him from playing football in highschool. Honestly, if someone told me that in a job interview I would probably only continue the interview out of politeness.
Rick Perry had a typical bumbling debate performance. At one point he said “We’ve all heard that saying…” and I was afraid he might forget what it was. When he talked about his greatest failure, I think he was saying he impregnated his wife (possibly not his wife at the time?) and had to drop out of veterinarian school. Overall, unimpressive.
The biggest loser was Mitt Romney. Mitt will not win this election with just the establishment and fiscal conservatives. This was a must attend debate if he hopes to win over any social conservatives of family values voters. Then again, if Mitt could not stand toe to toe with these candidates on family values, perhaps it is best that he didn’t show up.
Other no shows, Gary Johnson, Fred Kargar, Buddy Roemer, and Jon Huntsman. Let’s be honest, who cares.
Filed under: Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Debates Tagged: | Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, abortion, war, libertarian, newt, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, gay marriage, cain, DOMA, family values, luntz, frank luntz, Thanksgiving Family Forum, family forum, federal government