Down the Ballot

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2nd GOP Debate

Cheryl Senter for The New York Times
Manchester, NH showcased seven of the Republican candidates for President in 2012. Nearly the whole gang was there last night for one of the most interactive presidential debates in US History. Facebook, twitter,, video conferencing were all utilized to help citizens and local media to participate in the debate. Every so often a code came up that you could take a picture of on your smartphone and get special behind the scenes goodies that only smartphone users could have access to.

The Format

Most debates with this many people tend to be little more than talking point and soundbite generating contests. With seven participants it is hard to give really thoughtful policy answers to anything (not that candidates want to give  answers this early, they want to raise their profile and raise money) We are 14 months away November and 8 months away from the first Republican primary. I think voters would be better served by a lot of smaller debates with 2-4 candidates attending each. That way voters can really do some comparison shopping. Also don't let John King moderate another debate. He didn't come off really well, get him back to his big map so he can circle counties that go for Ron Paul.

The Candidates

Not since Elizabeth Dole in 1999-2000 had the GOP seen a woman run for President, and last night Michele Bachmann, handled herself well with all the boys on the stage. She used the answer to her first question to announce her candidacy. I thought she represented herself well. Her past record of major media events has been mixed to say the least; she can't really afford a lot of gaffes on the campaign trail. I did find it interesting that she has been a foster parent to 23 children.

Newt, Newt, Newt. What more can you say. The old Georgia sage came to the debate with his brains fully loaded. He got to the point often in his remarks. "It's Obama's fault". Nearly every answer incorporated a punch at either the President of the Administration. Though for the audience he is trying to win over this may not be a bad play. It certainly doesn't help that a group of his staffers and supporters left enmass last week for other campaigns. Even one of his campaign co-chairs former Governor Sunny Perdue (GA) left him for the more tame T-PAW.

Speaking of T-PAW he seemed rather together last night and not nearly as boring as his first debate appearance. Good for him for working with a speech consultant. Hopefully the next debate he might even be interesting to listen too. I will give him props for sounding like he is open minded on space policy. Though, it could easily mean he's just never had to educate himself on the subject. He did get a big crowd reaction from his Right to Work comments.

Ron Paul....he was there. Yet Governor Gary Johnson wasn't. I donated money to that guy, and dammit, he should have been there. The Baltimore Sun writes about the ever changing criteria for entrance into the debate here. If Gary Johnson plays his cards right over the next few days he can generate a lot of free press and some donations. Johnson was a two term Governor of New Mexico (that's one term more than Mitt Romney!) Shame on the Manchester Union for excluding Johnson, but including Bachmann who wasn't even a declared candidate until she answered her first question. CNN should have stepped in and been the network diplomat.

Herman Cain was present delivering answers in 30 minutes or less or their free! It is really cool to see someone from outside the political sphere break into the clubhouse like he is doing. He is however, starting to show is political inexperience. Hearing him say he would be uncomfortable appointing a Muslim American to his cabinet just screams racism. If anything he's probably being very sincere and honest...but still not a good answer, especially when he said he would ask 'special questions' of them.  Justin Elliot covers this portion of the debate over at Salon,

Rick Santorum was there. He gave a very generic performance. He did not seem as preachy towards the audience as he was at the Fox debate a few weeks ago. I suspect he is probably in the lead of the Tea Party voters as of now with Cain and Bachmann closing in on him. Let's face it Romney, T-PAW, and Newt are not real tea party people, they are merely trying to adjust their sails to match the winds of the times.

Last but not least there was Mitt Romney. He did alright for his first debate performance. Like Newt, he went after President Obama every chance he had. His rhetoric was far and above the other candidates. About every few minutes he would touch on this point in some way, "I think fundamentally there are some people—and most of them are Democrats, but not all—who really believe that the government knows how to do things better than the private sector". If Romney can survive we are going to have some great debates in the fall (that is if he really believes what he just said and sticks with it). His biggest moment of the night is when he had to explain why the American auto industry is no more and how the bailouts failed. Oh wait...GM and Chrysler are doing fine right now. Romney didn't really explain why they didn't work...because by most observers accounts they did work. All he really explained is that he would have done it differently. Last year David Welch wrote about the effects of the Auto Industry bailout at Bloomberg Businessweek. A reasonable position to take might be "I was against the auto industry bailouts in principle, but seeing now that they have worked no harm has been done". Yet for some reason the old reasonable Mitt Romney that was Governor of one of Massachusetts isn't interested in being reasonable anymore.

The Democratic National Committee has already been having some fun with the debate. Here is their response to the things they didn't hear talked about in New Hampshire.

If this election is going to be about Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, the economy needs to pick up. Robert Reich has some interesting things to say on his blog about our current economic situation. There seems to be little happening in Washington DC from either side on the jobs front. One side doesn't want to do anything and the other side is too afraid to do anything.
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