Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 Iowa Republican Primary Debate

I wanted to post this on the night of the debate or the next day, but finals got in the way.  Even though the debate is well behind us and certain events have occurred which make writing about it now seem silly, I still wanna post.  Besides, I took notes and they should be put to good use.

The Winners
Mitt Romney
Let me be upfront: I don't like Mitt Romney.  To me, Romney associates far too closely with the political, who don't seem to fully grasp what's going on, let alone how to fix it.  I don't trust him to make principled stands when the going gets tough.

That said, Romney put up a good performance in the debate, and even though I don't like him, I had to admit that he came out of it looking pretty good.  RomneyCare once again proved to be his weak point, and he took a bit of damage when it came up, but in the end it wasn't enough to really turn the debate against him.  Indeed, while his competition fought and bickered amongst themselves or with the moderators, Romney stayed above the fray and kept his sights set on Obama.  Performance aside, Romney did better than was required.  As the "frontrunner", Romney doesn't need to win people over, he just needs to keep people from jumping over to another candidate.  I believe that Romney not only accomplished that, but may have persuaded some votes his way, or at the very least eased some conservative concerns over his candidacy.

Rick Santorum
Santorum isn't the candidate who gets a lot of attention (and he reminded us of this several times in the debate), but he capitalized on the debate and gave a strong performance.  He came across as a leader and a strong conservative who knew exactly what he was talking about.  His strong performance stands out all the more when compared to his previous, forgettable debate performances.  Just about every question he got asked got a good answer and his performance against Ron Paul was particularly satisfying.  It was refreshing to see a candidate getting just as riled up as I was when Paul blathered on about how Iran has every right to a nuclear weapon, and his reasoning for rejecting abortion in the case of rape was particularly good.  
Unfortunately, this probably won't change too much for Santorum.  He's not a particularly well known candidate, and at the end of the day the media won't give him much attention.  However, Santorum may not win the primary, but he certainly won this debate in my opinion.

Herman Cain
One of the complaints against Cain after the last debate was that he was offering a lot of what he had already said in the previous debate, and wasn't being specific enough on his policy.  He certainly had no problem with that this time around.  Of all the candidates on stage, Cain seemed to be the one most comfortable with the economy.  He spoke about the economy plainly and with ease, but out of all the candidates he seemed to be the one with the best understanding of it.  Being an incredibly gifted rhetorician only made him seem that much more competent and trustworthy.  Unfortunately, the ease with which Cain handled the economy was absent when the questions turned to other areas.  He struggled a bit in other areas, but it wasn't so bad that it truly dragged him down.  In the end, he was still an impressive candidate.
The Losers
Tim Pawlenty
Pawlenty came into this debating knowing that it was his last shot to make something happen, and he was clearly trying to make that something happen.  From the start, Pawlenty went after Bachmann hard, but instead of effectively dismantling Bachmann with intelligent and well thought out arguments, Pawlenty put on a show that was both pathetic and disgusting.  His attacks against Bachmann felt personal, desperate, and rude.  Worse, most weren't even good, and Bachmann took full advantage of that by countering and often times putting Pawlenty on the defensive.  Despite his horrific show, Pawlenty did manage to land a few punches, but wasn't enough to redeem this disgrace.  Pawlenty is done.

As a note:  This was my opinion well before Pawlenty announced this.

Ron Paul 
 I don't like Ron Paul.  I really don't like Ron Paul.  But in the last two debates, Ron Paul wasn't so bad.  There wasn't anything there to like if you came into the debates disliking him, but he did well enough that you could believe some people were impressed with him.  This time, however, Ron Paul put his crazy on full display.  To be sure, you'll probably be impressed with how he can seemingly fit withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan into so many answers.  In fact, Paul seemed more interested in going on his rants than he did in finding actual solutions to problems.  The below video shows it best, watch his reaction after the moderators repeats the question:

Paul's all time low came when he argued that Iran should be allowed to get a nuke, and suggested that we shouldn't worry about Iran making a few nukes since the Soviet Union had 30,000 of them.  The Paulbots ate this nonsense up, but if Paul is serious about winning this nomination then he needs to win new people over.  Rather than tone down the crazy, Paul let his loony rants drive people off.  Thank God.

Everyone Else
Michelle Bachmann
Bachmann came into the debate in a strong position. Before Perry entered the race, she was Romney's chief competitor, and was the frontrunner in Iowa.  Much like Romney, the status quo would be a sufficient enough victory for this debate, but she needed a win much more than Romney; especially with Perry's entrance.  Although Bachmann did well in her scrap against Pawlenty, she didn't walk away unscathed.  Most of Pawlenty's attacks were nonsense, but he did manage to point out that Bachmann doesn't have the most impressive record.  Indeed, one could argue that she's similar to Obama in 2008.  Bachmann didn't lose this one, but with Perry now in the race she will find herself in a precarious position.  At some point not-losing is no longer acceptable.
Jon Huntsman
Huntsman is odd.  I'm not quite sure why he's in the race to be honest; it seems like a waste of time for himself and for his supporters.  However, I will say that Huntsman put up a pretty decent show in the debate.  He wasn't the most memorable person stage, but then again he's not a "serious" candidate.  I came away thinking that Huntsman wasn't so bad, and I was especially fond of his stance on Civil Unions and Gay Marriage since it utilizes the same logic as my own.  It was nice having him there, but it'd be better if he wasn't there so other candidates could get more time.
Newt Gingrich 
Gingrich went into this debate as a man with nothing to lose, and acted like it.  When Gingrich didn't like a question, he went after the moderator, and he invoked the image of Reagan whenever he could.  He was angry and passionate, and it played pretty well.  A lot of people came out of this debate with him as a winner, but I couldn't put him in that column.  For one, I found his arguing with the moderator to be off putting.  I think the moderator has a valid question in asking Gingrich about his staff leaving him; after all, if you can't organize and run your campaign, how will you run the nation?  Gingrich could of scored some points if he handled it gracefully, but instead he decided to make it clear that he wasn't happy with the question.  He was later asked another question he didn't like, and went after the moderator again.  This time he seemed a bit more justified, but the act wore thin the second time around.

All of that aside, I really like angry Newt.  I don't think Newt stands any chance at all of winning the nomination, but I do enjoy his contribution to the debates.  
Romney is thinking about Cain for VP
One of the reasons I felt that Cain deserved to be listed as a winner was because of the rather odd boost he got from Romney.  At the start of the debate, Romney twice used Cain's name, and both times he was speaking positively and trying to make a distinction between them and the rest of the field by playing up their business experience.  I had previously wondered if Romney would select Cain as his VP since Cain is a favorite amongst conservatives (while Romney is not), Cain is popular in the South (while Romney is not), and Cain is an incredible speaker who would be an effective weapon in a campaign against Obama.  It seemed like that much more of a natural fit when you consider how attractive a businessman/businessman ticket would be in an election all about the economy.  This is just speculation, and Romney saying his name twice isn't a lot to go on, but it did reinforce my belief that Romney is strongly considering Cain for his VP choice should he win the nomination.

Pawlenty backing Romney?
During the debate Pawlenty was given another chance to attack Romney over ObmneyCare.  When he was last given this chance, he declined with catastrophic results.  This time around, he took it, but his attack was so soft that he seemed like he was a small child caught up in Romney's glory.  His behavior was all that much more noticeable when put beside his vicious attacks on Bachmann.  It seems pretty clear to me that Pawlenty really likes Romney.  With Pawlenty now out of the race you have to wonder if he'll endorse Romney. Of course, he could end up backing Perry for the same reasons. Regardless, there's no solid reason to think he will, but it's an interesting thought.

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