The Republican debate rolled into sunny Orlando Florida Thursday night. The moderator is one of the best newsmen still on TV; FOX News host Bret Baier. Pitching relief are Fox personalities, Megan Kelley, and Chris Wallace, with video Q’s from normal folk on You Tube. No BS with Bret, intro for the candidates was name only and right to the questions. Take notes CNN, Fox and NBC know how to run debates. Fox really rubbed it in CNN’s face as they busted out all the technology and really amped up the interaction from around the country. They had regular people asking real questions. Not a FOX guy by any stretch but Bret is impressive and FOX uses $100 bills as napkins in the company cafeteria. All that adds up to a professional and smooth production.
One update to the lineup tonight. Former Gov. of New Mexico Gary Johnson, a fiery left hander who hails from Minot, North Dakota, managed to get his polling numbers into the 1 percentile required for attendance. A low/no tax libertarian, he may mix it up with Congressman Ron Paul, IF Paul gets asked a question. After his Sept 11th answer fiasco that is a big IF. So we are in for a treat, a rare night game at the Orlando Metro-Omni-Plex, and we’re underway.
Ron Paul: Not much to say here. He has run out the string. The college kids will keep his poll numbers high enough to stay in the debates, then he’ll run his own convention as he did in 2008. He ends the debate by saying “I won’t answer the VP question. I’m a top tier candidate now so it would be undignified.” 2 points: not sure what tier he’s referring to and Ron if you have to say you’re a top tier guy, you aren’t one. I would refer you to Palin’s “I’m a maverick” business from ’08’.
Rick Santorum: He really put up a fight tonight. Unfortunately he was getting questions because Brett Baier is smart. He knew Santorum would mix it up and Bachmann would not. Rick pulled a fast one though and sounded the best on foreign policy with respect to Israel. He’s been at this a while and he made Perry sound like a high-school freshman on the subject. When Perry also seemed to know nothing about Pakistan, Santorum showed he has a firm grasp on that area of the world. Too bad Santorum has an equally loose grasp on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Swing and a miss Rick. Sadly the DADT question came from a gay military member in Iraq via You Tube. The crowd booed his question. Nice. So much for supporting the troops. Rick says he would throw the lad out if he was gay, he is Rick. Bad move Rick. Show him what he won Brett.
Newt Gingrich: Smart move by Fox. They let Megan Kelly ask Newt the first 2 questions he received. Immediately disarmed him. He even made a nice joke. You could see him calculating the alimony and Tiffany’s shopping spree it would cost him to get with Kelly. Newt, realizing he won’t be bashing the moderator tonight, goes back to yesteryear with most of his answers. Starts his final answer with “32 years ago we zzzzzzzzz.” Then begs off the “who’s your VP pick if you had to pick someone on the stage.” Sissy.
Gary Johnson: Johnson is a small business guy who set up a handyman shop in New Mexico in the early 70’s. He’s a Libertarian who believes in little to no government. He, like Paul, wants to abolish the Dept. of Education. Spent his 3 questions trying to get his platform out there. He’s playing catch up, but it won’t be nearly enough. Wins best joke of the night with “My neighbor’s dog has created more shovel ready jobs than this President.” Smart is good.
He looks much younger than he actually is (58) and is 2-0 in politics. He ran for Gov. of NM and then won his re-election bid. The last guy to do that became President. Free twinkie if you can guess who. A fried twinkie if you tell me the state the person in question was governor of. Leave your answer in the comment section.
Herman Cain: Holy cow, momma take me home I have seen enough to know I have seen too much. Wallace actually asked the Herminator about his 999 economic plan. No more shilling on the post debate TV interviews. He even squeezed in a reference to the Chilean model. Still have no idea what it is or how it affects the economy but he ended his answer with “That dog won’t hunt” so it must be a good plan.
Herm gets a standing “O” when the moderator asks him about being a cancer survivor during health care question. As with all candidates his health care answer is to repeal the President’s health care plan. Good for Cain that he never used his cancer fight in the campaign. Shows some character in my book.
Michelle Bachmann: She has really drifted. Back to 28 children for the education question, she’s shadow boxing herself at this moment. Once the questions got past education and onto immigration and foreign policy she became eerily quiet. She forced her way into the foreign policy debate to quote – wait for it – a government web site with stats related to terror suspects from Cuba.
Wallace hit Bachmann between the eyes about the HPV vaccine causing retardation. She blamed the mother who said it and then attacked Perry over the mandate. She got a question from Kelly about Thomas Jefferson on the constitutionality of church and state. She would have done well to actually have read the constitution on that issue before answering. Strike 3 looking. Didn’t even take the bat off her shoulder. Goodbye Michelle.
Jon Huntsman: Won the award for the first Ronald Reagan reference of the night. Let it go Jon, the man wouldn’t even be allowed in the Republican Party now. The remainder of Huntsman’s answers drew praise – from liberals. Now the 2nd smartest in the room next to Gov Johnson, he is the only democrat, he just doesn’t know it yet. He would get farther running a primary challenge to the President.
Mitt Romney: Perry took it to Mitt early and Mitt busted him in the snot locker. Perry took a real cheap shot at Mitt during the education question and Mitt ripped a forehand winner down the line. 30 – love, Mr Romney at that point for those of you scoring at home. The book Perry wrote 6 months ago is really coming back to hurt him. Might be a reason no GOP candidate went after Mitt in the last 4 debates because when challenged tonight, he bloodied Perry. No one else really took a shot at Mitt. The rest can’t afford the body blows Perry can. Although even Perry can’t go to that well too many more times.
Why is Romney 1 of 2 only people in the front seat of this clown car called the GOP primary candidates – he kept quite during immigration. He knows Gov Perry has that issued nailed down. That’s called being smart. Romney was firing on all 8 cylinders tonight. He kept giving Perry one liner back handed slaps all night.
Rick Perry: Perry really walked back his Social Security attacks. Spent a big amount of time reassuring people on SS and approaching SS that they are fine, even super duper fine. Perry recovered from his Mitt beat down during the immigration section. He truly has a good program in Texas. The problem – it is the basis of the President’s dream act which was voted down last December, allowing illegal aliens the chance to go to state university (TX version of UT) on state funds and work toward citizenship. Tea party don’t play that. Free education for illegals doesn’t even play well with democrats. But then to say a person has no heart if they don’t support his plan must have sent his tea party base to the booze. He is also against the fence. Why in the world is the fence only championed by northerners like Mitt, Santorum, Bachmann, etc… Their experience with illegal immigration – drunk Canadians coming over for the Bruins – Maple Leaf games without a valid DL.
Perry needs to stick one of his cowboy boots up the hind parts of who ever prepared him on the foreign policy section. His answers were gibberish and he knew next to nothing. Good thing they didn’t ask him who the president of Pakistan is. (His Excellency Mr. Asif Ali Zardari for those playing the home version) The Gov needs to work on his stamina, literally. For the 3rd debate in a row he looked tired as we moved to the 4th quarter. Not a good look for a potential President.
The “I could have lived without that image” award goes to Perry for saying he would mate Newt and The Herminator for his VP choice. Thank God dinner was 3 hrs ago.
Final Analysis: No real shake up in the order of things from this debate. Perry is still the front runner but Romney is now on Perry’s outside fender and closing. Romney was the only candidate talking to the American people. What does that mean? Well Mitt appears to be looking to the general election while Perry, et al are still appealing to the GOP base. The problem is it gets harder to pivot to a general campaign the longer you use the language of incendiary partisanship. In Fox focus group room, most of the 40 or so people said Mitt won the debate. 6 of those have switched from supporting Perry to Mitt. Buckle up sports fans, the clown car is just getting started.
Note: On the right side of the blog is a link for the complete GOP primary debate schedule. See you at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire on 11 October.