Debate Recap

The commentators in the Iowa debate finally succeeded in getting the Republican candidates to go after one another, and the result was a distinction between the boys, the girl, and the men.  Here is my assessment:

Newt Gingrich

I would name Newt as the winner of this debate.  He presented something the other candidates could not, a clear record on the economy and government with the exact results Americans want today that was left mostly unassailed.  Newt vented his frustration early at Chris Wallace over what came across as unfair questions, but was able to then produce reasonable responses.  Gingrich had a better grasp of history and economics and managed not to contradict himself.  I doubt it will be enough to kickstart his campaign again, but he looked and sounded most like the candidate who could turn our economy around.  Newt said what every American was thinking, the supercommittee part of the debt deal is a stupid idea and Obama should call Congress back to fix it.

Mitt Romney

Romney proved once again how effortless this race has been for him.  When Pawlenty shot across his bow with a jab at how much property he owns, Romney shrugged it off like Michael Jordan would if he wasn’t picked first in a neighborhood game of pickup basketball.  Romney looked and sounded like a professional and did not allow Wallace, Pawlenty or anyone else to shake his demeanor.  In fact, he made almost everyone else look like amateurs, especially Pawlenty and Bachmann.  Romney positioned himself as the successful businessman, accomplished politician, and leader.  In fact, when Cain touted his independent business success, when Pawlenty talked about balancing his budget and cutting spending and taxes, and when Pawlenty and Huntsman talked about leadership, Romney kept coming to mind.  He ignored interparty skirmishes and focused on Obama, which is a key in this race.  His only slip up was trying to discuss the semantics of state versus federal constitutional restrictions.  I think his point was a good one, especially when he asked Wallace what he knew about Massachusetts constitution, but ultimately the point was lost on the other participants.

Ron Paul

Republicans still don’t like Ron Paul, and he is still abrasive.  However, he came in third in this debate because he toned down the abrasiveness and instead mixed in some well earned “told ya so”.  Paul made key points on the Fed, the debt, the debt ceiling deal, the precariousness of our currency, and the costs of war.  These were timely points and made well.  He did not leap into easy traps on military spending that he has fallen into before that come across as disrespect for men and women in uniform.  Paul was also able to better articulate his views on social issues.  In the past he has come across as more liberal than libertarian.  This time he was able to articulate what be actually believes about gay marriage and abortion, stating that our liberties come from our creator, not government.  He may not win over the mainstream religious right, but will win over some more religious libertarians and constitutionalists.

Rick Santorum

Yes, believe it or not, Rick Santorum is fourth on my list.  His performance will most likely not change anything, but as a second tier candidate he exceeded expectations.  He was well prepared, made logical answers to the questions asked, and avoided harmful entanglements with other candidates.  He continues to represent George Bush neo-conservatism and will continue to bring useful balance to the debate.  He still has no chance of winning.

Herman Cain

Cain came across as the most unknowledgeable of the candidates.  He presents a good story of a businessman outsider seeking to change Washington’s business side.  However, Cain does not present a well rounded candidate that voters would trust on issues of foreign policy or domestic social issues.  Until he can get past soundbites to real plans and strategies he will not garner the needed support.   He was the only candidate to drive home the growth aspect of turning our economy around in a real and tangible way.

Jon Huntsman

Who?  His late entry, semi-liberal credentials, and lack of energetic or unique performance make Huntsman an afterthought.  He was like an off-brand candidate.  Aside from cyberwar with China, nothing he said really stood out.  If Huntsman was not at the next debate, I doubt most viewers would even realize it.  For example, remember that candidate from New Mexico, the Ron Paul wannabe?  What was his name again?

Tim Pawlenty

Chris Wallace was able to get under the candidates skin and even inspire direct confrontations between candidates.  Mostly though, the culprit ended up being Tim Pawlenty.  In a role usually occupied by the perennial anti-GOP establishment candidate Ron Paul, Pawlenty went after Bachmann, Romney, and whoever else got in his way.  He came across as a third place candidate trying to remind people why he is in this race, or at least that he is in this race.  I did not enjoy listening to him.  When he wasn’t on the attack, he was apologizing for cigarette taxes or highlighting things he did as governor that both Romney and Huntsman have on their resume.  In a race where the focus needs to be on Barack Obama, Pawlenty allowed himself to fall into the hands of the commentators and make for some great controversial TV.  Personally, I think this primary would come to a much better result without Pawlenty.

Michelle Bachmann

The loser of last night’s debate was Michelle Bachmann.  When Pawlenty attacked her, she fought back and lost.  Pawlenty managed to paint her as more of an ideologue than a successful conservative champion.  Pawlenty highlighted her lack of results, and she let that stick.  I believe she did receive some of the more unfair questions, including the one about submitting to her husband, but instead of recognizing those questions for what they were, she showed why she is not the caliber of Newt or Mitt and engaged the questions as though they were credible concerns.

Honestly though, what earned Bachmann the F was when she failed to return to her podium on time after the commercial break.  She is trying to overcome this idea that she is an unprofessional activist, not a serious contender.  However, her tardiness, fumbling over major points such as combining pro-life and taxes in bills, and engaging Pawlenty in unscripted arguments show why Bachmann’s runner up status has been purely on the substance of her popular TEA party beliefs, not because she is a polished candidate.  Conservatives may like her in the polls, but when they go to vote I think we will see them be more likely to send a quarterback than the mascot in to play.

Gay Republican Fred Karger Fights for His Voice to be Heard In Presidential Forum

Bookmark and Share Although he isstill an undeclared candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Fred Kargers aggressive exploratory committee has left no doubts about his serious consideration to enter the race. However; some are not so willing to accept his candidacy.

In Iowa, the Faith and Freedom Coalition , and one of its leaders, Steve Scheffler, is refusing to invite Karger to a March 7th forum of potential Republican candidates for President. The forum is widely viewed as one of the first, albeit unofficial, debates of the 2012 Republican presidential contest. For the record, Scheffler has stated that he will invite anyone who has expressed the “slightest interest” in the 2012 Republican nomination. But anyone apparently does not include Fred Karger.

Karger is an openly gay Republican and as such, Scheffler refuses to acknowledge Fred Karger as a legitimate candidate.

In light of these events, Fred Kargers exploratory committee has issued a press release (see below) announcing his plans to petition Steve Sheffler and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition to allow Fred to participate in the March 7th forum.

The incident is an early sign of the problem that Kargers candidacy will create for Republicans if they try to shut him out. In the case of this forum, Steve Scheffler and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition do have a right to deny Fred Karger a place on their stage. It is a private event. But in doing so, this Christian organization can not put itself forward as one that is providing an open forum for the free discussion of beliefs, opinions and ideas. It is clear that Scheffler only wants to here those opinions which he agrees with. That is fine for Scheffler and his coalition, but how long can the Republican Party accept denying Fred Karger a place at the table of debate? How long can they refuse to allow his views to be heard in the race for the Republican presidential nomination?

For his part, Karger has a campaign that will be many times harder than any of his potential opponents. Not only must he campaign hard to make his case, he musteven fight hard for the right to make his case. In addition to that, he must prove himself to be more than just the gay Republican in the race. He must break through stereotypes and prove that he is not a one issue candidate. He must also demonstrate that gays are respectful of differences of opinion and different beliefs, but ask for the same in return. Kargerthen needs to demonstrate to the Party of the right, that equality and the defense of rights is a cherished conservative value that should be a perfect fit for the Party of Lincoln.

And just as Karger has a lot of work to do, the Republican Party has a lot of tough questions to answer. First they must ask themselves if they wish to disenfranchise entire segments of society because of who they are? Then they must ask themselves how they can politically reconcile their catering to the extremes of the religious right, with their need to protect the constitutional rights of all people, including homosexuals? That is a debate that would be worth the Partys while to have now, rather than later, when they go head to head with President Obama.

It is also a debate that Fred Karger could help the Party get through. If they let him .

But it is up to the GOP to demonstrate that it is at least willing to have a family discussion about the issue during their candidate selection process. And while pondering that, the Party would be wise to remember that Fred Karger is not alone. In addition to simply being fellow Americans who are worthy of being heard, many gays are also Republicans.

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Karger’s petition reads as follows:

I am deeply disappointed to read that the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition has refused to invite potential presidential candidate Fred Karger to a planned March 2011 candidate forum in Waukee, Iowa. According to the Des Moines Register, you said that Karger can’t be considered a legitimate candidate.

That simply isn’t true. Karger has visited Iowa five times, has released a television commercial introducing himself to voters, has an official exploratory committee, and has met hundreds upon hundreds of Iowa voters. He is engaged in this campaign much more than some of the names on your invite list.

It sounds to me that the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition either doesn’t want to acknowledge Karger because he’s a gay Republican, or you’re afraid of his candidacy. But shouldn’t Iowa voters be the ones who decide whether or not Karger is a serious candidate?

I urge you to reconsider your decision to bar Karger from this event, and offer Karger an invite. If you think he’s the wrong Republican for the job, you should have the courage to confront him in a candidate forum, and allow Iowa voters to make up their own minds.

Thank you for your time.

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If you wish to help insure that all the issues are debated openly and honestly, below you will find a link to Karger’s petition for you to sign.

But in addition to that I also suggest that you take a moment to send the leadership of the Republican National Committee a message and tell them that they have a responsibility to make sure that Fred Karger and all voices in the Partyareheard and that all the issues should be open to discussion.

Email your message to

info@GOP.com

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