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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What the Pundits Have to Say About the CNN Debate

"We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections." – John Adams, Inaugural Address, 1797

Last night I posted a blog with my take on the CNN sponsored GOP debate at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. I wanted to be the first out of the chute to do so because I did not want to be influenced by the “experts.” This morning I began reading the articles and blogs of some of the conservative pundits.

Most of the reports and blogs I have read so far gave Bachmann and Romney high marks. Here are a few examples from the pundits who have a want to defeat Obama.

From Erick Erickson of Red States:

“I think Mitt Romney did not just win the New Hampshire debate by holding his own, but legitimately won it with his answers and composure. He was unnecessarily defensive on the Afghan question, but largely showed his experience with Presidential debates.

The surprise last night was Michelle Bachmann. If there was a110613_romney_cain_ap_605 winner of the anti-Romney coalition, Michelle Bachmann not only one [sic], but won by a wide margin. Suddenly, for many, the flirtation toward Herman Cain and others will go in Bachmann’s direction. Bachmann’s stellar performance also contrasted with Tim Pawlenty who could have sealed the deal, or taken substantial steps toward sealing the deal, of being the anti-Romney candidate. Had his backing off of “Obamneycare” been later in the debate, i think it would have done less damage. But coming so soon into the debate, it clouded the rest of his performance, which had some really good moments. His defense of “right to work” was stellar.

Newt Gingrich needs to be kicking himself. He proved, yet again, he is one of the smartest guys in the GOP. His answer on Islam and loyalty was exactly what Herman Cain needed to do. His immigration answer was solid. But while he came across as the bright, ideas guy we all expect and know, there was no opportunity for him to show his viability — that will be a bigger, non-debate question.

By the way, Newt’s answer on Islam and loyalty will probably be the soundbite of tomorrow. It was a stellar answer that, despite spin from the left, will not hurt the Republicans.

The debate failed to begin the movement toward solidifying the anti-Romney wing. If anything, Bachmann and Pawlenty’s performances throw it into chaos. This leaves a very real opening for Governor Rick Perry or Governor Sarah Palin to come in and begin making the case for an alternative. The odds are growing, I think, that Perry gets in. He has nothing really to lose as he won’t have to leave the Governor’s Mansion to do it.

It is early, but it is less than seven months to Iowa. The clock is ticking. Perry coming in would be a disruptive event for many already in the race and he’d become the odds on favorite for people opposed to Romney to coalesce behind.”

Christopher Ruddy of believes Michelle Bachman and Mitt Romney were the clear winners. Ruddy also believed John King’s hosting was flawless. Kudos to CNN for giving us a good debate with questions on issues the American public are concerned with. Rudy’s take on the debate is as follows:

“The first major presidential debate in New Hampshire has just ended and the big winner is . . .

Well, there are two winners. First, there's Michele Bachmann.

From the start, Bachmann came off as a fresh voice . . . more remarkable perhaps because she was the only woman on the panel.

Bachmann also looked fantastic. She also offered the substance conservative voters are looking for. In fact, she gave it to them in spades.

She has real "street cred," as they say, as a genuine tea party conservative. She heads the Tea Party Caucus in Congress and reminded viewers that she has fought against her own party when principle demands it. For example, she opposes TARP and raising the debt ceiling when the GOP leadership in Congress supported it.

Conservatives loves this stuff. Bachmann tapped into the anger among GOP primary voters, some of whom are angry with her own party. But she did it without being angry herself. Bachmann's performance was Reaganesque.

If Republican primary voters want a candidate that represents them, Bachmann grabbed the night.

If, however, voters were looking for a Republican candidate who can win the general election in a close race against President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney was the winner.

With the economy teetering on the precipice and unemployment growing again, Romney came across as the man with both the political and business gravitas to fix the economy.

The former Massachusetts governor pressed the right buttons on economic issues. His explanation of what happened with GM, and why the Bush administration should never have allowed it to go into bankruptcy, was brilliant.

Romney did exceptionally well because the other candidates did not really challenge his Massachusetts health plan, which mandates every citizen get private health insurance. This is a key tenet of Obamacare.

In recent days, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has referred to the Obama plan as Obamneycare, a reference to its similarity to Romneycare. But in the opening scenes of the debate Pawlenty ducked.

Despite being egged on by CNN’s John King (who's hosting of the debate was flawless), Pawlenty clearly did not want to criticize Romney or expound on his previous criticism of Romney.

Romney's health plan is a serious concern. Fox News analyst Dick Morris has stated repeatedly that Romney can't win the general election because Obama's health plan so closely mirrored Romney's.

Tonight, Pawlenty missed an incredible opportunity to differentiate himself from Romney, the other big state governor in the race.

Pawlenty came across as honest, sincere, decent. But he seemed to lack passion. He also failed to tell us what he did in Minnesota for 8 years that will help us solve the nation's economic crisis.

Pawlenty didn't resonate while Romney and Bachmann did, as other candidates came out as likeable and believable.

Rick Santorum showed exceptional passion. He is a true conservative who wants to shake up Washington.

And Herman Cain is a straight-shooting businessman who seems like the GOP' version of Harry Truman.

Finally, we're left with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. They both appeared to fall into an intellectual chasm where their utterances might have earned applause but won't win votes and hearts.

Both Gingrich and Paul appeared tired and dour, their emotional range limited to permanent frowns.

And both seemed a prisoner of their own intellectual beliefs. Gingrich, trapped by three decades of policy statements and random utterances, rambled on about why he both hates and loves the Ryan plan or why he was for the individual mandate before he was against it.

Unlike Gingrich, Paul has been consistent in his views, but it is a consistency that shows inflexibility to the grave threats the nation faces. God love libertarians like Ron Paul, but their vision is a utopian one not applicable at the moment.

Overall the debate showed energy and excitement among the Republicans, one of whom will likely challenge Obama in 2012 on turning America around. It's early still, and the winner of debates like these may not turn out to be the winner of the upcoming primaries.

I recall that in 2008, Mike Huckabee was the clear winner in the Republican debates. Yet he failed to wrest the nomination from John McCain, though Huckabee would have made a strong presidential candidate in 2008 and a good president had he been elected.

So maybe there is a lesson here, the GOP should pick the winner of these primary debates as their candidate.”

DEBATE-articleLargeOn the other hand Karl Rove had a slightly different take on the debate. President Bush’s former political advisor and Fox News contributor said, “although candidate Mitt Romney is leading the GOP nominee hopeful pack, his advantage is not so substantial that he can truly be considered a front-runner. Rove also told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly the race for the Republican nomination will be “unlike any contest we’ve had for over 60 years.” Rove goes on to say:

“This race is far from over — and he is not way out in front,” Rove said, referring to the latest Gallup poll, which has Romney favored by 24 percent of Americans likely to vote Republican. “By comparison at this point n 1999, George W. Bush was at 52; Elizabeth Dole was at 20; Dan Quayle at nine; and 15 points was shared by nine other candidates.

“So this is — this is not a big lead. It’s the biggest lead he’s — he’s received thus far but it is not the typical front-runner lead,” Rove said. “This contest is going to be unlike any contest we’ve had for over 60 years. And that is . . . it is going to have essentially no front-runner.”

O’Reilly noted that Tim Pawlenty has a solid Republican message but does not have the stage presence to give him any traction in the GOP field. The Fox host said what got President Barack Obama elected was his ability to perform before a crowd, not his message.

Rove disagreed.

“He was a better candidate than our candidate because he articulated a better message than our candidate did,” Rove said. “The message was: I don’t want to be the president of red states or blue states — I want to be the president of the United States and bring us together. And I defy you to put in a short phrase what John McCain’s message was.

“Look, running for president is like running — it’s like being in the emperor’s new clothes,” he said. “At the end of the parade they’re going to see you exactly as you are — and you better understand who you are and try to be the best that you can be on any given day. And you better not be phony.”

Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said Newt Gingrich “exceeded my expectations” during the CNN GOP debate in New Hampshire Monday night, adding that he avoided his tendency to “talk too much.”

Hiram Reisner of went on to say:

“Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said Newt Gingrich “exceeded my expectations” during the CNN GOP debate in New Hampshire Monday night, adding that he avoided his tendency to “talk too much.”

“CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Card whether he thought Gingrich “redeemed himself” following recent roadblocks to his fledgling campaign, including last week’s resignation of 16 key staffers.

“First of all, it was a very adult debate — the issues were good — I don’t think any candidate did a lousy job — I think they all did a good job,” said Card, who worked for President George W. Bush. “And Newt Gingrich actually exceeded my expectations. He gave a lot of short and specific answers — and he has a tendency to talk too much.

“He opened right up by saying: 14 million jobs are lost, people are out of jobs, and we need a new president. That was the most succinct opening statement — I thought he did a good job,” Card said. “I thought he was also very clear on his position on immigration and also — I’m going to say — even on the Ryan plan. That doesn’t mean that I think his campaign is being well run, but I do think tonight, I think he did a good job.”

Gingrich has taken considerable flak for saying that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan — which includes a controversial Medicare reform proposal — is “right-wing social engineering.”

Reisner went on to say that “Analyst Says Pawlenty Failed to Land Blow.”:

“Tim Pawlenty missed the opportunity to make Mitt Romney ‘bleed” over Romneycare during CNN’s Monday GOP New Hampshire debate and he “looked punked” and tentative when given the chance to go on the attack, a former pollster for President Barack Obama said.

“The Pawlenty thing was a big deal because [of] this: As much as we say we don’t like negative campaigns, the truth of the matter is: If someone occupies the space that you want to occupy and their ahead of you, I’m sorry, you’ve got to . . . cut that person and make them bleed,” said Cornell Belcher, who worked for Obama in 2008.

“Now, do you take a hatchet to them the first night of a debate — No. But you have to make them bleed, because you are never going to get ahead of a person unless you cut them and you make them bleed,” Belcher said. “Pawlenty was served up the opportunity to sort of start that bleeding tonight — and he looked punked — he could not back up what he had said aside when he was standing on the stage with Romney — he looked tentative, and he looked weak. I think he missed a prime opportunity to make this guy bleed.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked colleague John King, who moderated the debate, why he thought Pawlenty was tentative when given the opportunity to repeat comments he made on “Fox News Sunday” that Obamacare was basically Obamneycare — as it was an offshoot of Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare plan.

“He refused to repeat it with Governor Romney a little further apart than we are right now,” King told Cooper, who was standing facing him. “It was a clear calculation — they knew [it] coming in. He wants to make that point because he believes it’s critical, he’s the underdog in New Hampshire. But . . . he was trying to introduce himself to New Hampshire voters and national voters.

“But in this state, Governor Romney is pretty popular, so he made a calculation the first night on television, the first night of a debate — not now,” King said.”

A few other analysis of the debate can be found on POLITICO.

Alexander Burns Maggie Haberman write; “The Republican presidential frontrunner came into the debate looking strong and emerged from it stronger, as his opponents repeatedly passed up opportunities to go on the attack – and even inflicted damage on themselves as they tried to avoid confrontation.

“Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty struggled early, tying himself in rhetorical knots in an attempt to avoid repeating his weekend attack on Romney and the national health care law he called “Obamneycare.” Read more at POLITICO.

Roger Simon or Pajamas Media said; “Issues? Who can run the country? The language of democracy? Hey, that’s not what we are about. We are all about who won.”

“Here is who won - - and lost - - the first major Republican debate, which was broadcast by CNN from Manchester, N.H., on Monday night. It is guaranteed accurate to three decimal places.”

Simon gives First Place to Romney and Second to Bachmann with Third Place going to Sarah Palin. Read more at POLITICO.

The intellectual Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard said:

“The seven candidates on stage performed creditably last night, with two pretty clearly helping themselves—Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. But since the stage at St. Anselm didn't feature all of the eventual candidates, one can also ask, which potential candidates who aren't yet in the race were helped or hurt?

My thumbnail:

Rick Perry: Hurt a bit by Michele Bachmann's strong performance. If, in the next two months, she forcefully opposes in the House whatever deal is reached on the debt ceiling (very likely), and wins the Ames straw poll (quite possible), what's Perry's rationale for big-footing her? On the other hand, he's a successful big state governor who's also Tea Party friendly—in theory, a potent combination”. Read More.

Rich Lowery of National Review Online claims it “was Mitt’s night:”

“Romney was on his game — smooth, relaxed, and unflappable. He did well in the debates in 2008, but benefited tonight from his increased stature in the context of the rest of field. In 2008, he was up against John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, strong personalities with real gravity, and Mike Huckabee, a fellow first-time candidate who is a natural performer. He was also helped by the unwillingness of anyone to take him on, most notably Tim Pawlenty on the “Obamneycare” charge. If Pawlenty wasn’t willing to back up that line in person, he shouldn’t have said it on TV Sunday. In general, Pawlenty was fine, but faded into the background and sometimes seemed much too canned. He had to be chagrined watching how well Michelle Bachmann did — the average viewer just tuning in wouldn’t have any idea she’s not considered a “top tier” candidate. At this rate, Pawlenty’s going to have a big problem in Iowa, which is another reason why Team Romney had to be pleased with the night. Herman Cain, meanwhile, was unbelievably vague (tonight, it was hard to believe Pawlenty lost the first debate to him). Newt Gingrich didn’t stand out, especially given how much he’s banking on his performance in the debates. Maybe he needs longer-form answers? A friend also got the impression he was kind of ticked all night; for whatever reason, he was sort of off-putting. Rick Santorum was solid, but has a version of the Pawlenty problem — how is he going to break through? Ron Paul was Ron Paul.”

Just after the debate Fox News posted one of those “you vote” polls as to who would be the best to take on Obama in a debate. The last count, with almost 100,000 people responding the leader was Ron Paul with just over 22% of the vote. Herman Cain came in second with 20% and Sarah Palin with almost 11%. The rest of GOP field were in single digits. You can view the poll and vote by clicking here. See where your favorite candidate ranks with the rest of the voters. Enjoy.

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