Final Republican Presidential Debate Before Iowa Sees Many Homeruns and Few Strikes

Bookmark and Share    The final debate before the Iowa Republican Caucuses proved to be a mature, substantive exchange of views that allowed voters to get a good sense of each candidate’s political instincts.  Each one executed strong, solid performances, which validated their place on the stage and in this race.

Of course some performed stronger than others and from my vantage point, the strongest was Newt Gingrich, who at times found himself in the hot seat.

During the second twenty minute segment of the debate, Newt drew a great deal of criticism for his having made $1.6 million in consulting fees from FreddieMac.  On this issue, Rep. Michele Bachmann repeatedly condemned Gingrich’s business transaction with FreddieMac as an ultimate example of influence peddling.  To this Newt charged that Bachmann simply did not have her facts straight and reiterated the fact that he did not participate in any lobbying activities that could be construed as examples of improper influence and conduct.  While Gingrich’s need to defend his consulting for FreddieMac did account for his most uncomfortable moment, the rest of the night was his.

Newt’s finest moment came when he lambasted President Obama in an eloquent and stinging rebuff of the President’s opposition to the Keystone pipeline project.  On that issue Newt pulled off a successful triple play as he ingeniously tied Obama to a failed domestic energy, jobs , and national security policy.   Newt began his response to the Keystone XL oil pipeline project question in a most amusing , selfdeprecating manner while simultaneously mocking his closest rival in the nomination contest, Mitt Romney.

He began his answer by stating that since he has often been accused of  speaking too bluntly, he was “watching his words” and “editing” himself before answering that question.  He then added:

“I’m very concerned about not appearing to be zany,”

The phrase refered to remarks made by Mitt Romney who had earlier in the week refered to Newt as “zany”.

From there, Newt proceeded to hit several home runs during the night with proposals designed to restrain extraneous power of the judiciary,  and continued with strong  calls to put an end to  immigration lawsuits against Alabama, Arizona, and South Carolina and  and a particularly rousing call to cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities.

With a mix of Humility, humor, and history,  Newt produced what was probably his strongest performance yet and at the very least, helped stem any recent fall in the polls he has seen since last week.

Also pulling off a strong debate performance was Mitt Romney.

Mitt scored some high points with creative characterizations of Obama policies such as his “pretty please” foreign policy and references to Obama’s record job creation as something which suffers because the President has not lived in the real world and how “to create a job it helps to have created a job” .

Romney had his own share of discomfort when Chris Wallace pressed him on his changing positions on abortion and gay marriage.  But Romney responded by admitting that while his position on abortion had evolved to that of a pro-life belief he argued that  he has alweays been a supporter of the sancticy of marriage to be that of a union between a man and a woman, and that as a Governor he has done nothing but work to preserve both the sanctity of marriage and life.

Beyond that brief exchange that had Mitt on the defensive, the rest of the night saw him deliver one of debate appearances of the season.

While Gingrich and Romney stood out, the rest of the field was strong but unspectacular and did not achieve the type of results they needed to catapult them in to any kind of game changing position.

Rick Santorum was smooth and professional but unremarkable.

Rick Perry overcame his image as an incompetent debater and had some scripted but well delivered funny and memorable lines including one comparing himself to Tim Tebow, the second year NFL quarterback who draws criticism for his strong Christian faith and praise for his strong come from behind string of victories on the field.

Jon Huntsman was again, just there.  While nothing he said was counterproductive,  he seems to remain stuck in neutral.

Michele Bachmann was on her game but she essentially came out of this debate as the negative candidate.  Her relentless attacks on Gingrich, particular when she tried to claim that Newt was an enemy of the unborn, seemed to at times be overboard, and a display of far fetched examples of political stretches of the truth.  While she held her own and demonstrated herself to be a consistent conservative, she probably hurt herself more by  coming across as overly aggressively in a contest where voters are beginning to believe that the most important thing is to beat Barack Obama, not necessarily another Republican.

Place goes to Ron Paul.

Paul had a consistent positive pitch when it came to his sincere faith in fiscal conservatism and purity.  However he lost the bulk of Republican primary voters when he was pressed on his dangerously ignorant foreign policy and national security views.  This was especially the case when Ron Paul basically denied the dangers of Iran and of their potential capacity for the utilization of nuclear weaponry.  It was here that  Rick Santorum, once again,  unleashed a powerful rebuttal to Paul’s incompetence in the area of the federal government’s primary constitutional responsibility.

Overall, the debate was probably more entertaining than informative but it did give voters a glimpse at the potential strengths and weaknesses of each candidate in these final few days leading up to the Iowa Caucus.

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CNBC versus the GOP

Last night the GOP candidates went into hostile Michigan to face a hostile set of moderators who were booed into sticking to economic issues by the crowd after an unfair detour against Herman Cain.  In all, the night turned into somewhat of a circus.  Hopefully, the GOP will shun CNBC in the future, as this was the worst and most unprofessional case of moderation we have seen.    But aside from that, let’s get to the winners and losers.  First up…

It floored me when they tried to ask if companies should be making a profit or growing jobs.  Excuse me, but how the heck do you create jobs if you aren’t making a profit?? Gingrich’s response was beautiful. Watching the moderator rolling her eyes when Gingrich said a 30 second answer on healthcare was ridiculous was fun to watch.  But my favorite answer of Gingrich’s was on education, where he offered a real life example of a real life solution that addresses the issue of education that is getting exponentially expensive with much cheaper results.  As someone who works full-time, is a full-time grad student and has been in college for a decade following various business and religious pursuits, I connected with Gingrich’s answer and could not agree more.  This morning Neil Boortz in a morning phonecall to WOKV implied that Republicans needed to worry about who could beat Obama, not who would be the best President speaking of Newt Gingrich.  Bull.  Gingrich keeps winning debates because he is the smartest man on that stage.  And he made a joke out of those bombastic, rude moderators.

Rick Santorum did well.  This doesn’t mean anything, he still can’t win.  But he did highlight his leadership on things like medical savings accounts and gave viewers no reason to mark him down.  He has struggled in debates, but performed well last night.  Ron Paul also did a good job.  He avoided saying anything outlandish and produced a solid, constitutionalist approach.  Bachmann did well, but was once again forgettable.  Huntsman also did pretty well, though his attempt at “answer this in 30 seconds?” humor sounded like a lame, screwed up retelling of a good joke.

Mitt Romney needs to understand his precarious position.  He is stuck at 30%.  The rest of the GOP voters are looking for not-Mitt-Romney as their candidate.  His smoothness, economic savvy, and gaffe free debate performances have gotten him this far (along with a great deal of establishment money).  He needs to figure out how to get himself the rest of the way.  He has to find a way to make Social Conservatives trust him. Mitt, if you are listening, make a major statement in favor of state personhood amendments.  Consider that step one to breaking into the 40s in the polls.

Herman Cain also has hit a roadblock, but it is a policy roadblock.  I think many viewers were left with the feeling that if nuclear missiles were airborne from China heading for the US, President Cain would be on the phone with the Chinese President telling him how his bold plan, the 9-9-9 plan, could solve their problems by growing China’s economy.  9-9-9 is to Herman Cain what Windex was to Tula’s family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  This one dimensionalism will leave him open to a Gingrich rise.  On the other hand, Cain did very well defending himself against accusations which are more and more looking like racist smears from the Axelrod/Democrat machine.

Rick, Rick, Rick.  By the way, if you want to see the sexism of the left, just watch how long Perry’s crash and burn stays in the media cycle and blogosphere compared to a Palin or Bachmann gaffe.  Talk about not being ready for primetime.  I think Perry likes to start talking and get rolling, and that’s why he sometimes forgets what he was talking about mid-sentence.  No excuses.  You are running for President of the United States.  Running before you secure the ball is how you lose games.  Running your mouth before you have your answer and grasp on the issues is what makes Presidents say stupid things.  E.g. Barack Obama talking about police officers who arrested his professor friend.

Time to thin the herd

All is not lost!  Yes, it was an ugly night for several GOP candidates.  Newt’s frustration with the format is certainly understandable.  It made for great television, but it was a bad debate.  However, there were some glimmers of hope, starting with the Vegas Champ…

Newt Gingrich.  I didn’t give Newt the win last time because I didn’t think his campaign would see a boost.  After this debate, I think it will.  Newt once again is the adult in the room.  He puts himself above the fray and really acts as a second moderator.  Voters should give Newt a second look.  Give Newt seven debates with Barack Obama and Obama might even drop out of the race before November.  I would love to see these debates as more candidates drop out and more time is given.  Newt has been so supportive of other candidates that his questions of other candidates carried a great deal of weight and were therefore more devastating.  Cain will not survive the 999 barrage, look for Newt to pick up steam.  Newt’s statement on faith put him squarely in the majority of conservative thought.  Newt’s biggest slip up was on appearing weak on states rights.  Another candidate who performed well, but likely won’t see much change because of it was…

Mitt Romney.  Romney was once again the big punching bag, and once again hit back.  He continued to defend his healthcare program as a state program and did pretty well.  But here Newt hit him hard on the big government aspect of it.    Romney kept his cool when being shouted down by Rick Santorum and talked over by Rick Perry.  Romney screwed up on Cain’s 999 plan trying to argue that Cain’s plan would add federal taxes to state taxes.  Excuse me, Mr. Romney, but you already pay bushels of apples and oranges.  Don’t feel bad, every candidate but Cain and Newt seemed to forget that 999 would eliminate our current tax code.  In the end, especially with no Huntsman, Romney’s got his support base solidified and did nothing to hurt that. Unfortunately, this is the last good report on a candidate performance in this review.  Although, it wasn’t terrible for everyone, especially…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele, Michele, Michele.  First, Obama took us to Libya, THEN, he took us into Africa!  Oops, Libya is in Africa.  But again, if Joe Biden can be VP, we shouldn’t be too hard on Bachmann for her frequent misspeaks.  Aside from that, she did well in another forgettable performance/turned stump speech.   As a tax litigation attorney though, I am disappointed in her evaluation of Cain’s 999 plan.  A VAT because every corporation in the manufacturing process pays 9%?  What does our current corporate tax do?  Same thing.  Shame on you Michele.  But most people won’t figure that out, so you’re good.  We will see if the media picks up on Bachmann’s idea of a $1 poor tax.  Bachmann won’t see any uptick from this debate.  Another candidate with no uptick or downtick…

Ron Paul. Paul is good on state’s rights.  The other candidates would do well to learn some things from him.  On the other hand, we heard a lot of the same platitudes and fuzzy one liners that leave us scratching our heads about if Paul actually has a viable plan.  Get rid of the income tax?  Oh, ok.  Is that like repealing Medicare part D?  Would be nice, but not a priority?  Paul came out with a new economic plan that cuts a trillion in spending.  Worth taking a look at, but didn’t get much play last night.  He will maintain his small support base, but with his vagueness and legend over substance approach this debate won’t give him a bump.  But at least he won’t lose support, like…

Herman Cain.  Cain gave the media some pretty good quotes last night.  Would he shut down Guantanamo to negotiate with terrorists?  Kinda sounded like it.  Apples and Oranges?  Cain, that is simply not Washington speak.  Cain looked amateurish.    He is an amateur though, so he may get a pass for the inability to articulate his 999 plan in a way that Americans can understand and latch on to.  Fortunately, his opponents weren’t much better.  In fact, only Newt seemed to have a clue how 999 works, but he wasn’t about to throw Cain a bone.  Cain right now is riding on populism, but poor debate performances can sink that ship (Bachmann, Perry).  In fact, I think it did sink two ships last night, starting with…

Rick Santorum.  Rick continues to be an advocate for the family.  He continues to present strong conservatism.  But his discussion with Romney early on just set a bad tone.  He reminded me of an angry teenager.  It was unprofessional and amateurish.  It’s been good to have Santorum in these debates for the most part, but after last night he needs to drop out and endorse a social conservative who can still beat Romney.  You’re not going to win, Rick Santorum.  At this point you are hurting more than helping.  But at least Santorum did better than…

Rick Perry.  Geez.  I don’t want to sound politically incorrect, but Perry seemed…slow.  Can we still use that term?  When Romney was answering and Perry was slowly drawling over him and droning on, I couldn’t help but laugh.  But it got worse as the night went on.  Perry, who gave instate tuition to illegals and opposes a full border fence, went after Romney for hiring a landscaping company that hired illegal aliens.  And that wasn’t the only 2008 unfair attack that Perry dug up.  Even when Perry made a good point (We need to uh, look at, uh the…darn, which amendment was it again?  Oh yeah, tenth amendment for uh…issues) it was lost in translation.  Perry was put in his place over and over.  It was a complete dud.  Even his distancing from Pastor Jeffers was not believable.  The best we got from Perry was a promise that next week he will have a tax plan. The good news is that even Rick Perry had a better week than…

Barack Obama.  Rumor has it, after a bunch of his tour supplies were stolen, that his teleprompter is currently being interrogated by Iranian sponsored Al Qaida terrorists in Mexico.  Although, there have also been alleged sightings of his teleprompter in Zuccoti park, smoking a joint and displaying a message about being overworked and underpaid.

A Dismal Fight for Relevance

The GOP Presidential debate in Las Vegas highlighted not only some of the candidates’ fight for relevance, but the fight for relevance for many voters in the nation. Nevada joined the growing number of States moving up their primary election. The voters in many States have felt as though their votes did not matter. Key swing States often vote so late that the primary process is basically over and decided before their votes are cast. It has been argued that this has resulted in nominations of candidates that don’t speak to the needs of most Americans, but rather just to the needs of a handful of non-representative States. The power that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have in the nomination process outweighs that of key general election States like Florida and Ohio. The cost of running a campaign is so staggeringly high that a candidate that does not appeal to the voters in Iowa or New Hampshire may be out of the race regardless of how he or she is polling in more critical States. The problem effects both parties and gave the Democrats Barack Obama and the Republicans John McCain, not the first choices of the majority of people in key general election States at the time of the early primaries. Penalties against States in 2008 from the Democrats are being matched this year by many Republican candidates boycotting Nevada either wholly or in part.

Jon Huntsman was absent from the debate in protest. In reality, his ‘protest’ had more to do with courting New Hampshire voters than it did with any principle. He is seeking to knock Romney down in the New Hampshire polls and lift himself by painting himself as their real ‘friend’ and Romney as not really for their needs. Romney, Perry and Paul decided to leave the placement of primaries to the States and stay out of their affairs. All the others didn’t seem sure of what position to take, so they went to the televised debate but skipped other events. That is sort of like going to the all you can eat buffet and ‘making a stand’ by not eating any oyster crackers. It isn’t a position based on any principles and it isn’t particularly meaningful. In the end, it all comes down to Huntsman trying to make himself relevant by playing up the inflated relevance of New Hampshire while Nevada is trying to make the votes of its citizens relevant by moving up its primary.

The rest of the field used the debate to fight for their relevance. Bachmann and Santorum needed to make a big move. Gingrich needed to put on as good a performance in this debate people could actually watch as he did in the minimal audience Bloomberg debate so they would see his relevance. Perry needed to show that he can be an effective candidate without a teleprompter or he might drop further in the polls to total irrelevance. Cain needed to show that he had foreign affairs ideas and not just 9-9-9 so that he can truly challenge Romney. Paul needed to connect with the viewer better after publishing his plan full of popular conservative ideas so that he is no longer viewed as irrelevant to mainstream voters. Lastly Romney needed to put some passion into his performance and show the voters something to be excited about so that he can see his poll numbers break out of their long-time holding pattern.

Unfortunately none of the candidates succeeded. They could have all come out of the debate better off and advanced the larger conservative cause. Instead, rather than any winners, the debate is better measured in who the bigger losers were. In the effort to make themselves look better at the expense of other candidates, Santorum and Perry generally made themselves look like jerks. The only civility in the debate came, once again, from Gingrich and Cain. Romney, who needed to energize the voters and give them a reason to be excited by his campaign, instead decided to engage in attacks on other candidates in a very condescending manner. Bachmann did better on issues than in some previous debates but still came across as a yipping dog.

Now I’m sure that there will plenty of you who think I am being too hard or too mean to these candidates. You may feel that it is disloyal to the party or the movement for a conservative blogger to call out these candidates. You may think your preferred candidate somehow was justified in his or her actions during the debate. You may think they won the debate. As someone who has yet to make a choice on these candidates, I are weighing them all and I was disappointed in their performances this time. I know they could do better. I expect them to be better. We need them to be better.

That being said, there were many good responses and messages put forth in this debate on security. There was not as much consensus on security issues as there had been on economic issues. Some interesting divides emerged. It was surprising that Bachmann, as Tea Party champion, aligned more with neoconservative Santorum on foreign affairs. She was far more a champion of interventionism than any other candidate on the stage aside from Santorum. How that will play with the less interventionist leanings of most Tea Partiers will be seen in the next round of polls. Ron Paul has generally had weak support from most conservatives on foreign affairs, but he did manage to better articulate his positions on those matters. Herman Cain was able to be a more broad candidate and not just Mr. 9-9-9. Rick Perry appeared prepared and engaged for the debate. So, there are some good parts that came from the debate. It is just unfortunate that most of that was buried underneath a mountain of attacks and counterattacks between the candidates.

The conduct of the candidates is translating to the voters. The audience in the debate hall was far more divided than in previous debates. At times they even booed various responses. That is good news for Obama, but not very good news for the GOP. The only person who really seems to get that is Newt Gingrich. If the candidates continue to drive wedges within the party in their fight, they may only make the eventual nominee so weak that the party itself will have to fight for relevance again. We need to be building on the momentum of 2010, but are slowing our own roll and giving Obama everything he needs to destroy any of these candidates in the general.

To all of the candidates (except Speaker Gingrich), I must say that I am disappointed in your actions and while I came into the debate excited about my choices, I am leaving the debate much less so. We need leaders. Attacking your fellows is not leading. Bashing another’s ideas is not having vision. Grow up.

Video of the Entire Bloomberg TV-Washington Post GOP Presidential Debate

  Bookmark and Share   As I noted in a post yesterday , that due to the relatively low access of Bloomberg TV to viewers, Tuesday night’s Republican presidential, one of the greatest challenges would be trying to prevent those who did not see the debate, from simply basing their opinions on media spin.  For that reason, White House, 2012 is providing a Washington Post video of the entire debate.

You should take the opportunity to watch it.

It was a very interesting forum that will allow you to get at least of sense of the candidates.

For a few perspectives of the debate, I suggest you take a look at two White House 2012 posts on the topic; “Welcome to the top, Herman Cain” and “Mindless Media Madness vs. Reality“.

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Welcome to the top, Herman Cain

The most recent debate is over, and Herman Cain is discovering what Rick Perry felt like when he was the front runner.  The way the debate went, there was clear recognition of Cain, Romney and Perry as front runners.  The other candidates almost seemed to be helping in the vetting process as though they were seeking to help Americans choose from one of those top three.   So here goes, the latest debate in retrospect.  And the winner is…

Romney back in the driver seat

Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney had some good news today.  He picked up an endorsement from Chris Christie, which is huge.  He also had some bad news.  Rush Limbaugh questioned Romney’s conservatism compared to other candidates and gave the death knell that took down Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.  Rush called him the Republican establishment candidate.  Still, Romney was his usual comfortable self.  His adopting the Trump doctrine on China will help build that portion of his base.  Cain did Romney a huge favor by asking him about his 59 point plan and giving him the chance to explain it and expound on it.  In fact, the questioning session turned into an opportunity for the other candidates to seem to vet the apparent front runner candidate.  Romney’s own question to Michele Bachmann was very gracious and showed the kind of class that simply makes Romney likeable.  Romney’s answer on Dodd Frank was pure gold.  He was polished and Presidential.  Romney still has to get a little bit stronger on his conservative stances and lose a bit of that obvious shine in order to pick up more of the anti-politician minded rightwing, especially the TEA party.  But for this debate, Romney managed to edge out…

Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich is the best debater.  As the best debater, Newt spewed pure common sense.  His best was when he bluntly spoke about how absolutely stupid the debt commission is.  His answers put him above the fray and he maintained his mantra that any candidate on that stage would be better than Obama.  However, Newt did not get enough face time.  He took no arrows, shot no arrows at the other candidates, but simply did not have enough chances to speak to make a difference.  Newt has won several of these debates, but winning these debates is not enough for him at this point.  He must so completely knock each debate out of the park that everytime a front runner falls he is there to pick up the pieces.  In this case, he did not even mention his campaign’s new contract with America.  It was a lost opportunity.   So far he has not accomplished what he needs to do in these debates.  I can’t give him first, no matter how well deserved.  But as a representative of the Social Conservative flavor of this party, he did outperform…

Cain has his work cut out for him

Herman Cain.  Cain’s 9 9 9 plan finally got the inspection it deserved.  A striking moment was when Rick Santorum polled the audience on who wanted a new 9% sales tax, and who thought a 9% flat income tax would stay at 9%.  Not a single hand in the audience was visible.  Santorum hit the nail on the head.  The result is Cain will be in trouble after this debate.  He must now find a way to explain his plan in a way that resonates with Americans.  He made a good start when he talked about how the 9% sales tax would replace a 15% payroll tax, which of course we all pay.  If he can hit that point and solve the question of how to prevent future Presidents from turning his 9 9 9 plan into a 35 35 35 plan, he can salvage his front runner (by my calculations) status.  Cain took a huge hit on the federal reserve when Paul questioned him too.  Later when he spoke about fixing the Fed, Paul made easy work out of Cain.  Still, his likeability level and pure down home realness will keep him afloat for at least one more round.  At this point, if Cain falters I predict voters will finally give Newt Gingrich a second look.  Another candidate they might be looking at is…

Rick Santorum.  Rick Santorum did very well.  He made a key point when he said he did not support the bailout.  He called out Cain’s 9 9 9 plan and struck a very strong blow on it.  He exposed Cain’s naivete beautifully.  But that was the extent of Santorum’s stunning performance.  Like Gingrich, he simply did not get enough other face time to make a huge difference.  No one is afraid of him becoming the front runner any time soon, so there wasn’t much interest in him among the debate moderators.  While Santorum did not make a strong case for himself as President, he certainly gave voters a lot to think about with the latest rising star in Herman Cain.  That may be his purpose at this point.  There is very little chance of his campaign being successful.  Almost as little chance as…

Jon Huntsman.  Jon Huntsman did not do bad for the most part.  His answer on China will not connect with Americans and for a good reason.  Being nice to China does not sell when as Romney pointed out we are already losing to them because they are cheating.  Two debates ago I said Huntsman’s campaign is over.  Nothing changed with the debate tonight.  Feeling our pain because he helped run the family business and was a good governor is so cliche at this point, it’s really forgettable.  But not as forgettable as…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele Bachmann did well.  She spoke on Obama’s failures and conservatism.  But mostly she was forgettable.  At one point, it sounded like she said she raised 28 children, 22 foster and 5 biological.  I could understand, with that many kids, how easy it would be to get the math wrong.  But it’s not good when that’s what sticks out in my mind.  No highlights, no major gaffes, and in fact her role in Congress became even more forgettable when Gingrich asked why the House has not made any move to repeal Dodd Frank or Sarbanes Oxley.  I was left wondering where her actual leadership has manifested itself.  The exchange with Romney was her one saving grace, proving that at least she is not one dimensional unlike…

Popularity off the debate stage won't save these candidates from earning low marks in this debate.

Ron Paul.  Ron Paul did ok.  He made it pretty clear he isn’t a fan of the fed.  But on the fed, especially Bernanke, Newt stole his thunder.  What else did Paul speak about?  Again, another forgettable candidate.  Paul fans, don’t hate me for saying that.  Step outside of the movement for a minute and ask yourself if he truly made a splash.  Did we hear anything new about Ron Paul that would make us want to make him in charge of everything the President of the United States is responsible for?  No, but I’d be happy to see him head up the Fed audit once we get a President who has that as a priority (which apparently is not Herman Cain).  But even Ron Paul did better than…

Rick Perry.  Rick Perry came across as a something between a walking cliche and a deer in the headlights.  He simply does not debate well.  He again was slow in his responses and his wording did not connect.  He came across as very unprepared once again.  His good answers were copies of other candidates, and his bad answers seemed to drag on with his drawl.  I’ve said before that I would love to see Newt Gingrich debate Obama.  I would not love to see Perry debate Obama.  I’m not sure I would be able to watch.  Can Perry turn things around?  Possibly.  I’m not ready to give him the Dead Candidate Walking title along with Huntsman just yet.

Conservatives Generally Agree On the Outcome of the Presidential Debate

Bookmark and Share    Monday’s Republican presidential debate sponsored by CNN/WMUR and the Manchester Union Leader, produced few waves and even fewer opinion changes regarding the seven candidates who participated in it. While opinions vary slightly on who came out as a winner or on even if there was any clear winner, most agree that the debate’s moderator John King, was a loser. His performance offered an endless rash of irritating, inappropriate grunts of “uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uhlright” as he tried to interrupt everyone who spoke every time they spoke.

As for the participants, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul, most agree that none of them did any harm to themselves or was hurt by any of their opponents.

A review of several opinions offered by WH12 staff writers all agree that while some of the candidates did well, none of them really distinguished themselves as standouts. At the same time, everyone at White House 2012 agreed that for a number of reasons, Michele Bachmann surpassed expectations. Everyone at White House 2012 also agrees that as a group, the seven candidates agreed on the main issues, the economy, and stayed focused on what that which they have in common rather than their differences. That type of unity bodes well for the Party as a whole, but it will among those running for the presidential nomination, each one will soon have to point out their differences if they want to defeat their opponents.

At this stage in the race though, as Smashey put it, “they all played it safe.”

Below are more detailed analyses form three of the White House staff writers; Smashey, Friday and Kempite.

Smashey:

I believe the debate proved one thing……the Republican candidates seem to be willing to lay off of differences with each other to untie against the failings of the Obama administration.

I don’t think anyone stood out as a front runner nor do I think anyone took a hit to the negative. Everyone played it safe.

I expected Bachman to be the kind of speaker she was in her SOTU reply but she was surprisingly more polished this time around. Gingrich showed he is an accomplished speaker as did Romney and as was expected. Pawlenty didn’t make a move to wow anyone as I expected him to which was a bit disappointing. Cain stayed on message as did Santorum but both also, as with Pawlenty, did little to make that impact I think they needed to get to the same level as Romney. Paul was Paul as was expected.

In short I don’t think anyone came out ahead and no one lost. They all played it safe and had a united message against the policies of Obama.

Friday: 

This debate was very good. Candidates did what they needed to do most and focused on the economy and on Obama. Even when egged on, the only candidate who briefly faltered in this was Pawlenty. Pawlenty, who had recently coined the term Obamneycare, was put in a tough spot when John King seized on that opportunity. When King attempted to get candidates to distance themselves from Sarah Palin, they instead put the focus on Joe Biden’s absolute failures. This was a success because each of these candidates has been portrayed as unexciting and undesirable. Whether by pact or nature, by allowing themselves to agree with one another and focusing on Obama’s massive failures, these candidates each built their capital in this primary. Even Ron Paul seemed cordial.

An obvious dynamic came through in this debate. We are starting to see a top tier and second tier emerge. Some candidates appeared to have jumped into this race with both feet, focused on their issues, but are now finding themselves relying on stump phrases without much substance. Cain and Bachmann seemed to fall into this category, while Santorum appeared as the sacrificial lamb for classic conservatism. It is good to have each of them in the race, but at this point their biggest contribution is contrast. All three would have done very well were this debate a TEA Party rally. However, Considering the TEA Party influence in 2010 and Obama’s 2008 win using the same basic campaign style, I wouldn’t write this off a as a negative just yet.

Ron Paul was well prepared and had answers ready, but not to any of the questions King asked. Paul’s anti-federal government stances were refreshing for constitutionalists and will certainly inspire his libertarian base, but he is sure to lose any liberal who opposes entitlement reform this time around. Right?

No single winner in this debate. However, Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich and Bachmann certainly helped themselves. I don’t think this debate will give Paul, Cain or Santorum as much boost in this race.

Kempite:

While John King proved himself to be a horrible moderator with obvious political biases that he can’t contain himself from at least subtly projecting, the seven G.O.P. presidential debate participants proved to be an assemblage of promising leaders, even if they did not all prove themselves to be presidential material.

In the final analysis, the only standard by which you can arrive at winners or losers in presidential debates is the one that shows a particular candidate helped or hurt their chances to get elected. None of the seven debate participants did anything to hurt their chances but none of them performed in a way, or said anything that significantly improved their chances of getting elected. Under those circumstances, as the frontrunner going into the debate, Mitt Romney comes out as the winner of the debate.

If there was a trophy for second place, Michele Bachmann’s overall performance earned it for her.

Bachmann was strong and whether enough voters currently think she electable or not, they have now been forced to give her chance and with that chance, Bachmann has more control of her electoral destiny than do others like Ron Paul, who seems to be unable to run a campaign that can appeal to more than 10 or 12 percent of the Republican presidential electorate.

Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum held there own but that is not good enough for either one of them. They need to begin inspiring more voters and fast. Herman Cain underperformed in that sense that he is a much more electrifying speaker than he showed himself in the debate. And as for New Gingrich, at times he seemed out of place and like Herman Cain, I believe he underperformed. However it is important to note that in my opinion, even an underreporting Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich still performs better than President Obama and would get my vote

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