Down the Ballot

Friday, May 20, 2011

The First Debate of 2012

The first GOP presidential debate took place in Greenville, South Carolina this last week. It featured a few of the many candidates expected to be in the race.
Congressman Ron Paul (TX), Herman Cain (Georgia), Former Governor Tim Pawlantey (MN) Former Senator Rick Santourm (PN) and Former Governor Gary Johnson (NM) were the five that showed up in what many consider the first true primary for the Republican party. New Hampshire and Iowa have tended to lean Democratic and there is a good mix in state between Democrats and Republicans holding state and federal offices. In South Carolina 8/9 statewide elected officials are Republicans, 7/8 federal office holders are Republicans. Both houses of the state legislature are controlled by the Republican party so this is prime ground to judge a Republican presidential candidate.

The debate was pretty much just like any other large media event. Big questions were asked of the candidates and little to no time was given for them to articulate answers. You can watch the full debate online.

Winners: Herman Cain, Tim Pawlantey. They both came off very strong in the debate. Cain probably scored some more points than usual because of his lack of government experience and his loads of experience in the private sector. This debate raised his name ID among activists and business interests. The longer the other big fish stay out of the debates the more chances Cain will get to stand out. What happens to him when Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and the others make their presence known is anyone's guess. The longer they stay out the longer Cain gets to stay.

Pawlantey came out on top of the other candidates for the fact that he was the biggest fish in the bowl, but other than that he was a bit dull. When the more dynamic Romney and the more colorful Gingrich enter the scene he'll get ignored if he doesn't find some charisma.

Losers: Rick Santorum. What can I say... this guy is an ass. He came off very judgmental and his holier than thou attitude was very negative. His bible is the only bible that counts, his morality is better than yours. He could possibly get some of Mike Huckabee's former supporters now that Huckabee is not going to be a candidate, but who knows what social conservatives will do with this very not so social conservative field of candidates.

Gary Johnson had a very underwhelming performance. He has the makings of a great candidate, but he needs to pull them all together. He could  attract young libertarians as well as older, more moderate Republicans who are turned off by Ron Paul. Yet the worst thing to happen to him was the vanity campaign of Ron Paul. Johnson has ideas that appeal to liberals and conservatives, but he can only get so far with send the troops home and legalize pot in a Republican primary.

Ron Paul...Wrong could he be the Republican Ralph Nader. Paul is gearing up for his third campaign for president. In 2008 his campaign seemed legitimate until McCain secured enough delegates, then his campaign became an excuse to travel the country hawking his book. He did secure the biggest 'pop' from the audience when advocated a McGovernish like stance of "Come Home America" by sending troops home from Afghanistan.

Overall I think Gary Johnson had the best response to the situation in Afghanistan, "That's what our military is for, and after six months, I think we pretty effectively had taken care of al Qaeda. But that was 10 years ago. We are building roads, schools, bridges and highways in Iraq and Afghanistan and borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar do that. In my opinion, this is crazy." I hope there is some polling on Afghanistan done sometime soon to see where most Americans are on the war. It would be interesting to see who is still supporting it. 

So the first of 100+ debates of 2012 is done and over with. What a relief. I hope the next one includes Romney and Gingrich. From the sound of the South Carolinians who were part of the Fox focus group afterwards by skipping the first debate they did not make many friends. Which in general is never a good idea. Don't skip debates.
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