Thursday, August 11, 2011

Election 2012: The Ames Debate

Election 2012: Ames Debate

Nobody could have accused FoxNews of cuddling Republicans tonight as the panel asked pointed questions of the GOP presidential contenders, contrasting their rhetoric with their record.

Quick notes in order of “winner”.

Mitt Romney- The former Massachusetts barely had a follicle on his scalp molested. The frontrunner prior to the debate walks out of Ames a double-winner- he retains his front runner status while not blowing the cash on the Ames straw poll shakedown that did little to help him in the Hawkeye State’s caucuses.

Rick Santorum- If Santorum had been re-elected US Senator in 2006, he’d be a big part of the conversation. Instead the Pennsylvanian is putting all of his chips on Iowa out of necessity. Santorum focused on his commitment to bring back to America manufacturing jobs that have been sailing to east Asia for years, breaking out of his familiar social conservatism. He presented well when he was given the limelight, though obviously exasperated with so much attention being given to other candidates. Santorum’s performance might allow him to slip into the top three in the Ames straw poll. Santorum also had the quote of the night, contrasting leadership with showmanship.

Michele Bachmann- She got visibly steamed, mysteriously vanished from the stage and was called out on her thin record of actual accomplishments on Capitol Hill, but the Iowa-native (as the congresswoman eagerly points out) was given a gift in the form of a question about a comment (taken out of context) related to being submissive to her husband. No doubt many people found the query tasteless though Bachmann fielded it in stride. Bachmann’s expected first place finish in the straw poll was not upset but the congresswoman showed she doesn’t handle sparring well. That doesn’t bode well as a viable candidate and should concern even those who find her positions agreeable.

Newt Gingrich- Receiving a less than enthusiastic reception before he opened his mouth, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives also showed some thin skin though he built sympathy with the audience by criticizing Chris Wallace and the media in general’s obsession with inside politics. Gingrich’s reaction to a question about his campaign operation’s meltdown brought forth a comparison to Ronald Reagan’s angry rant when a debate moderator refused to accommodate a request during the 1980 New Hampshire primary. But poor posture and a seemingly permanent chip on the shoulder attitude didn’t inspire visions of a political resurrection.

Tim Pawlenty- Though the former Minnesota governor did not have the worst performance, Pawlenty needed to almost dominate. Instead he launched into a rickety critique of RomneyCare after a patronizing setup by the panelists and engaging in a back-and-forth with Bachmann. Pawlenty’s candidacy is sinking fast (and this is coming from someone who is sympathetic to it) and might not survive a fourth place Ames straw poll finish combined with Rick Perry’s entry.

Herman Cain- The populist black conservative candidate found himself fending off questions that imply he’s a religious bigot. His concession that he was not well-schooled on the particulars of Afghanistan further undermine his candidacy’s credibility.

Ron Paul- Same rhetoric, better fitting suit. Same over-eager supporters screaming like they’re at a pro-wrestling match that marginalizes Paul as a candidate. Surely his movement has to have a better pitchman.

Jon Huntsman- So former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer and ex-New Mexico governor Gary Johnson get left out the debates but this guy is invited? Huntsman had an erratic delivery and seemed unprepared and unpolished. A poor introduction to Republican primary voters.

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