I saw most of the GOP debate last night. A basic problem with the format is that when you have an 8-way debate, with 1-minute answers, that invites a certain amount of posturing and grandstanding. Candidates have to resort to over-the-top rhetoric and hyperbolic sound bites just to make their mark, to stand out and be memorable.
He wasn’t there, but his name came up. He may well be a major player when he shortly gets into the race. However, he has two potential liabilities:
i) He recently classified both abortion and sodomite marriage as states’-rights issues, then backpeddled.
ii) He hasn’t been tested in a national campaign, or even a national debate.
He has a lot going for him on paper. His major problem is stylistic, but in politics, presentation matters. He has the natural demeanor of a Sunday school teacher. He doesn’t project the image or temperament of a natural leader.
He’s become acutely aware of his soft, nice-guy image, and so he sometimes overcompensates by acting rough and tough. But it’s strained and unconvincing.
Not surprisingly, Gingrich was well-spoken, if a bit testy. He’s nothing if not articulate. Indeed, that’s both his strength and his weakness. However, he can’t afford to be too prickly and thin-skinned if he expects to succeed in his presidential bid. The coverage will be ruthless and relentless.
Romney is like a franchise: he churns out a very predictable, standardized performance. He’s strong on economic issues, which is a big deal in this election.
He drew technical distinctions between Obamacare and Romney care. The distinctions were correct, but miss the point: should gov’t, whether federal, state, or local, be allowed to make citizens purchase goods and services they don’t want and/or don’t need?
She was cool, poised, and focused under pressure. But she suffers from three potential liabilities:
i) If she’s the nominee, the mainstream media will try its best (or worst) to Bork her. And, while that’s unfair, she’s an easier target than someone like T-Paw.
ii) She spreads herself very thin. She does lots of speaking engagements. She has a large family.
As a result, she has a tendency to wing it, which makes her vulnerable to gaffes. She lacks the detailed mastery of facts you get from a single-minded policy wonk.
That’s not a criticism of her priorities, but if you get a reputation for gaffes, that can be politically damaging.
iii) An issue which both T-Paw and Santorum raised is her lack of legislative accomplishments and/or executive experience. Can she get things done? Can she broker deals? Are lost causes her cause in life?
To some extent, this is difficult to assess. A Congressional lawmaker isn’t comparable to a governor.
Likewise, to pass signature legislation, you need seniority, and you need to belong to the party in power. She hasn’t had much opportunity to rack up a constructive record.
I’m always ambivalent about Ron Paul.
i) He’s the only candidate on the stage who would truly downsize our bloated Federal gov’t–if he had the chance. However, even if he were elected president, I doubt he’d succeed in radically scaling back the size of the Federal gov’t. That’s not something a president can do unilaterally. There too many special interest groups with a stake in the nanny state, and too many voters addicted to the nanny state.
ii) I don’t see the point of the gold standard. Gold has no intrinsic value. And its value is ultimately valued in national currencies, like the dollar. It’s no more stable than the dollar, or euro.
iii) His isolationist rhetoric has more resonance for a war-weary nation.
The problem is that Ron Paul’s ideology is so formulaic that it has prepared answers for every issue. It doesn’t allow for rational discrimination. Facts don’t matter, for it’s the same answer in every situation.
a) Take his notion that terrorists should be accorded full due process rights. This fails to draw an elementary distinction: we should treat like situations alike, and unlike situations unalike.
A foreign terrorist is not equivalent to an American citizen. Likewise, a terrorist is not equivalent to a house burglar.
A terrorist will game the system. Exploit this system to destroy the system. And the risk factors are far higher.
Given the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. That means a foreign-born terrorist will probably be acquitted in a federal court of law. The odds favor acquittal.
b) Likewise, take his comparison between Iran and Cold War Russia. The reason that MAD worked is that communist leaders were in no hurry to die. They didn’t believe in the afterlife.
Jihadis have a very different outlook. To the jihadi, pushing the red button gets you 72 renewable virgins in paradise.
For some reason, Santorum has a hard time getting traction. In general, I think he’d make a fine president. I’m not quite sure why he doesn’t catch on with GOP voters.
Ironically, because he has a more combative personality than T-Paw, he can be more aggressive without seeming mean or petty, unlike T-Paw, when T-Paw acts out-of-character to do his (bad) tuff-guy impersonation.
He raises an important, but vexed issue, about states’ rights. To what extent do individual states have the right to wrong their citizens?
Cain turned in a fairly solid performance, but he wasn’t a standout in this debate.
Not only are his social views out of sync with the religious right (which is a dominant faction in the GOP), but he came across as nervous, quavery, and insecure. Like a cat facing down a big dog. There was also the tiresome trope about how “proud” he is of his record. But to keep repeating how proud you are doesn’t give the audience a reason to share your pride.