My thoughts on the debate (as it unfolds). (Note to the reader – all “quotations” will be paraphrases as I try to do this while they speak.)
Left-to-Right: Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson. Obviously I’m a Ron Paul fan amongst these guys. While the others may tentatively believe in smaller government, less government, lower spending – Ron Paul is the only one who seems to believe in a less powerful government.
Santorum and Pawlenty seems to be the George W. Bush-like candidates. Modestly conservative, but don’t get outside party lines on foreign policy (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq). No questions yet on economy, just foreign policy. Herman Gain seems like a nice guy but just doesn’t come off well politically – he needs some seasoning as a candidate. Johnson is playing as a legitimate conservative, the most “Paulian” of the others.
Santorum and Pawlenty dancing around previous statements on torture, claiming Obama now supports it, and moving uncomfortably as prior red-meat comments are brought out.
Twice now the moderator has given a “raise your hands” question (stupid). This time it is on waterboarding. Paul opposes, Santorum them picks the wrong fight, taking it back to Paul. Not a good idea. Ron Paul’s supporters are die-hards, fundamentalists for freedom. They don’t mind letting a Republican spin in the general election if he’s gone out-of-the-way to attack their guy. Honestly, just not smart to start attacking any of the other candidates in the debate – Obama is the only target the audience will care about. Santorum looks really weak.
Economy questions now. Herman Cain talks well on business. Tim Pawlenty has sounded like a reasonable candidate on just about every question, including the economic question. Santorum is just flailing as the panel brings up his past record.
Juan Williams takes a shot a tax-cuts in an economic question to Pawlenty. (Williams is such a lib.) Pawlenty takes it right back to the Obama administration’s refusal to allow Boeing to relocate to South Carolina (an obvious payoff to the unions). Seriously questionable policy move by the administration – why can’t a company move to a new state without the government’s approval? Is this a fascist country, or a free one?
First Commercial Break. Grades so far:
- Ron Paul: A- (shocker – I’m a big Ron Paul fan … that said, he’s come off a bit harsh on some of his answers)
- Herman Cain: B- (decent answers, but not a polished communicator)
- Tim Pawlenty: A- (Not my favorite on principles, but he’s playing this game exceedingly well)
- Rick Santorum: C (Quickly playing his way out of the race … in the first debate)
- Gary Johnson: B (good answers, but kind of on the fringe of “who cares”)
Ron Paul: “Don’t raise the debt ceiling, we probably won’t default, but even if we do, so what. Need to eliminate the Federal Reserve.”
Herman Cain: “Eliminate the IRS and Income Tax – replace with Fair Tax.” I like this guy’s spunk, but he doesn’t talk like a limited-government guy, just a “we can do things better” guy; and we can, but that’s not my interest.
Gary Johnson loses his cool. “There have been like 9 questions for these guys and none for me!” – tantrums don’t go well in these things, Gary.
Some tough questions coming from the panel – good to see.
Back to foreign policy. Pawlenty dances on Libya – but turns it to “Qaddafi has American blood on his hands.” Perhaps not a great policy position he’s staked out, but he managed the question well. Santorum flails again.
Ron Paul takes a question on Israel – out of the park. “If Israel needs to deal with Iran that’s their business. They need to manage their security. Quite frankly, they’ve become too dependent on us and can’t work toward peace with a country that we might not like. We need to get rid of all of our foreign aid and militarism.” He really is answering all the questions well.
Gary Johnson on abortion: “I support a woman’s right to choose, up until viability of the fetus” – you just lost me Gary. Please, define viability for me. Is it when a baby can survive? If so, with how much medical support? By the way, this is changing as medical technology improves. Further, “support” can come in many forms. I have a 15 month-old baby and I find it highly unlikely that he would survive long without the help of some adult somewhere. Is he not viable? I think he is. Viability misses the point – and misses badly.
More pulling out past statements and making candidates uncomfortable. It’s good theater. Pawlenty squirms on Intelligent Design, but ultimately fields the question well. Santorum tries to wiggle with some “women working and radical feminism” comment … not a clean answer.
Ron Paul – wrecking shop! “I need the government to make heroine illegal – if they don’t I’ll start using it tomorrow. I need the government to take care of me, somebody make me a law!” Awesome! Gary Johnson chimes in with a pro-legalization statement and record. Great to see 2 of 5 candidates talking decriminalization of personal moral decisions on drug use.
Herman Cain – ardent pro-lifer. Rock-on man, I’m with you. No, you won’t win, but I like you. Apparently Cain called somebody “pro-choice” for supporting abortion rights in the case of rape or incest. I agree with Cain here. The “rape and incest” argument doesn’t make sense. If our argument against abortion is an argument for life, then “rape and incest” implies that being a victim of these crimes gives someone a right to commit murder. This is utterly convoluted. If you support abortion rights for “rape and incest” then why not “up until birth”?
Cain missed his shot at putting himself in the running though. When asked “why do you think you have a chance?” he responded “I’m not a politician, how is it working out for you, America, with all these politicians running things?” He should have responded “what, are you saying a black man can’t win in America?” (by the way, Herman Cain is black). That would’ve been the show-stopping moment of the debate.
Can Santorum get more awful? (OK, I know, I’m beating a dead horse.)
Missed the last few minutes of the debate (cleaning up). Final Grades:
- Ron Paul: A- (Really had sharp positions, just not as clean in the communication as he could have been)
- Tim Pawlenty: A- (Best politician in the group. Still not my favorite on the principles, but I do believe he’ll be strong fiscally.)
- Herman Cain: B+ (Came on strong at the end. Still not a clean politician but is making a name for himself in the arena)
- Gary Johnson: C+ (Didn’t come off well at all. Good positions on some issues, but really did not appear to be a “grown-up”)
- Rick Santorum: D (Awful. Done. Hang it up now Rick. Use this as a launch point for a media career or something of the like.)
Lots of names that were not in the debate: Gingrich, Trump, Huckabee, Palin, Bachman. Will be interesting to see what movement looks like in the next few days.
Some post-debate interviews with Republican voters. Interesting, they’re rating it Cain #1 then Santorum #2. Wow! Santorum was horrible – absolutely horrible. No shot at this thing. Oh well. I suspect the national reaction will be somewhat different.