Newt Gingrich: Phoenix Rising or Leader Emeritus? Can Newt be the Next Frontrunner?

  Bookmark and Share  While Mitt Romney maintains a steady 25% in most Republican presidential polls, the polling numbers for other candidates have seen wide fluctuations that provide them with five minutes of fame in frontrunner status. That has been a phenomenon mainly to the desire of the G.O.P. base to find a viable alternative to Romney that they can get excited about. For a while that alternative was Mike Huckabee Mitch Daniels, and Donald Trump.  Then it was  Michele Bachmann, and soon after her it was Rick Perry.  When Perry stepped in and did not meet expectations, the enthusiasm shifted back towards the hope that a new name would jump in to the race.  Paul Ryan again declined and then Chris Christie spent an hour in a press conference convincing people that he was not running.  Soon after that, Herman Cain catapulted to the top.

At the moment, Cain still remains in the lead in several state and national polls, but it is a slim lead that seems to be slowly fading.  Meanwhile Romney stays mired in the mid twenties.

So what’s next?

Will Cain build on his lead?

It is possible but not very likely.

Herman Cain has had a few hiccups such as his contradictory remarks regarding abortion.  These bumps in Cain’s road to the White House have stalled his momentum a bit and it provides a little space for a new name to move up in the polls.  And while Cain can certainly recapture that momentum, he is still quite limited in the sense that he has not been able to coordinate any significant organizational strength on the ground in any of the early states.  Without such organizational strength, high poll numbers are in truth artificially inflated.  Coordination of an operational organization that keeps a close track on voters is the only way to insure that those high poll numbers translate in to actual votes.

But between now and when the first votes in Iowa take place, perception is the name of the game.  Voter perceptions will continue to be the driving force behind the polling numbers and if I am right, I believe that perceptions will soon find Cain being viewed in a much dimmer light and cause Newt Gingrich’s name to the forefront.

As Rick Perry focusses on tearing Romney down instead of building himself up, and as Herman Cain is forced to waste time correcting and explaining himself, candidates like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul will continue to look for opening that will let them get in to contention.  Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich has recently found his opening.  An average of polls as indicated by Real Clear Politics, shows that Newt Gingrich is practically tied with Ron Paul for third place.  Paul’s numbers are basically as high as they can go in a Republican primary or caucus.  That essentially leaves Newt as the candidate in third place and that ultimately gives Newt Gingrich the best chance to become America’s next new Top Model………….,  I mean candidate.

Up to now, Newt has been running g a low-key campaign.  That is mainly due to the fact that he has had no choice in the matter.  His fundraising has been relatively meager, many conservatives have not wanted to give Newt much of a chance because of his personal marital infidelities, and the establishment has not wanted to give Newt much consideration because of what they see as a general image problem that makes Newt unelectable.

But all that may change and Gingrich is ready to force that change upon voters.

Mitt Romney is eventually going to have to move in one direction or another.  He will have to break out of the mid-twenties and break in to the at least the low  to mid-thirties.  Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen until Romney wins a primary or caucus other than New Hampshire, where he is an obvious favorite.  Until Republicans who are apprehensive or unhappy with Romney have concrete reasons to resign themselves to an inevitability of Romney winning the nomination, they will either remain on the fence or commit themselves to another candidate.  Right now, Rick Perry, the candidate seen as having the most potential to be the alternative candidate,  is not picking up many votes and he is not having an impact on the 25% that Romney steadily maintains.

Perry also has many troubling hurdles.  While his Republican rivals will continue to chip away at his strong suit……..job creation, and hammer away at his unpopular illegal immigration positions, Perry is stuck with other problems.  He is not good on the stump.  Perry does not do well in unscripted environments.  Whenever he is left to his own devices, he fumbles and stumbles and does not portray the type of command of the issues and confidence that is necessary.   While in time, he may improve, right now there is little room for on the job campaign training.

As for the others, Herman Cain faces the same problem and I believe that he and his cornerstone 9-9-9 plan are not going to hold up to the scrutiny that comes with being a frontrunner for very long.  Ron Paul has hit his usual 8 to 14 percent ceiling of support, Bachmann will fight for her life and exhaust her resources in Iowa to compete for a stop spot and in the end, she might pull off a win in Iowa but that is becoming increasingly unlikely and even if she does take the Iowa caucuses, she will have little ability to translate that in to a victory in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada or any other contested races.

In regards to Rick Santorum, while he will campaign well, he has not demonstrated an ability to catch on with voters and without any significant money available to him, it is not possible for him to become a contender for the top spot.

This leaves Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson.

Johnson is just not a factor and will not be.  He is investing all his time and very limited resources in New Hampshire where he is counting on pulling off a miraculous upset victory over Mitt Romney and suddenly become the man to beat.  But that won’t happen.  Huntsman may be able to surprise many with a second place finish in the Granite State but that too is unlikely.  And regardless of how well he does, he will not gain the type of momentum from his New Hampshire finish that can  propel him to a top spot in South Carolina, Nevada, and/or Florida.

This leaves Newt Gingrich with multiple windows of opportunities to become the next best alternative to Mitt Romney and the next flavor of the month, or at least the week and he knows it.  He already believes that he has a chance to do well in New Hampshire, and states that Romney does not have a lock on that state’s primary. And he may be right.  That is why Gingrich is finally building an organization in New Hampshire.  More so than any of the other candidates, Newt has the potential to sneak up on Romney, a state which recent primary history has shown to be the scene of many surprises.  If Newt has the resources, he could take advantage of New Hampshire by pulling off a surprise second place showing.  That would be a great start to the firewall Newt has stated that he will build in South Carolina.  With a good showing in New Hampshire, Gingrich may be able to build what could more accurately be called a large sand dune in South Carolina, but not a firewall. Nonetheless, he can establish himself there and turn what is currently a campaign to talk about in passing, in to a campaign that grabs the headlines——positive headlines.

Leading up to the first nominating contests, in order for any of this to be possible, Newt can and must begin to take control of the agenda through successful strategic messaging.  By turning his numerous ideas in to the topics of discussion, he can quietly rise in the polls, as he has already been doing, but at a significantly faster rate.

If and when that happens it will be quite possible for Newt Gingrich to make his move and turn the nomination contest in to a two or three man race between himself, Mitt Romney and either Herman Cain or Rick Perry.  If that does occur, all bets are off because Newt can not be underestimated.  He is a man of superior intellect and his ideologically passion can be infectious among conservatives.   Add to that the undeniable fact that Newt is a  figure who has helped shape contemporary conservative thinking and what you have  is a candidate who in a mano y mano environment, will allow Newt to score many points and finally begin to tap in to all that is needed to unite critical factions of the electorate into a winning coalition of voters, a coalition that even includes the TEA Party.

While Newt is not considered a darling of the TEA movement he has the ability to tap into them and win them over. In New Hampshire he has already begun to tap in to the TEA Party.  He recently hired Andrew Hemingway, a Tea movement activist and former state chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, as his state campaign director.  In line with his potential TEA movement appeal, while Newt was once part of the establishment, he is far from an establishment thinker or player and that bodes well for him in an anti-establishment electorate.  When it comes to the conservative base of the Party, few true conservatives can turn their back on Newt if he positions himself as “the’ alternative to Romney.  Social conservatives may still put their noses up at Newt, but their vote may be end up being divided between players like Cain, Perry, Bachmann, and even Santorum.

Of course none of this is definite.  Newt has been reluctant to demonstrate a willingness to allow his campaign to operate in carefully structured environment, and while that may be refreshing and have a degree of popular appeal, it prevents Newt from avoiding pitfalls and from organizing the type of ground game that is needed to keep support once you get it.  However, as demonstrated by his new hires in New Hampshire and the opening of 5 offices in  New Hampshire, there are signs that he is resigning himself to the reality of the need to employ some type of  basic and traditional campaign structure.

All of this leads me to suspect that Newt is the next name to become the focus for the Republican presidential nomination.  The question is, will he have the ability and resources to keep his name at the top once he gets his turn, or will he fall back into the ashes like others have done?   The answer  will either start a new chapter for Newt as President or close the book on his political career and forever remain simply, the former Speaker of the House.

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Is Cain Trying in Iowa?

No, if you believe his now former Iowa director Tina Goff and Kevin Hall who was in charge of coordinating for the Iowa straw poll in just over a month.  Jim Zeiler has also left the Iowa staff and Cain lost his New Hampshire director earlier this week.  When it comes to managing a campaign, things are not looking good for Cain.

On the other hand, Cain is looking good in the Iowa polls.  Most recently he came in second only to perpetual front runner Mitt Romney and remade Michelle Bachmann.

Will the Guiliani gamble work for Cain?

The problem is that Cain has not done or said anything to differentiate himself from Michelle Bachmann.  Going into this race he had perhaps set himself apart as a more “serious” candidate, and certainly took on early momentum from the TEA Party.  But Bachmann easily out-shined him in the debate and continues to make the right steps even in the face of extreme character assassination.  Bachmann’s successes have made her detractors appear to be less “serious”.

In the meantime, Cain is reducing himself to soundbite worthy quips and small government platitudes while his substance seems to be a foggy mirror of the clarity Bachmann has produced.  The result is that Cain is quietly slipping into the shadows where other candidate copies, like Gary Johnson (generic brand Ron Paul) and Jon Huntsman (Mitt Romney clone only the media is excited about) reside.  Bachmann is quickly taking the TEA Party energy.

In some ways, Cain brought this on himself.  His radio host style speeches leave little substance to hang one’s hat on and his brief handling of gay marriage in the debate has alienated him from the religious section of the TEA Party.  In addition, at times he has seemed clueless on some of the more detailed issues such as right of return for a Palestinian state.  This still puts him miles ahead in knowledge from someone like Joe Biden who wanted a three state solution for Iraq.

Cain does have one demographic that still turns out strongly in support of him, and that is the African American conservatives, moderates, and independents.  Many of these who helped turn Florida blue for Barack Obama and are now disenchanted with his policies are indicating strong support for Cain.  Whereas Iowa is turning out to be a fiscal versus social conservative battle between Romney and Bachmann, all important Florida may end up being a fiscal versus social conservative battle between Romney and Cain. Real Clear Politics shows Cain in second place to Romney in Florida out of current candidates, but large percentages going to Huckabee and Palin.  It will be interesting to see how those Palin and Huckabee supporters break by the time we reach Florida.  It won’t be for Mitt Romney.

If Cain can survive until Florida and then capitalize on it, losing Iowa might not be that big a deal.  Then again, perhaps he should talk to Rudy Guiliani about that strategy.

For Republicans, There Are No Favorite Sons or Daughters Except for One ……Gary Johnson

Bookmark and Share  Public Policy Polling, a left leaning outfit, has put out some interesting results from a survey of how well the Republican presidential contenders are liked by the voters in their own states. The surprising winner here is former two term, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. The losers ………3 term Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

If one intends to run for national office, it is often taken for granted that the state they come from, supports them. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter only won 6 states and the District of Columbia. Fortunately for him, two of those states were his home state of Georgia and his Vice President’s home state of Minnesota. In 1984, Carter’s Vice President, Walter Mondale, was the Democrat presidential nominee and aside from the District of Columbia, the only state that he carried was Minnesota ….…..his home state.

But such favorite son or daughter results are not always the case.

In 1972, Democrat South Dakota Senator George McGovern won his Party’s presidential nomination, but in the presidential election, McGovern’s state of South Dakota voted for Richard Nixon.

And look at Al Gore in 2000.

The man had once represented Tennessee in the U. S. Senate and that same seat was once held by his own father. Yet in the infamous 2000 presidential election, Tennessee voted for George W. Bush. Had Gore been able to win his own state, the result in Florida, the state that was governed by G.W.’s brother at the time, would not have mattered.

So being the favorite son or daughter of your state is not just a good thing, sometimes it is a must.

Yet the PPP survey shows that only one candidate has a higher favorability rating than unfavorable rating. That is the understated, underdog of the 2012 presidential field ….. Gary Johnson. And not only is he the only one with a higher favorable to unfavorable rating, his favorability numbers are dramatically higher than his unfavorable numbers. Twelve percentage points higher to be exact. As seen in the graph from PPP below, 32% of New Mexico voters have an unfavorable opinion of their former Governor and 44% have a favorable opinion of him. Compare this to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman who’s unfavorable number among Minnesota voters is 26% higher than her favorable numbers, 33% favorable 59% unfavorable, and Sarah Palin who among Alaska voters stands at 33% favorable to 58% unfavorable.

What accounts for Bachmann’s bad numbers in her state is the fact that she is a national conservative voice from a relatively conservative district in an otherwise liberal state. What accounts for Palin’s bad numbers in Alaska is not quite as obvious. But much of it could be due to the fact that Alaskan’s who once gave Palin favorable ratings that were the highest of any Governor in nation, were very disappointed and angered by her decision to resign midway through her term in office. Another factor is overexposure and the disruption of  life in the state that came with Palin’s sudden rise to national and international fame. On the flip-side, part of the reason for Gary Johnson’s still high positive numbers from New Mexico voters, may come from his lack of attention.

Johnson is a rather mild mannered, understated man. He was elected Governor as an outsider with no prior political experience, did a good job with no scandals or media circus scrutinizing his every move, and went on to win a second term that went much the same way. Since leaving office, unlike Palin, Johnson, stayed out of the fray avoided controversy and allowed his last impression among New Mexico voters to be a lasting impression. Those are some reasons that account for why he still is more liked than disliked.

Unfortunately, while these numbers show that Johnson could probably do well in his state’s Republican presidential primary, it does not look like Johnson will do that well elsewhere. It’s a shame too. With New Mexico being a swing state, it could be critical to reaching the magical number needed to reach the electoral vote required to win the presidency . Of course nothing is to say that President Obama has a much higher approval rating than any of those mentioned in most of these states. Still, it would be encouraging to know that you could count on your own state. The only potential Republican nominees that we should legitimately expect to lose their own state in the general election would be Mitt Romney in the case of liberal Massachusetts, and if he really was delusional enough to run again, Rudy Giuliani in adark blue New York state.

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Tim Pawlenty Could Stand To Gain While The Big Names Sit On The Sidelines

Bookmark and ShareThe 1st GOP Presidential debate is in the books. There are those who feel it lacked the “Wow” factor that it would have had if the top polling candidates had taken part. With Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin all declining to attend, the field was filled with candidates whose names are not well known on a national scale. Texas congressman Ron Paul is probably the exception to that statement but his public persona and Libertarian views have never played well to most in the GOP.

Of the remainder of the field that included former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and conservative talk show host Herman Cain, Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, it may have been Pawlenty that came out with the most to gain from the absence of the big name candidates.

Most of those polled said that they came away with a better opinion of Herman Cain than any other candidate. I agree. Cain came away as the non-politician’s politician but he is an unknown to most voters and will need much more than this debate to get the recognition he will need to mount a serious run. Santorum is known to a certain degree through his work on Fox News but has established himself as the social issues candidate so far in a time where the economy will likely reign supreme. Gary Johnson is the poor man’s Ron Paul and did little to move up the ladder in the debate and at points looked uncomfortable on the stage. Ron Paul is simply Ron Paul. Most Republican’s tend to agree with his economic stances and most independents with his social stances but he has difficulty communicating them in a manner that helps him in a conservative GOP primary.

That leaves Pawlenty, who did little to “Wow” the audience but came across as a solid candidate when put next to the CEO with little experience, the Libertarian’s with little communication skills and the evangelical social issue guy, as a possible challenger to the big name candidates who themselves have issues that will be exploited if and when they decide to enter the race. Romney has to answer for his health care program he implemented while Governor of MA. Gingrich has had marriage issues that have haunted him for years. Huckabee has issues regarding his stances on crime while Governor of Arkansas and Palin, well she has always incurred the wrath of the media and I expect if she decides to run in 2012 it will be no different.

So although he may have not brought the “wow” factor with him to South Carolina last Thursday night, it could be Tim Pawlenty who very well takes away the most from the debate. Although Herman Cain may have hit the “wow” factor it was Pawlenty who by reason of recognition stands to gain the most from the decision of the big names to sit this one out. If he stays on message and the more recognizable names continue to sit dormant, Tim Pawlenty has one up on the other candidates.

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Airtime for the backups

Aside from Tim Pawlenty, going into last night’s debate I think most pundits considered these to be second tier candidates. After last night, I will admit that the perception that most of these candidates don’t have a viable shot probably hasn’t changed. However, there were clear winners and clear losers. Here is my take on the debate, which at times will be blunt and harshly honest:

Tim Pawlenty

Pawlenty demonstrated why he is a top tier candidate. He was professional, studied, and Presidential. He took clean shots at Obama and did not make missteps. However, his answer to Cap and Trade may come across to the base as a weak answer. Cap and Trade is already widely unpopular with the TEA party and conservative right. It is almost as unpopular as humbling yourself before the media and admitting a mistake. I think it was the best answer Pawlenty could give, but it highlighted that unfortunate decision to initially support Cap and Trade. Pawlenty’s other disadvantage coming into last night was that everyone expected a polished performance. He will be judged at a higher standard. I was pleased to see Pawlenty show some charisma and get the crowd motivated. However, when it came to charisma, Pawlenty was not the candidate who stole the show.

Herman Cain

Cain provided the night with a dose of Donald Trump charisma mixed with Sean Hannity conservatism. Cain was unequivocal and commanded the stage. He was a crowd pleaser who handled each question without a gaffe or misstep. I think Cain’s performance brought many conservatives to believe that he could be the conservative answer to the straightforward, no nonsense approach that Trump had become so popular for. My prediction is that we will begin to see Trump wane in popularity now that the birther issue has run its course and Cain stands to benefit. We will see if Cain can capitalize on his performance.

If Cain’s popularity does grow, he will need to find answers to a lot of questions on issues that have not seen the light of the mainstream media yet. For example, Cain defended his support of the Fairtax by mentioning the concept of a “prebate” paid to every family at the beginning of the month for essentials. But is Cain prepared to face scrutiny on the prebate idea? The IRS paid out billions in fraudulent stimulus checks as a one time deal. Kiplinger says that the IRS estimates that 25% of earned income credit payouts were incorrect and fraudulent. Can the government cut a check to every family in America at the beginning of every month without an Internal Revenue Service, individual tax returns, and massive fraud? Also, getting rid of the IRS sounds nice, but who is going to make sure businesses remit the fairtax and prebates are paid out without a revenue department in the government? Perhaps we will see in the course of this primary if Cain is running on answers or populism.

Rick Santorum

Santorum did a good job as a whole, and will appeal to the same conservatives that Bush appealed to. The question is if Santorum can position himself as more likely to win than Obama. Santorum’s message resonates with social conservatives, and he made it clear last night that his message hasn’t changed. Will conservatives vote for Santorum? While presenting himself as a solid candidate, he did not say anything last night that distinguished himself or rocketed him into the top tier. Santorum’s win for the night was the fact that he showed up, while Gingrich, Huckabee and others did not. But he is still overshadowed by other conservative heavyweights, including Gingrich, Bachmann, Huckabee, and now Cain.

Ron Paul

Paul hasn’t changed since 2008. While he says many things that make sense to conservative constitutionalists and libertarian Republicans, Paul still comes across as the enemy of all things Democrat and Republican. This is great for wooing independents and libertarians, but will not win Paul the Republican primary. For most of the night, I felt myself agreeing with and cheering Paul, but he will once again be the martyr of the protectionist, states rights conservatives. They understand what Paul is saying, they just can’t figure out why non-Paul Republicans don’t. Here’s a hint, Ron Paul still comes across as abrasive, obnoxious, and anti-Republican. This man could be President if he could figure out how to sell himself and explain why what he believes would actually work. I spent a good part of the evening asking myself why Republicans don’t support Ron Paul, but the answer is the same as last time he ran. He is an uncompromising and radical philosopher campaigning in a world of soundbites, and soundbites are not kind to Ron Paul.

Gary Johnson

Picture a more abrasive and whiny version of Ron Paul, but without the name recognition. With Ron Paul in the race, who needs Gary Johnson? He did not distinguish himself, except to come down on the traditionally liberal side of Iraq, Afghanistan (supported it before he was against it), and drugs. His “cost/benefit” approach to drug legalization portrayed a dollars above principles approach to policy. Whether his views on the cost benefit of the war on drugs are right or wrong, such a calloused approach to a moral question will not win him a conservative majority. Johnson only made matters worse by dismissing the conservative majority in the Republican party as unnecessary in the primary and guaranteed to be loyal in the general election. He should ask John McCain if Republicans need social conservatives to defeat Obama.

Johnson’s moment of charisma showed itself in the form of scolding the moderators for not asking him enough questions, a move that screams “I am unpolished, second tier, and everyone knows it but me”. He will find his frustrations at not being taken seriously will continue to grow, mainly because he is not a serious candidate.

Summary

After last night, I think Herman Cain moved up, Santorum, Paul and Pawlenty remained unchanged, and Johnson moved down. Gingrich was probably hurt the most by not showing up, Romney was hurt the least. Gingrich could have used the exposure and chance to showcase his debate skills. Romney sofar has seemed to transcend any primary activity in early polls as an assumed front runner by most whether he shows up or not. Mitch Daniels was probably the most unfairly represented absentee at the debate itself. In the end, the only lasting effects of this debate will be a bump for Herman Cain.

The First Presidential Debate. How’d They Do?

Bookmark and Share The first Republican presidential debate of the 2012 election most likely did little to influence the electoral fortunes of any of its participants. The forum did however provide many concerned voters with a decent introduction to candidates like Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty and Gary Johnson. As for the fifth debate participant, Congressman Ron Paul, many already know him and for those who do, Paul provided the consistency of his mix of true fiscal conservatism and Libertarian isolationism.

If one had to name a winner of the night, that decision might range widely. Initially, Herman Cain seems to have had the most impact among viewers who got their first real look at him. As I predicted in a previous post, Herman Cain did produce some of the wow factor that he has come to be known for. But in the final analysis I would have to say that former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty got the most out of the night. While each of the candidates were gaffe free, Pawlentys performance was poised, polished and presidential. He demonstrated a clear level of confidence and comfort that helped convey both a command of the issues and the capacity to be a formidable force as the 2012 presidential campaign moves forward. Igt wasn’t the showstopper that he needs to become an automatic frontrunner, but it was the type of performance that keeps him in the top tier of the field.

The opening question was thrown to Governor Pawlenty who was asked about the statement he made a month ago in which he called President Obama weak. Moderator Brett Baier asked the Governor if he thought President Obama still looked week after the successful mission that killed Osama bin Laden? Governor Pawlenty made sure to give the President credit for his decision but he added that moment is not the sum total of Americas foreign policy.

In a similar question, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum bluntly stated that all the things President Obama has done right in foreign policy are continuations of Bush policies He cited the Presidents continuation of the Gitmo policy, finishing the mission in Iraq, and continuing our efforts in Afghanistan, as proof of his point.

On Afghanistan, Herman Cain claimed to not necessarily be willing toannouncea final decision on the war in Afghanistan until he was in a position where all the facts that only a President is privy to, are before him. Pointing to his successful business career he added that he takes pride in making an informed decision. Cain did however make some good points in insuring that wemust define our mission in Afghanistan more clearly than it currently is.

As for Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, they shared the position that the United States should pull out of Afghanistan no later than tomorrow. Paul did however go further by claiming that now that bin Laden has been taken care of, we should end our efforts in Afghanistan because it hasnt helped us or anybody in the Middle East. That statement will be seen by many as a slap in the face to the men and women who continue to keep the Taliban and Al Qaeda on the run and are insuring that Afghanistan does not again become a breeding and training ground for the type of terrorism that was responsible for 9/11 and triggering the War on Terror.

The sharpest exchange of the evening came when the issue of enhanced interrogation came up.

Tim Pawlenty offered support for such extreme measures and in an impassioned defense of his position, explained that if possible, the terrorists would havekilled not 3,000 Americans, not 30,000 Americans but 300,000 Americans if they could have on 9/11 and in response to that harsh reality, harsh policies may at times be necessary.

When all the candidates were asked to indicate, by a show of hands, if they would support the use of enhanced interrogation tactics under certain circumstances, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum raised their hands. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and Congressman Ron Paul did not. When moderator Chris Wallace pointed this out, Ron Paul stated that such tactics dont achieve anything. To which Rick Santorum interrupted with Paul thats just not true. Santorum proceeded to argue that the information obtained through enhanced interrogation tactics of detainees at Gitmo was responsible for the information that led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. He then punctuated the point by reminding the Congressman we wouldnt have been able to make the raid in Pakistan had we not been in Afghanistan

At that point, Herman Cain chimed in and recalled the remarks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who two months after 9/11 said that the terrorists objective is to kill all of us, and in what turned out to produce one of the nights most rousing spontaneous round of applause added so yes I support using whatever means possible to protect the people of this nation.

On the economy, the budget and taxes, all agreed that President Obama is helplessly lost on the issue and generally agreed upon reforms to Medicare and reductions in spending. For his part, Herman Cain called for an elimination of all taxes in exchange for a 28% Fair Tax. Both Cain and Governor Johnson called for the elimination of all Corporate taxes.

In total, most all the candidates performed adequately. Probably the least inspiring though was Gary Johnson. Johnson seemed a little awkward and failed to distinguish himself from Ron Paul by demonstrating that unlike Paul, as a Governor, Johnson didnt just preach the virtues of his Libertarian-Republican philosophy, he actually implemented it. Beyond that, Johnson did find it necessary to at one point step out of order to remind the debates questioners, that he was there and that maybe they should not direct all their questions to just his four opponents.

For his part, Herman Cains first appearance to the nation, within the context of a presidential campaign, was a success. While it may not have been the breakout performance he really needs, the particular debate format he was kept to, gave no one a real chance to achieve such a thing. Ultimately, he proved himself to be exceptionally worthy of consideration for the job he is seeking.

Ron Pauls participation in the debate allowed him to offer his usual compelling arguments but continued to put forth his policy positions with a type of rigidity and extremism that make them seem unrealistic to most voters. And while there were some obnoxious yells from the crowd that are typical of some within the Paul fan base, he did little to expand his base of support and to pull himself out of his normal single digit or low teens election returns.

As for Rick Santorum, while he showed himself to be viable, the greatest benefit that he got from the debate was a definite shoring up of the social conservative base which at the moment, is all that is really keeping his fledging campaign in the game.

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The First Presidential Debate: What Difference Will It make?

Bookmark and Share Tonights first actual debate between candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination is garnering more attention for who isnt participating than who is participating. It was the hope of the debates two sponsors, the South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News, to hold the type of spectacle that would have attracted a full compliment of the anticipated candidates and therefore, by its very nature, draw an extremely large national audience of anxious voters interested in getting a good, first time look at the individuals that seek to unseat President Obama. Unfortunately, the scheduled timing of the debate seems to have been way ahead of the schedule that most of the G.O.P. presidential field is on.

As a result, many of the most prominent and widely anticipated top tier candidates will not be in attendance.

This has produced a backlash among South Carolina Republicans who vow to hold the absence of those candidates against them when it is time to vote in their critical early primary. The disappointment they feel is understood, but the blatant bitterness of their vindictive sentiments is immature and irrational. It will also be forgotten by the time South Carolina Republicans go to vote in the Republican Primary. These voters who are anxious to see President Obama defeated in 2012, will be more concerned about the issues and how the candidates address them, than they will be with their absence from a debate that took place a year earlier.

That said, tonights debate still offers a chance to have a significant effect on the shape of the Republican field.

Participating in it will be former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, businessman Herman Cain, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. While each of those five candidates have either relatively low name ID or relatively low support, this forum will provide an opportunity for any number of them to make news and gain a degree of attention that could propel them from perceived long shots, to significantly viable candidates.

Here is a rundown at what it at stake for the five debate participants.

Tim Pawlenty:

Up to now, Tim Pawlenty has been a back up choice for many. He is the candidate who many people currently see as the guy they might be able to support if their first choice stumbles or drops out. Tonights debate affords Pawlenty the opportunity to go from being just one of those guys running, to being one of the candidates to seriously consider. For that to happen, Pawlenty needs for two things to happen. First, he must win this debate. He is considered one of those few top tier candidates, and in a debate that consists of others who are bottom tier candidates, if any one of them dominates over Pawlenty, he will remain just one of those guys running. The second thing he must do is catch on. Pawlenty needs to walk away from this debate having said something that allows him to connect ideologically with the Republican base, quotable, newsworthy, and memorable.

Rick Santorum:

Former Senator Santorum probably has the most at stake tonight. If he does not land a few knock out punches while at the same time emanating a presidential aura, he risks remaining a bottom tier candidate for a long time to come. This debate could be a breakthrough of sorts for Santorum. If he connects, it could persuade many likely voters and financial donors to take his candidacy more seriously than they currently do. More than any of the others in the debate, Santorum must demonstrate that he is in serious contention for the nomination.

Ron Paul:

There isnt much more that Ron Paul can do to boost his support in this debate than he has done in any of the debates he has been in during past presidential elections. If Paul hopes to become someone who is truly in contention for the Republican nomination, he needs to convey his beliefs in a way that are not perceived as unrealistic and unachievable. One thing that also might help him is a convincing way to maintain his beliefs but not seem to be a total isolationist. For many, some of Pauls foreign affairs view are attractive but for many more, there is a belief that the United States has a need and responsibility to play a role in world events that is bigger than Ron Paul supports. And while many find it acceptable to debate how big a role we should play, they do not agree with Ron Pauls seeming desire to totally detach us from the world. If Paul can demonstrate that he is not an isolationist, he will make it possible for his campaign to finally receive election results that are higher than his usual single digit or low teens.

Gary Johnson:

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson probably has the lowest name ID of all the participants. For that reason, the bar need not be very high for him tonight. But he does have two things he can and should do. As self-described Libertarian-Republican, he is in a natural fight for the same pool of voters who are attracted to Ron Paul. But the hardcore Ron Paul fan base is not likely to jump ship. His fans are like the followers of a cult or Jim Jones in Jamestown. So the best he can do with them is prove to be worthy of consideration. But at the same time, for the rest of the voters, Johnson has to convince people that he is more capable of applying his beliefs to the practical application of government than Ron Paul can. As a former governor, unlike Ron Paul, he has successfully translated his beliefs into legislation that he had to actual carry out. If Gary Johnson can get that point across, take advantage of his outsider image, and present innovative ideas that seem realistic, he will come out of this debate ahead the game.

Herman Cain:

There is no doubt that Herman Cains superior oratory skills will allow him to dominate in this debate. From him will come the headlines that are written the day after the event. Cain will undoubtedly articulate his positions on the issues in a way that many will strongly agree with. He will appeal to voters and make a very favorable first impression on the general electorate in this, his first national audience. Those are givens. So what Herman Cain really needs to do is prove that he is a viable candidate who can actually attract enough broad based support to defeat President Obama. This will be difficult to achieve in one debate, but for Herman Cain, while many will be inspired by what he says, his electability will be the biggest hurdle for him to overcome. That hurdle is so high for Cain, that he must exploit every opportunity he has, to demonstrate that he has a realistic shot at winning. I am absolutely certain that everyone will love what Herman Cain has to say, but he must leave them not focusing on any the perception that he has a snowballs chance in hell of getting elected.

The debate will take place in Greenville, South Carolina at 9:00 pm EST and can be seen on Fox News Channel and FoxNews.com.

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