My next door neighbors’ two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than this administration.” — Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson
As I muddled through last night’s Fox News/Google sponsored Republican debate I was having a difficult time picking the winners and losers. There were just too many candidates on the stage to make any real choices as to who I could support. It was more like a Jerry Springer show than a presidential debate.
There are several ways to watch a debate like the one last night. One way is to watch it like an academic giving a grade for debating points and style. If you watch the debate with this in mind I think Mitt Romney scored the most debating points with his style, presence, and ability to give his well-prepared answers. Conversely Rick Perry scored the least points with his confusing responses and weak position on illegal immigration and his willing to allow in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants. His “you don’t have a heart” statement bombed with the audience and probably most people watching the debate on TV.
Another way to watch the debate is to see which candidate’s philosophy, record and positions most agree with yours. To do this you have to ignore the one line quips and look for the meat in what they say. This is difficult with so many people on the stage and the limited time to respond to the questions posed by the moderators. This is how I watched the debate. With this in mind here is my take on who the winners, losers and also-rans were.
Let’s begin with the apparent front-runner, Mitt Romney. At times, Romney seemed determined to show that he could be as aggressive as anyone in the GOP field. He fired a powerful broadside at Perry over his granting of in-state tuition to illegal residents in Texas, for example. “It’s an argument I just can’t follow,” said Romney. “If you’re a United States citizen from any other of the 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn’t make sense to me. That kind of magnet draws people into this county to get that education, to get that $100,000 break. It makes no sense.”
Romney was, as usual, polished and well groomed. His suit fit well and he listened respectfully to the responses of the other candidates. There were several issues, like abolishing the Department of Education and his support of Arnie Duncan, I did not like. Of all of the candidates on the stage he is the one who could probably beat Obama, but he will be going against a one billion dollar campaign and a sitting president. If the economy remains in the state it is in today Romney may win, if the economy improves Obama wins. Of course his Achilles heel is RomneyCare. This issue is big with the GOP and conservatives, but in the general election I don’t think it will be a big deal.
Rick Perry looked disheveled and unsure in his answers. As I stated above his response on the Texas DREAM act and allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants does not wash well with GOP voters, but again it will not be an issue the general election if he can get a better story together to defend it. Perry has to get away from his attacks on Romney and get a better story to tell if he wants to garner the GOP nomination, something I think he will not be able to accomplish. All in all I think Perry lost points last night.
Perry’s performance may disappoint conservatives who wanted to see an improved performance from him. Before the debate, National Review editor and columnist Ramesh Ponnuru had said on MSNBC that Perry needed to step up his game. “In the previous debates Gov. Perry has come across as unprepared. He hasn’t had crisp, convincing responses to predictable lines of attack,” Ponnuru said on MSNBC Thursday. “And I think, not just my colleagues at National Review, but a lot of Republican voters who are interested in electability and like a lot about Gov. Perry’s record, are going to want to see him step up.”
Michelle Bachmann, while demonstrating passion on her support of the Constitution and reducing the size of government, did nothing to improve or decrease her standing with GOP voters. She was stuck on the HPV vaccine thing with Perry and is just not gaining with the voters. She sounds like a broken record with her constant claim of 23 foster children and her ability as a tax attorney. People, while admiring her willingness to take on 23 foster children, do not really care about that issue and are more concerned about her ability to take on Barack Obama’s billion dollar machine.
She didn’t get a lot of time, she was desperate to get her answers in, and they had a tepid reception for the most part. Michele Bachmann’s 15 minutes are over. She really needs to fold her tent. It’s just not going anywhere,
Herman Cain was the most enjoyable candidate to watch.. The audience loved him. Other than his question on Israel, Cain’s answers really were out of the park awesome. He provided the most uplifting moments and the most memorable lines, with substance included. His answers were crisp and his delivery was sharp. He smiled and showed humor in his responses. His 9-9-9 plan makes sense and the audience responded with great rounds of applause. He did not play the “gotcha” game as did Romney, Perry and Santorum. He stuck to his principles and previously stated positions. Of all the candidates on the stage I like Cain the most. My wish is that he could catch on with the rest of the GOP and it would fun to see him go against Obama. Just think, half black against black. How would the African-American community respond to that? I can’t recall who said it but I liked the thought of combining Cain’s philosophy, demure, and business acumen with Gingrich’s knowledge of government and history. It would be awesome.
Rep. Ron Paul got some of the loudest applause early in the evening when he pledged to veto any bill that violated 10th Amendment constraints on big government. I am extremely conflicted with Ron Paul. I know his Libertarian supporters are extremely passionate over his positions on government, taxes, the Federal Reserve and foreign policy. I like his positions on government, taxes, education, immigration, and states’ rights, but I cannot get on board with his foreign policy and isolationist positions. Also he comes across as mean and dictatorial. I just can’t see him catching on with more than his core of loyalists.
Santorum, while having some good answers, did not come across well. He appeared to be mean and frustrated and for the most part he was ignored most of the night. He played gotcha with Perry and Romney and his stance on sex in the military won’t play well in a general election. He seems to want to play on the social issue too much. These issues, while important to some voters like me will just not play a major part in a general election.
Gingrich, as usual, was Gingrich. Always with the big picture answers and promise of a plan. I liked his position on unemployment insurance and business training. Like Paul, Gringirch has is cadre of loyal supporters but is not moving in the polls.
The laugh line of the night went to former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Commenting on the Obama administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy, he remarked: “My next door neighbors’ two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than this administration.” That was about it for the former governor. Oh, he wants a balanced budget, don’t we all.
Jon Huntsman with his yellow tie is still the most liberal of the GOP candidates. When will he, like Bachmann and Johnson, do us a favor and drop out.
This business of having the media attempt to generate “good TV” by constantly trying to figure out how to generate clash between Perry and Romney id getting a bit old. It is not doing the voters well. I don’t care if Bachmann has a problem with Perry’s HPV vaccine program, a program he has admitted he would do differently today. I don’t give a damn what Romney thinks of Perry’s book and what Perry thinks of Romney’s health care bill in Massachusetts. What I want to hear are straight answers to questions we all care about; jobs, the debt, the size of government, our Constitutional rights, the obscene abundance of federal regulations, the wasteful and coercive spending of the departments of education, agriculture, and energy. What are their stances on the pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico? What will they do about Iraq and Afghanistan? How will they secure the border and guard against the military buildup in China. These are the answers we are looking for not the Jerry Springer gotcha and sniping sideshow. It’s time for these candidates to get serious and begin skirting the media and talking to the American voters and not each other.