And that’s time

In a short hour and a half, made up of minute responses and thirty second followups, the GOP candidates once again took the stage to answer questions from semi-respectful moderators.  In a debate most looked forward to by Ron Paul fans, Paul received very little time. We have seen pretty much all there is to be seen about candidate style, and many of these questions were repeats.  So here are the winners and losers:

The Good

Mitt Romney won this debate.  His answers were calming, yet clear and determined.  He portrayed the very stature Americans are looking for in a Commander in Chief, and he highlighted American Exceptionalism.  This area is a strong suit for Mitt, and one that does not involve any sort of past flip flops or policy changes.  His answers should give him a bump among social conservatives who are inspired by terms like American Exceptionalism.

Newt at one point had to school the moderators on war versus criminal law.  In some ways this debate seemed frustrating for Newt, but that is an aspect of him his followers often like to see.  Newt brings the fight to the moderators and to the left and usually wins.  Many of his answers were right on, but others were somewhat vague.  One thing that Newt will lose points for is how loosely he called for covert operations in countries like Iran and Syria.  This is something Newt has brought up as a policy in debates and speeches in the past, but is something better left unsaid.

Jon Huntsman did well in the debate.  The question on a tradewar with China is a favorite of most media moderators because it gives them a chance to toss Huntsman an easy softball.    Foreign policy hits many of Huntsman’s strong points without touching many of the issues that conservatives hate him for.  It won’t matter though, Huntsman is done.

The Bad

Santorum did pretty well.  He has the unfortunate bad luck of being a candidate on the back end of two long wars and sharing a policy that sounds eerily like Bush’s.  On the other hand, Santorum seemed to be saying that we need to keep funding Pakistan and being their friend because they have a Nuke.  True or not, Santorum is not going to win American hearts saying implying that we must borrow from China to pay off Pakistan to be our friend.

I have a feeling that media moderators purposefully cut Paul’s debate time short on debates like this to get his supporters riled up.  Get ready, we are going to hear about that for the next week or so.  Paul didn’t do bad for most of the debate, but some of his stances are really not correct.  The idea that the United States must capture a citizen who has declared war on the United States and bring them in to face civilian court, or that non-uniformed terrorists have any sort of rights under US law is wrong and violates precedent.  Gingrich and Perry were absolutely right on those counts.  Paul’s supporters were being their typical selves in the debate as well, to the point where the mods had to admonish them to be respectful.  They are another liability of Paul’s with the overall GOP.

Herman Cain reminded me a lot of Rick Perry in recent debates.  Without 9-9-9 to fall back on, Cain was slow in responses, vague, and seemed as though he would happily defer to a future self, surrounded by knowledgeable generals and advisers.  That’s great, but that is not leadership.  In that respect, Huntsman showed up Cain, and even Gingrich, when he said if a nuke was loose in Pakistan he would secure it.  Cain really did not give a performance that screamed “I am a leader”.  Instead, each response sounded like “How can I answer this without ruining my campaign”.

The Ugly

Michele Bachmann continues to be unimpressive and unmemorable.  She scored some points rebutting Ron Paul, but seemed to spend most of the night trying to get the moderators to let her respond to other candidates.  She also seemed to get less time.  However, I will give her a great deal of credit for her answers on ways to trim military spending without hurting the military.

Rick Perry still doesn’t debate well.  And once again he found himself as the butt of several jokes, made both by the moderators, himself, and Senator Graham.  Perry’s idea of zero based budgeting for foreign aide is a great idea, but the only reason it’s his is because he got to say it first.  Gingrich and Romeny both articulated it better when Perry was done.

But allow me a Newt Gingrich moment to say this.  The real loser was Barack Obama.  The candidates made it clear, once again, that every single one of them would run foreign policy better than Obama.  Several drove home the point that Obama had a range of good choices and bad choices and made all the bad ones and none of the good ones.  The only ambivalent candidate who actually seemed to end up on Obama’s side for some things was Ron Paul.  This is one of the aspects of Newt Gingrich’s leadership because he has focused these debates on defeating Barack Obama, and when Newt sets the tone the other candidates usually follow.

The Field Is Set: And Herman Cain Could Win

Sarah Palin has now announced she will not be running.  It appears the 2012 GOP Primary is ready to kick off.  So you heard it here first: barring a major disqualifying gaffe, Herman Cain will win the 2012 primary.  Here’s why.

Cain passes on the right to pull even with Romney

Ok, seriously.  No one knows at this point how this  is going to go down.  Candidates surge and fall, as Rick Perry has proven.  I don’t really know that Herman Cain is going to win the primary.  But he does have a clear path to victory.  Right now it is his race to give up.

But wait, isn’t Romney leading the polls??  Yes, but as I pointed out in my last blog Romney’s majority is an illusion caused by a split vote among social, TEA party candidates.  As Perry continues to fade and Cain continues to pick up his supporters, you will see more polls like the most recent CBS poll that shows Cain and Romney tied.  Perry’s demise is all upside for Cain while Romney maintains his solid base of support.

So why Cain?  Why didn’t Bachmann, Gingrich, or Santorum gain any momentum from Perry’s fall?  Perry dropped 11 points in this CBS poll while Cain jumped 12 points.  Gingrich and Santorum both got small bumps, but are still considered unelectable and still cannot shake their baggage from the last 20 years.  Santorum continues to come across as an unelectable champion of family values with a support base that loves what he says and believes but won’t vote for him because they’d rather have Obama gone than lose with the most socially conservative candidate on the stage.  For Gingrich, conservatives have already written the USA Today, Time Magazine and New York Times headlines in their heads about his failed marriages, hypocrisy in the Clinton impeachment, global warming commercials with Nancy Pelosi, and other things from his decades in the spotlight.

Bachmann, with a relatively small public history, is a different story.  Although her message, naivete on some issues, and ability to stir a TEA party crowd mirror Herman Cain, she somehow comes across differently.   While Herman Cain gets away with announcing that no future President will raise the rates on his 999 plan, Bachmann promises $2 a gallon gas and becomes the laughing stock of the mainstream media and even conservatives.  Bachmann tells stories of raising her kids and foster kids and is seen as homely and amateurish.  Cain tells stories of him and his brother sneaking drinks from the Whites Only drinking fountain as kids and the story simply tugs at anyone’s heart strings.  Bachmann embellishes Perry’s Merck connection and the potential health risks of the HPV vaccine and the media drags her through the coals on it.  The media tried to make hay out of Cain’s comment about blacks being brainwashed into voting Democratic and the story was dead on arrival.

Perhaps the greatest difference that speaks to American hearts is that Cain is not bitter or angry.  Yes, he is the first to tell us that Obama’s policies are destroying the country.  But he does it with an air of policy sincerity, not partisan gamesmanship.  Cain doesn’t seem to have a racist bone in his body, to the extent that some Democrats seem to think he is racist against blacks.  Cain simply comes across as a successful American who believes in America and in every American’s ability to become whatever they want to be.  Cain brings back with sincerity something that politicians have been falsely touting for years: a sincere belief in the American dream and the ability of Americans to achieve it.  His simple, Reaganesque faith in the American people and freedom will be enough to preserve his seat as the top social conservative.  As other social conservatives call it quits, Cain will continue to swallow up their supporters and surpass Romney.

Just a month ago Cain was barely on the radar.  With Perry’s self-destruction and the Florida straw poll, Cain now has the potential momentum to carry him through.  The key will be surviving early Romney primary wins until the race narrows to just Cain and Romney.  From there he can coast to GOP victory.

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