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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Arizona GOP Debate

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." — Frederic Bastiat

The debate was into the second hour, and Mitt Romney had just played the Arlen Specter card against Rick Santorum, blaming Santorum's 2004 endorsement of his fellow Pennsylvanian for the passage of ObamaCare in 2010. Santorum responded by playing the Dukakis card against Romney.

"Yes governor, you balanced the budget for four years," Santorum told Romney during the Arizona debate televised by CNN. "You have a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes. I'm all for -- I'd like to see it federally. But don't go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years. Does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don't think so."

This may have been the best line of the night in an otherwise dull and tedious debate. Not questions were asked about the rise in gas prices and what the candidates would do about them. Gingrich did, however, deviate from another question to espouse his energy policy. Also, there was no question on Fast and Furious, something of great interest to the voters in Arizona.

As highlights go, it wasn't spectacular, but Wednesday's debate — the 20th nationally televised meeting of Republican candidates during this long campaign — was generally lacking in highlights. There were no dramatic gaffes or stumbles, and few memorable zingers. While the commentators on CNN afterwards offered their own "what did it mean" analyses, it is unlikely that the debate changed many minds.

Newt Gingrich had arguably the best performance of the four finalists for the Republican nomination. CNN's moderator John King was booed when he asked a question submitted by a viewer online: "Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?" This prompted Gingrich to lecture that "not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. If we're going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans." On this one I had to jump up and cheer for Newt, as the audience did. It seems as though I hear more things from Gingrich that I agree with that the other candidates and he is not bashful in attacking the left-wing media — something I like to hear.

The Republican audience in the Mesa Arts Center applauded, but the same "elite media" which ignored Obama's record four years ago are also unlikely to make much of Gingrich's strong debate performance. Gingrich thus did not "win" Wednesday's debate in the same sense that he won the two debates that preceded the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary. Nor did any of the candidates "lose" Wednesday in the same sense that Gingrich lost the two debates preceding the Jan. 31 Florida primary.

And then there was Ron Paul with his “broken record” stump speech on our13299776786238 countless wars and our monetary policy. You can see it Paul’s face and body language that he is passionate on these issues, but to me he comes across as a mean and intolerant person — a typical committed Libertarian. His long-winded speeches on the Federal Reserve and our monetary policy, while important to the future of the Republic, leave the viewer flat. While agreeing that we need to change our monetary policies, Paul never explains in simple language what steps he would take, especially with a divided Congress.

One answer Paul gave, however, made sense when the topic of education came up. Paul said that there was no warrant in the Constitution for the federal government to be involved in education and there was language in the Constitution prohibiting the state for doing so. On this one he was right on target.

After Wednesday's debate, CNN commentators tried to make the case that, because Santorum was not the clear winner, therefore Romney "won." However, Santorum was all smiles in his post-debate interview with the network's Gloria Borger, evidently feeling that, by not losing, he had scored a victory. It was Santorum's first debate since he moved to the top of national polls following his Feb. 7 triple victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. According to the well-established precedent of this campaign cycle, whenever any non-Romney GOP candidate eclipses the former Massachusetts governor in the polls, he either stumbles in debates (Rick Perry), is devastated by scandal (Herman Cain) or is buried in attack ads by Romney, which was the fate suffered twice by Gingrich, first in Iowa and then again in Florida. Santorum committed no Perryesque gaffes in Wednesday's debate and seems unlikely to suffer a Cain-like scandal, which probably means that the Republican campaign from here out will be shaped less by TV debates than by TV advertising. And to secure the money necessary to fight Romney's well-funded campaign in the ad wars, Santorum will be in Texas today for three fund-raising events before returning to the campaign trail Friday in Michigan, scene of next Tuesday's closely-watched primary.

Santorum’s biggest problem is his record in the Congress. His answer on his vote on No Child Left Behind as “taking one for the team” did not go over well with the audience or me. He claimed that while against the NCLB act in principle he voted for it to support President Bush. If he was against it why did he vote for it?

Last night's anti-climactic debate may, in fact, be the last GOP debate of the 2012 campaign. A scheduled March 1 debate in Atlanta was canceled after Romney pulled out. Another debate is scheduled March 19 in Portland, Oregon., but Romney has not yet agreed to participate in that event and would probably only do so if it suits the interests of his own campaign. If Romney can win Michigan and Arizona next Tuesday, and leverages that momentum to do well in the "Super Tuesday" primaries March 6, it is difficult to see why he would give his rivals another shot at him in a TV debate. If Romney should then go on to clinch the nomination, some cynics will look back on the long series of debates and wonder whether it was all just a charade, a stage-managed TV show designed to create an illusion of excitement on the way to the predictable coronation of the Republican establishment's favorite.

I hope this is the last debate. So far these debates have not done much except provide the Democrats sound bites in the fall. Of the four remaining candidates standing Romney has played his cards close to the vest and not generated too many negative sound bites, as Santorum has. Although Santorum leads among GOP voters in the polls (38% - 28% over Romney) he is behind in delegates.

As I wrote about in my blog on how the GOP can win in November it is not the national polls that matter, it’s the state by state polls that you have to look at. I still believe that Romney will have the best chance of beating Obama and we may have to accept that he will be the eventual nominee.

So far Romney has not said anything that has really turned me off. His so-called lack of passion and his perceived lack of debate skill in going against Obama may be legitimate concerns, but he has the fewest sound bites that can be used against him.

Ann Coulter writes in the Patriot Post in her column “What’s Their Problem With Romney:

I'm not sure what part of the Establishment supports Romney. Is it Romney supporter Christine O'Donnell, erstwhile tea party candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware? Am I the face of the Establishment? (If so, the country is going to be just fine.)

I would think that the pristine example of the Republican Establishment is Weekly Standard editor and Fox News contributor Bill Kristol. But he wants anybody but Romney, even proposing that we choose someone not running by means of a contested convention.

Who are we trying to get nominated in a contested convention, anyway?

Without having seen this mystery candidate in action, how do we know he won't be another Rick Perry? You'll recall that Perry was the dream candidate until we saw him talk.

In 2008, Romney was enthusiastically supported not only by Limbaugh and Levin, but also by Sean Hannity, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage and many others who now seem to view Romney as a closet liberal. This is especially baffling because there is no liberal candidate in the Republican primary this year.

Just four years ago, one Republican candidate for president was avowedly pro-abortion (Rudy Giuliani). One had opposed Clinton's impeachment and tort reform (Fred Thompson). One supported amnesty for illegals, restrictions on core First Amendment speech, federal laws to combat nonexistent global warming, and opposed Guantanamo and the Bush tax cuts ("tax cuts for the rich!") and called waterboarding "torture."

That last one was our nominee: John McCain.

This year, every Republican candidate for president opposes abortion, promises to repeal ObamaCare, opposes raising taxes, and on and on. Only one candidate is strong on illegal immigration, which is second only to repealing ObamaCare as the most important issue facing the nation.

That's the alleged liberal, Mitt Romney.”

I am not endorsing Romney, but I think he will be the eventual nominee. He has the backing and the money. He comes off as “presidential” and has high favorables among women and independents.

The most important issue facing this Republic is getting Obama and his Democrat radicals out of office. If Romney is the one to it so be.

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