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.

Bachmann, Lincoln Agree: Founders Opposed Slavery

George Stephanopolous probably thinks he’s a pretty smart guy.  At least he didn’t call Michelle Bachmann a flake.  But his attack on her facts about our founders just might backfire against his own credibility.

For most, it really is no secret that many of our founding fathers did oppose slavery.  Even the ones who owned slaves saw it as more of a necessary evil.  To borrow from Hillary Clinton, who said this about abortion, they believed it was “horrible and tragic, but should be safe and legal”.  They understood though, that if they tried to fight the revolutionary war and civil war at the same time, they would lose both.  Still, they did fight to end slavery, even if only laying the groundwork for it’s final elimination.

John McCormack, writing in the Weekly Standard, is now demonstrating that Abraham Lincoln believed the same thing as Michelle Bachmann about our founder’s work to end slavery.  He used that argument in his own speeches against slavery.

From the article:

“The Founders put slavery on the path to ultimate extinction, Abraham Lincoln said. But the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 threatened to bring about slavery’s resurgence by opening up new territories to slaveowning. In 1854, Lincoln made this argument in a series of speeches on behalf of candidates opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. “In these addresses Lincoln set forth the themes that he would carry into the presidency six years later,” writes Princeton’s James M. McPherson in the Battle Cry of Freedom. McPherson summarizes Lincoln’s argument:

The founding fathers, said Lincoln, had opposed slavery. They adopted a Declaration of Independence that pronounced all men created equal. They enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 banning slavery from the vast Northwest Territory. To be sure, many of the founders owned slaves. But they asserted their hostility to slavery in principle while tolerating it temporarily (as they hoped) in practice. That was why they did not mention the words “slave” or “slavery” in the Constitution, but referred only to “persons held to service.” “Thus, the thing is hid away, in the constitution,” said Lincoln, “just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time.” The first step was to prevent the spread of this cancer, which the fathers took with the Northwest Ordinance, the prohibition of the African slave trade in 1807, and the Missouri Compromise restriction of 1820. The second was to begin a process of gradual emancipation, which the generation of the fathers had accomplished in the states north of Maryland.

Here’s what Lincoln said of the Founding Fathers in his 1854 Peoria speech:

The argument of “Necessity” was the only argument they ever admitted in favor of slavery; and so far, and so far only as it carried them, did they ever go. They found the institution existing among us, which they could not help; and they cast blame upon the British King for having permitted its introduction. BEFORE the constitution, they prohibited its introduction into the north-western Territory—-the only country we owned, then free from it. AT the framing and adoption of the constitution, they forbore to so much as mention the word “slave” or “slavery” in the whole instrument. In the provision for the recovery of fugitives, the slave is spoken of as a “PERSON HELD TO SERVICE OR LABOR.” In that prohibiting the abolition of the African slave trade for twenty years, that trade is spoken of as “The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States NOW EXISTING, shall think proper to admit,” &c. These are the only provisions alluding to slavery. Thus, the thing is hid away, in the constitution, just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or a cancer, which he dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time. Less than this our fathers COULD not do; and NOW [MORE?] they WOULD not do. Necessity drove them so far, and farther, they would not go. But this is not all. The earliest Congress, under the constitution, took the same view of slavery. They hedged and hemmed it in to the narrowest limits of necessity.

In 1794, they prohibited an out-going slave-trade—-that is, the taking of slaves FROM the United States to sell.

In 1798, they prohibited the bringing of slaves from Africa, INTO the Mississippi Territory—-this territory then comprising what are now the States of Mississippi and Alabama. This was TEN YEARS before they had the authority to do the same thing as to the States existing at the adoption of the constitution.

In 1800 they prohibited AMERICAN CITIZENS from trading in slaves between foreign countries—-as, for instance, from Africa to Brazil.

In 1803 they passed a law in aid of one or two State laws, in restraint of the internal slave trade.

In 1807, in apparent hot haste, they passed the law, nearly a year in advance to take effect the first day of 1808—-the very first day the constitution would permit—-prohibiting the African slave trade by heavy pecuniary and corporal penalties.

In 1820, finding these provisions ineffectual, they declared the trade piracy, and annexed to it, the extreme penalty of death. While all this was passing in the general government, five or six of the original slave States had adopted systems of gradual emancipation; and by which the institution was rapidly becoming extinct within these limits.

Thus we see, the plain unmistakable spirit of that age, towards slavery, was hostility to the PRINCIPLE, and toleration, ONLY BY NECESSITY.

In Lincoln’s famous 1860 Cooper Union speech, he noted that of the 39 framers of the Constitution, 22 had voted on the question of banning slavery in the new territories. Twenty of the 22 voted to ban it, while another one of the Constitution’s framers—George Washington—signed into law legislation enforcing the Northwest Ordinance that banned slavery in the Northwest Territories. At Cooper Union, Lincoln also quoted Thomas Jefferson, who had argued in favor of Virginia emancipation: “It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation, and deportation, peaceably, and in such slow degrees, as that the evil will wear off insensibly….””

 

Is Cain Trying in Iowa?

No, if you believe his now former Iowa director Tina Goff and Kevin Hall who was in charge of coordinating for the Iowa straw poll in just over a month.  Jim Zeiler has also left the Iowa staff and Cain lost his New Hampshire director earlier this week.  When it comes to managing a campaign, things are not looking good for Cain.

On the other hand, Cain is looking good in the Iowa polls.  Most recently he came in second only to perpetual front runner Mitt Romney and remade Michelle Bachmann.

Will the Guiliani gamble work for Cain?

The problem is that Cain has not done or said anything to differentiate himself from Michelle Bachmann.  Going into this race he had perhaps set himself apart as a more “serious” candidate, and certainly took on early momentum from the TEA Party.  But Bachmann easily out-shined him in the debate and continues to make the right steps even in the face of extreme character assassination.  Bachmann’s successes have made her detractors appear to be less “serious”.

In the meantime, Cain is reducing himself to soundbite worthy quips and small government platitudes while his substance seems to be a foggy mirror of the clarity Bachmann has produced.  The result is that Cain is quietly slipping into the shadows where other candidate copies, like Gary Johnson (generic brand Ron Paul) and Jon Huntsman (Mitt Romney clone only the media is excited about) reside.  Bachmann is quickly taking the TEA Party energy.

In some ways, Cain brought this on himself.  His radio host style speeches leave little substance to hang one’s hat on and his brief handling of gay marriage in the debate has alienated him from the religious section of the TEA Party.  In addition, at times he has seemed clueless on some of the more detailed issues such as right of return for a Palestinian state.  This still puts him miles ahead in knowledge from someone like Joe Biden who wanted a three state solution for Iraq.

Cain does have one demographic that still turns out strongly in support of him, and that is the African American conservatives, moderates, and independents.  Many of these who helped turn Florida blue for Barack Obama and are now disenchanted with his policies are indicating strong support for Cain.  Whereas Iowa is turning out to be a fiscal versus social conservative battle between Romney and Bachmann, all important Florida may end up being a fiscal versus social conservative battle between Romney and Cain. Real Clear Politics shows Cain in second place to Romney in Florida out of current candidates, but large percentages going to Huckabee and Palin.  It will be interesting to see how those Palin and Huckabee supporters break by the time we reach Florida.  It won’t be for Mitt Romney.

If Cain can survive until Florida and then capitalize on it, losing Iowa might not be that big a deal.  Then again, perhaps he should talk to Rudy Guiliani about that strategy.

Mr. President, Are You A Flake?

As Michelle Bachmann approaches the top of the Republican field, she is facing even more intense scrutiny.  In the same week as Obama’s medal of honor gaffe, an unlikely interviewer has proven among the most unfair to Bachmann.  Chris Wallace of Fox News asked her directly: “Are you a flake?”

Is Bachmann a serious candidate? Iowa seems to think so.

Wallace was giving credibility to those who seem to hold this bias against Bachmann, whether he realizes it or not.  But an even more serious question is if Wallace would ask any other candidate that?

Joe Biden could have been living in a cave for the last two and a half years and no one would have known it.  There is a good reason for that.  Biden had more gaffes per month in his campaign than Bachmann has had in a lifetime.  And Obama, the great orator, is not immune either.  From following his teleprompter off a metaphorical cliff on more than one occasion to making his appearances before the British royalty look like something out of a comedy movie, Obama has embarrassed himself over and over again on both national and international stages.

I don’t recall Bush ever having to sit down to have a beer with a cop because he put his foot in his mouth.

Bachmann’s answer was brilliant, giving Chris Wallace her history as a tax attorney, state senator and House representative, her education history and her family history.  Remember the good old days when we got to compare Bush and Kerry’s college transcripts to see who got more Ds?  And Obama, for being a Harvard constitutional law professor really doesn’t seem to know anything about the constitution.

So what is it about conservative women that seems to earn them “flake” status in the media, even as an acknowledged and valid perception?  Is this sexism pure and simple?  Palin and Bachmann seem to be treated interchangeably in the media, especially on the conservative side.  Remember George Will saying Palin was unpresidential because she watched her daughter in Dancing with the Stars?  Funny how Obama is amazingly Presidential when he not only kisses babies, but rocks them to sleep on the campaign trail.

 

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