The current field of Republican hopefuls vying for the opportunity to run against President Obama in 2012 held a CNN-sponsored debate in New Hampshire on Monday, 6-13-2011.
Jennifer, Abigail, and I watched the debate…well, Abigail slept and pooped through it. Though, for the most part, Jennifer and I could also have slept and pooped during it, and it would not have diminished the experience.
Actually, in all seriousness, I think it was a good debate. Anyone who says that we have a weak field is just a political snob. Any one of the seven people who were on that stage Monday night would make a great President, in my opinion. There, of course, is incessant hand-wringing and whining from both ends of the Republican Party. These extremist groups nearly dismiss out of hand the seven people actually running as they breathlessly champion non-declared potential candidates.
They seek an Earthly Savior in the form of a Daniels or West or Huntsman or Perry or Palin or Christie.
Guess what folks. the seven patriots who were actually at the debate are much more likely to be the 2012 candidate than anyone who has yet to jump into the fray. So, let’s stop whining about what we don’t have and concentrate on the immeasurable positives of what we do have.
In any case, I apologize for the lateness of this post…I mean, after all, Monday’s events are like Ancient History, am I right or am I right? But posting about this a few days late belies my strategy for having people read my ramblings. An opinion piece about the debate appearing on Tuesday would just get lost in the million other posts about the same topic. But a post about the debate on SATURDAY…now that’s fresh, original, and new!! I am offering post-Post-Analysis…who else has that??
Getting to the point, I have found that Presidential Debates (particularly Primary Debates) are so subjective that it is foolish to try and declare an ipso facto winner or loser. I listened to and read a few post-debate opinions and was struck by how different individuals percieved things so disparately. Much like the old anecdote of the Nixon-Kennedy debates wherein the story goes that people who listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon won, hands down, while those who watched the debate on Television gave the “victory” to Kennedy.
Because of this, I would like to simply offer my perspectives on what I saw and took in. Feel free to disagree. But, this brings up a concern I have. For people that did not watch the debate, all they have to rely on is what other people have written or said. As I mentioned, there’s really no objective standard to judging a Primary Debate, so people may get false impressions of what actually happened. So, I offer this caveat before I vomit my personal perceptions – watch the dang thing for yourself before you make up your mind. 🙂
I will just use a positive/negative (+/-) system for rating and offer some specific thoughts on people and content.
Format and Presentation = + and –
Kudos to the set designer(s). The stage area was sleek and pleasing to the eye. But the sound bite format and the superfluous use of the big screen to the side that supposedly had live questions/comments from Twitter users made for a distracting experience and kept the debate from reaching it’s full potential.
Moderator John King = a more mediocre than truly bad –
The minute to 30-second answer periods required by the silly format led to the Moderator attempting (and failing) to interject on almost every question. He also didn’t do a great job of making the potential candidates actually answer the questions.
Candidates (in order of their stage position)
Rick Santorum = a low +
Santorum’s positions were clear and communicated effectively. But, on a purely subjective level, he did not “wow” me. It may just be a case of the man and the moment not quite matching up. Santorum would have been a more interesting candidate in 2000 or even 2004 (if he had been his current age and experience at those points). In my opinion, Santorum’s strengths don’t play as well today as they would have in the past.
Michelle Bachmann = + + +
Officially declared her candidacy at the Podium and proceeded to present (through her answers and presence) a compelling case for her nomination. I have seen her in interviews and speeches before, and in one fell swoop on Monday night, she managed to erase any negative impressions I had of her speaking prowess. Absent were any pifalls into shrillness. Her answers were measured and informed and I think she did an amazing job. She is basically Sarah Palin without the immediate (if unfair) negative connotations. My only complaint was that she may have went to the well one too mnay times with her “i have 5 kids and have fostered 23 children” speil, but honestly, in the flawed format of the debate, I can hardly blame her. My advice, keep your eye on Mrs. Bachmann. If she continues like this, she will be a force to be reckoned with…and quite possibly the GOP nominee in 2012 (and therefore, the next president of theUnited States).
Newt Gingrich = a low +
Newt had a pretty rough week leading into the debate, and while his chances of receiving the GOP nomination are fairly slim, he was able to prove why he was looking forward to the debates. He provided excellent, intelligent analysis that was clear and professional. He’d been all over the map over the past few weeks with silly statements coming seemingly from left field. But at the debate, he was anchored and strong…and pretty much right about everything. If he can make his punditry mirror his debate performance, he more than deserves to be a strong voice in the GOP for many, many years.
Mitt Romney = +
No doubt about it, Mitt is very “presidential”. He mostly played it safe, but his personal poise combined with the experience he gained while running last time around really did make him look good. If he is the nominee, I think he will make Obama look like the empty suit that he is in the Presidential Debates. Obviously, he has some liabilities (including, but not limited to the fact that the very unpopular and unConstitutional Obamacare was supposedly modeled after the health care system Romney helped set up while Governor of Massachusetts). There is also his ill-executed pandering to far right folks (like myself) during the 2008 campaign. Bottom line, Romney is more of a moderate, Northern-type Republican…and he should have always presented himself as such.
Tim Pawlenty = a slight –
Cutting to the chase, I would just have to say that Pawlenty didn’t do much to impress. If Romney used to be considered boring, than Pawlenty has all the excitement of a final exam in statistics. He seems to be pretty solid on his positions, but the President is also a figurehead for the country. Our President should inspire. He may be able to improve, but right now, Tim Pawlenty only inspires me to catch up on all the sleep I’ve been missing.
Ron Paul = a surprising (to me) +
Ah. Ron Paul. What can I say? Well a lot, actually…so I will make this brief. Very simply – if he can avoid talking about legalizing heroin and foreign policy, Ron Paul sounds like a genius. Lucky for him, the debate spent about 1.7 seconds talking about foreign policy (and drugs never even came up). In some of his past appearances, he seemed to trot out the Crazy Uncle Cranky Pants side to his personality…but at Monday’s debate he was thankfully more subdued and on message. The debate format hurt him a little bit…in that his answers were constructed to be longer than 30 seconds. So, at times, he seemed to be rambling with silliness… but if you took the time to figure out the substance of what he was saying, he really was right on target. He has always been right in regards to our economy and federal spending (and overreach), so now for the 2012 cycle, when those are the main issues on voters minds, this is kind of his chance to shine. Take away the 9-11 Conspiracy Theorists and the college pot-heads, who make up his main base of support, and he does not seem to have much national appeal. But, whoever does get the Republican nomination (and by proxy, the Presidency in 2012) would do well to heed Congressman Paul’s advice about economic issues.
Herman Cain = a “what happened to Herman?” –
I was most disappointed with Mr. Cain’s performance this time around. He was missing his great personality and instead came across as kind of stern Principal type. Honestly, CNN seemed to be out to get him (they hammered him on his “Muslims in the Cabinet” statement and then seemed to ignore him for the rest of the debate). But, Herman didn’t seem to step up to the plate with any kind of substantive answers. I think he has them…and perhaps, he was merely the only one truly prepared to participate in this particular debate format. But moving forward, I think he has two main tasks: Bring his personality back to the fore (he is easily the most likeable of all the nominees) AND give us some meat.
And that kind of leads me into my last bit of advice for all the potential nominees. You are going to need to walk a fine line. You will have to provide us with some substantive solutions for our nations many ills…BUT you will have to provide these within the framework of a much reduced Federal Government. That’s what people actually want – Solve our problems, but get off our backs (and out of our wallets). I think Federalism will be the key. Weaken the power of the Federal Government by empowering State and Local Governments. I am looking forward to the next debate… and my advice to all the players “waiting in the wings”: Stay off stage this time around. We’ve got what we need.