These Debates Could Be Game Changers

Come on.  We’ve heard these candidates in just over one million debates so far this year.  Another one?  Another two actually, this weekend leading up to the New Hampshire debates.  And these two debates could definitely wreak havoc on the standings going into New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney is the undisputed front runner.  Ron Paul and Rick Santorum fans at this point are dreaming if they think their candidates are on a solid trajectory to win.  Not winning Iowa should be a clear sign to heavily religious social conservatives like Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and Newt that getting past Romney is going to be nearly impossible with a crowded field.  Bachmann got the hint, and Perry almost did.  As for Ron Paul, maybe if he runs two more times he can win enough support to break out of his traditional 5-10% polling finish.  Look, he’s already doing better this year than last time, and last time he did better than the time before.  That was Ross Perot’s and Ralph Nader’s problems.  They quit trying too soon.

Back to Mitt Romney.  You know he is back on the punching bag hook tonight, a place he hasn’t been since the very first debates.  Santorum wants a piece of him, Newt wants a piece of him, Jon Huntsman finally qualified for another debate and you know he wants to take Romney down a peg.  I think Perry will try to just get through the night and might take a few shots at Santorum.  As far as the #1 conservative attack dog of other conservatives, Michele Bachmann will not be there tonight to claim that Perry is in bed with pharmaceutical companies,  Newt Gingrich is pro-partial birth abortion and the number one Freddie Mac adviser responsible for the economic collapse, and whatever she might cook up about Rick Santorum while mostly leaving Paul and Romney alone.  So I think Romney will be taking the hits and the other candidates can relax their guard a little bit.

Now, on to the x factor in debates.  Newt Gingrich was finished this summer after his campaign collapsed and he proved he was in the top 1% by buying his wife jewelry.  I mean how out of touch can you get.  But, he has climbed back into contention through powerful and commanding debate performances.  Just two weeks ago, Gingrich was the front runner.  The difference between Gingrich’s fall and other candidates falls is that their demises can be tied directly to debate performance.  Bachmann with her claims about HPV and other wild attacks on the candidates, Perry with his glaring gaffe, Cain who offered 999 and 999, oh yeah and 999.  It wasn’t enough substance to save him when scandal gave nervous supporters a reason to doubt.  Huntsman affirmed his global warming stance.

Gingrich hurt himself with his illegal immigration stance, but his downfall can be attributed to the harsh attacks he faced over the last two weeks from Romney’s friends, paid allies, and former foes.  Ron Paul also attacked Newt, not Romney, with harsh ads in Iowa.  Paul has probably done the same math I have, but mistakenly thinks he has a shot with Newt’s base over Romney’s.

The debates are ad free.  They are also friend free.  The only way Romney can attack another candidate tonight without attacking that candidate directly is to pay off the moderator or a fellow candidate.  On that stage, it is going to be Santorum’s “what smells” debate face versus Perry’s memory versus Huntsman’s out of touch moderate stances versus Paul’s old shaky finger wagging versus Romney’s slick hair and nice demeanor versus Newt’s heavy hitting and quick wit and ideas.

If these debates garner an audience, this is all upside for Newt, and downside for front runner Mitt Romney and social conservative front runner Rick Santorum.  In an instance of incredible luck for the candidates in this New Hampshire debate, the New England Patriots get this weekend of playoff action off.

Iowa Recap

Romney won, Bachmann quit, Santorum is rising, Paul is maintaining his status quo, Newt is struggling, Perry has faith, and Huntsman….who?  Iowa recapped:

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney won in Iowa. Honestly?  No big deal. Romney will gain momentum from winning, but when people look at the numbers they will realize that if Michele Bachmann wasn’t in the race, Santorum would have won comfortably.  If Santorum wasn’t in the race, Newt and Perry probably would have both outpolled Romney.  In Iowa, he got his fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives split the rest.  But it’s not all bad for Romney.  In fact, while Romney may have come to a predictable finish, he won by choosing his opponent.  Gingrich was a shoe in to win Iowa barely more than a week ago.  Instead, Santorum now has the social conservative momentum and Romney should easily win New Hampshire and could win South Carolina.  So Romney’s win is:

Good for: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum      Bad for: Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman

Rick Santorum

A shocking surprise to some, a mild surprise for others, Santorum has Huckabee’d Iowa.  With a great ground game, time, hard work, and the luck of Newt Gingrich being destroyed by Romney, Inc, Michele Bachmann, and the Republican establishment, Santorum is finally getting his shot at vetting.  Already, he is being called a war monger and “big government conservative”.  But Santorum’s rise may be too late in the game for a vetting process to destroy him.  Many social conservatives have been waiting for a reason to believe that Santorum could win.  From the day he started running the narrative has been that Santorum is simply unelectable on a national scale.  So, Santorum’s second place finish is:

Good for: Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney   Bad for: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann

Ron Paul

Paul’s third place finish is certainly not what the Paul camp was hoping for.  Ron Paul came very close to breaking free from his libertarian ceiling, but in the end social conservatives showed they would rather take a gamble on the unvetted Rick Santorum instead of giving Ron Paul the ‘turn’ he was starting to experience.  Paul has been passed over as the anti-Romney.  He may be able to turn things around in New Hampshire, but a third or worse finish in New Hampshire should be a clear signal to Paul that the revolution is over.  Paul’s third place finish is:

Good for: Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney  Bad for: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Even if Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race and split their votes on a pro rata share, Newt would still not have passed Mitt Romney.  The fact is, Romney ran an incredible, strategic dismantling of Newt without even breaking a sweat.  In the meantime, Newt refused to go dishonestly negative, but managed plenty of headlines saying “Newt Goes on the Attack”.  Newt is realizing in time for New Hampshire, he won’t win with a positive campaign.  Can he win with a negative one?  New Hampshire will probably go Romney’s way.  But Newt needs South Carolina.  Without South Carolina, he won’t have the momentum to take Florida and Florida is the key.  So Newt’s dismal fourth place finish is:

Good for: Mitt Romney   Bad for: Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann

Rick Perry

Perry’s fifth place win got him to re-think his campaign.  But with Michele Bachmann choosing to drop out, perhaps Perry thinks he still has hope.  He should have decided to stay in Texas.  Perry’s placing is:

Bad for: Rick Perry

Michele Bachmann

Bachmann barely registered.  Iowa was her last hope to connect with social and evangelical conservatives and she failed.  Fortunately, this provided the wake up call she needed to see the end of the race.  Bachmann has decided to drop out of the race and return to Minnesota.  Unfortunately for Bachmann, she has not built the cult following that Sarah Palin did.  Hopefully she will continue to be a strong voice for the TEA party.

Good for: Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry   Bad for: Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney

As for the other contender, Jon Huntsman’s disrespectful snub of Iowa, especially in light of Romney’s stronger finish in the state and momentum, seals Huntsman’s irrelevancy.

Iowa’s Mold Breaker Might Matter

We are discovering the 2012 election cycle dynamic every day.  One thing we have learned already is that things that didn’t matter last week are crucial this week.  The thing we are learning this past week is that money matters, as Mitt Romney surrogates bought waves of negative airtime, Ron Paul bought Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman, and Newt suddenly began to realize what a nice thing it would be to have campaign staffs, ground crews, or even counter advertising money.

To Huntsman’s dismay, we may be discovering that Iowa matters.  Let me put it this way.  If Newt Gingrich wins Iowa, it doesn’t really matter.  If Santorum wins Iowa, it will give him some false momentum but Iowa alone won’t matter.  If Bachmann wins Iowa, we will all drop our jaw and then move on with the real race.  If Paul wins Iowa, mainstream Republicans will spend the next few days complaining about how he did his usual ballot stuffing tricks, but then move on.

However, if Mitt Romney wins Iowa, that will be huge.  Iowa has typically stuck to mainstream, evangelical, more conservative than moderate candidates.  Iowa has granted hope to Mike Huckabee in recent years, and Michele Bachmann this year.  Now, with Mitt Romney leading in the polls, it appears that more conservative, evangelical voters are accepting that Romney will win the nomination.  In fact, in this case I wonder what type of dynamic Ron Paul is attributing to Romney’s rise.  Are Iowans viewing Gingrich, Perry and now even Santorum as third party spoilers?

I think with the Iowa dynamic, voters may actually prefer Santorum in the current field.  Instead, it appears that Iowa may end up being about who can beat Barack Obama, or more immediately, who can beat Ron Paul.  At any rate, if Mitt Romney wins, Iowa matters.  As McCain proved in 2008, voting for a candidate primarily because of electability is a tough paradigm to crack once it is set.

One thing is for sure.  If Romney does win in Iowa, Newt is dreaming if he thinks he can turn everything around in New Hampshire.

Lessons From History

There is a saying often attributed to Mark Twain that goes, ‘History does not repeat itself but it does rhyme.’ Any fools with a nostalgia for the late 70’s learned the truth of that in the past few years. Being President is about more than smiling and speaking in grand platitudes. It is a harsh reality of perpetual crisis both foreign and domestic – many of which the American people never really learn about unless they spin out of control.

We like to look at candidates for the office and project onto them the mantle of some previous President. It gives us a false hope of how they will handle the unknown future. Sometimes the candidates try on the mantle of a previous President themselves and try to convince us that they wear it best. Call me crazy, but Michele Bachmann doesn’t look convincing in her Reagan costume.

For all the best hopes of pundits and packaging of candidates themselves, rarely are the mantles draped upon candidates accurate. Obama is no Kennedy nor FDR as claimed in his campaign in 2008 nor a TR as he claims now. He’s a Carter. It’s no wonder he is seeking a different comparison.

The Republican field is not full of Reagans nor does it have a Jefferson or Jackson in its midst. However, if we look closely at the candidates, their records, the political reality of today and history – we may be able to figure out which President each would most likely resemble once actually in office. Here in short form is my take on who each candidate actually would be most like if elected:

Mitt Romney – Romney claims to be Reagan. Romney is not a hard core anything. He is a pragmatist. He has a track record of working across the aisle and changing his position to side with prevailing opinion. He is slick, managerial and focused more on accomplishing something than on getting what he wants. Gerald FordRomney strikes me as being most like Gerald Ford. Government would probably hit a few bumps with him in office, but he’d learn to navigate the prevailing political moods and generally make things better. He wouldn’t distinguish himself or ever really connect with the American people. Congress would get more credit for any success than he would and while no one would really hate him, few would champion him.

Newt Gingrich – Gingrich claims to be Reagan and Jackson. Newt is mercurial, knowledgeable, an insider who sees himself as an outsider, not the ally of many in his own party and has a drive to prove he is better than his reputation from Congress. He was written off by most, yet inexplicably manages to keep hanging around. Richard NixonGingrich strikes me as being most like Richard Nixon. He is likely to fight with his own party and even go against the popular will of the American public to do what he thinks is the right thing to do. He’d use use his ability to speak plainly to the people to rally just enough support to maintain his ability to assert his agenda. Yet, his insecurities and anger at a media that jabs at him would detract from an ability to even enjoy his successes. He would likely have difficulty maintaining an administrative core.

Ron Paul – Paul claims to be Jefferson. Paul is a stubborn yet principled politician who would rather be right by his own views than compromise on anything. He has no real friends in Congress and is the enemy of the very machine he would seek to operate. He is constitutionally astute. Andrew JohnsonPaul strikes me as being most like Andrew Johnson. He’ll fight not only the opposing party, but the leaders of his own in Congress. The machinery of the bureaucracy assembled by previous administrations would be his main target as it would be something he thought he could change. A long train of vetoes, overrides, wiggling free from Congressional attempts to wrangle him and generally four years of being right, but equally disliked by all.

Rick Perry – Perry claims to be Reagan. Perry is a man of great ego, personality and amorphous convictions. He surrounds himself with advisers who define most of his actions and control access to him. That limits his ability to see more than just one side of an issue and sometimes puts him in a predicament. George W. BushPerry strikes me as being most like George W. Bush. He’s as likely to expand government to be ‘compassionate’ as he is to cut some part of it. He would likely be often caught misspeaking as the policies of his staff would not be his own and his answers to questions about them would lack grounding. He’d make numerous gaffes that pundits on both sides would wonder how he could have ever been able to be so stupid, but those gaffes would come as a result of the bubble his advisers would keep him in.

Rick Santorum – Santorum claims to be Reagan. Santorum is a strong social conservative who believes in using the power of the federal government to dictate domestic issues that were previously State and local matters. He is a party man who went along with government expansion and big spending when his party committed it – although he claims he realizes that was a mistake and wouldn’t do it again. John AdamsSantorum strikes me as being most like John Adams. He would likely push his ideology fiercely and fail to see when he had gone too far. He would surround himself with advisers and policy makers who once worked for or around his beloved mentor (in this case Reagan) but lack the wisdom of that mentor to know when those advisers and policy makers had drifted too far from the will of the people. He would not understand why his administration would become unpopular and instead entrench himself further.

Michele Bachmann – Bachmann claims to be Reagan or Jefferson. Bachmann is a wannabe ideologue. She clings to the banner of the Tea Party, yet is easily dragged towards neoconservatism whenever she feels that she needs to sound tough. She is generally over-matched by the enormity of the Presidency even as a candidate. While she can spew soundbites, she is slow to hit the mark when thrown an unexpected question. Barack ObamaPolitical ideology aside, Bachmann strikes me as being most like Barack Obama. She would most likely struggle to find effective ways to get her big ideas turned into actual policies even with GOP control of Congress. She’d feel the need to embark on military adventures to prove she wasn’t weak on defense. She would reverse herself on executive orders and start issuing many of them as an alternative way to implement her agenda.

Jon Huntsman – Huntsman claims to be a Reagan. Huntsman has great executive experience and deeply understands the geopolitical and economic position of the Unites States in the world in relation to past, present and emerging world rivals. He is measured, reasonable and yet considered an outsider by even his own. Dwight EisenhowerHuntsman strikes me as being most like Dwight Eisenhower. He would likely chart a course that looked far more into the future than the leaders of Congress. He would be strategic rather than tactical in military and foreign affairs. He would challenge the status quo and risk rebellion from his own party when he put pet projects on the chopping block. He would be seen more as a fatherly President than a partisan one.

I could be very wrong in these associations, but I think they are fairly accurate. We just can’t really know until they sit in that office. But, we do have their histories and personalities as well as those of the men who already held the office and how that office changed them. From those, we can construct better guesses as to which President they will not repeat, but most rhyme with. In all cases, it is not the one they think they are – at least in my opinion.

In doing this exercise, my views of the candidates have changed a bit. Thinking not of who I would like them to be or who they sell themselves as, but who their history and personality most aligns them with has left me questioning my leanings in this race. I don’t accept the general media criticisms of our candidates or the wild histrionics by the champions of one candidate against opponents. However, viewing these candidates in an historical light and how their strengths, weaknesses and personalities would likely mix with the current economic, political and international reality does raise some new questions for me. Of Ford, Nixon, G. W. Bush, A. Johnson, J. Adams, Obama or Eisenhower, who could not only best beat Obama in 2012 but best address the foreseeable problems? Would stagnation and infighting in Washington be worse than misguided progress or the other way around? Is victory today and four years a stability worth backing a candidate that could probably be beaten in 2016? When there is no Reagan clone, on whom can we settle?

I don’t have the answers to those questions for you. They are for each of us to decide on our own when choosing a candidate. I don’t even have the answers for myself which is why I remain undecided and uncommitted. I’ve ruled out three of the seven, but have a long way to go before I get down to one.

Iowa Last Minute Insanity

Ron Paul Buys Bachmann’s Campaign Chair

Bachmann campaign chair in Iowa, Kent Sorensen, has jumped ship as Bachmann becomes the latest candidate to contract the deadly disease AIDES.  AIDES (former aides to be exact) have already helped bring down Herman Cain’s campaign and have hurt Newt Gingrich’s campaign.  Now, with Sorensen opting for the bigger paycheck at the Paul campaign, Bachmann looks like a jury member on Survivor trying to pontificate about injustice, honor, lies and blindsides.  Welcome to politics.

Huntsman Disses Iowa

“They pick corn in Iowa. They pick presidents in New Hampshire.” Who would say something like that? Obviously a candidate who knows they have no hope of winning the Iowa caucus, and doesn’t seem to really care about Iowa in the general election either.  Huntsman would have done much better for himself to just say “We are focusing our efforts on New Hampshire.” and leave it at that.  Of course, this may help explain why Huntsman, an only slightly more moderate clone of Mitt Romney on most issues, is barely surviving on the crumbs that fall from Romney’s feast in the polls.

Coulter’s Temporary Insanity

Ann Coulter is in love with Mitt Romney.  And she obviously is no fan of Newt Gingrich.  In recent articles, she has accused Newt of being everything from pro-choice to big government, to being behind the bailouts of Freddie Mac.  Of course, all of this is Bachmann style campaign hyperbole and exaggeration at best.  Then Coulter let out a real shocker: she prefers Ron Paul to Newt Gingrich.  What??

Somewhere in a closet, the real Ann Coulter is tied up with duct tape over her mouth mumbling for this evil clone to let her out.  Meanwhile, Barack Obama and the media, who have convinced us that only Mitt Romney can beat Obama in 2012, are laughing all the way to re-election while Republicans fall for the same premise they did in 2008: vote for the candidate you think can win, not the candidate you really want.

What else would explain Coulter’s blanket acceptance and love for a former Massachusetts liberal who ran on a pro-choice platform, gave Massachusetts Romneycare, and voted for Paul Tsongas while she is treating a conservative who reformed welfare, reigned in Bill Clinton, and led Republicans to their first majority in the House in 40 years as a raving liberal.  What is it that the rest of us don’t know about Newt Gingrich?

In Bachmann’s Mind

I would think Michele Bachmann would be more gentle with some of her Republican competitors.  She herself has faced everything from the bigotry of the Left against conservative women to the watchfulness of the one-eyed media who has gleefully remarked on her every gaffe while turning the blind eye to the Obama/Biden circus.

Yet, to hear from Bachmann at the Foxnews debate, you would think Newt Gingrich was a pro-choice, pro-partial birth abortion candidate who used to run Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and will be a President to the left of Obama himself.  This is no exaggeration.  However, her characterizations were.

Now, Newt and Bachmann come from different perspectives on the Republican party.  Bachmann would have done well to note that clearly.  Newt is not going to close off the Republican party and say ‘no pro-choicers, homosexuals, immigration reformers, anti-war candidates allowed’.  Bachmann, as a TEA Party activist, seems to lean more towards that hardline stance.  There is definitely a point to be made there.  There are many Republicans who desire party purity to the point of ditching the big top and settling for a camping tent.  Newt is not one of those.  Such a point is sufficient to distinguish Bachmann from Newt.

Newt Gingrich is not pro-choice.  He is not pro-partial birth abortion.  His firm took an average of $225,000 a year from Freddie Mac in consulting fees over  an 8 year period.  That is not a whole lot for high end consulting by a multi-member firm in Washington DC for a multi-billion dollar company.  Think about it.  Freddie Mac represented about 3% of the Gingrich Group’s total revenues.  It was an exclusive group with about 300 clients.  Clients paid on average $200,000 a year for membership.  Newt himself did not do any lobbying for Freddie Mac.

But that isn’t what she said.  Bachmann’s characterization was so outlandish that she lost all credibility.  What could have been an intellectual differentiation turned into a wild and false assault on one of the two best hopes of defeating Obama in 2012.

Bachmann will not win her way back into the hearts and minds of the Republican majority with this sort of outlandish hyperbole.  She certainly won’t win with a kill ’em all attitude towards Republicans who don’t fit her cookie cutter.  For this reason, I will make the same call on Bachmann that I have for Huntsman and Johnson:

Michele, you are not going to win.  You have done too much already on your own to destroy your own campaign.  As far as destroying other candidates campaigns, your attacks are effective only on the ignorant.  Now you are no longer contributing value to this primary.  You are not contributing fresh ideas, you are not drawing new blood into the campaign.  It is time to end your campaign.  Whether or not you realize it, it’s already over.

The Huntsman-Gingrich debate verdict: Take a second look at Huntsman

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Speaker Newt Gingrich met Monday in a one-on-one debate in a Lincoln-Douglas style format where each candidate was given five uninterrupted minutes on each topic related to foreign policy and national security during the 90-minute debate at the St. Anselm Institute of Politics, in New Hampshire. 

The debate flew along in terms of time and was brilliantly insightful.  I was extremely impressed with Huntsman’s grasp of the major threats facing the United States and his interpretation on how to deal with the challenges. The format enabled both men to explore each topic headline in depth and it was centred on substance no cheap shots were dealt by either man during the entire debate. The discussion points allowed both men to demonstrate a remarkable depth of knowledge on matters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Iran to China.

Huntsman who wasn’t involved in the ABC debate at the weekend and has recently been involved in a spat over deciding not to be involved in the Donald Trump debate excelled throughout.  Huntsman jokingly said, “I can’t wait to compare and contrast this format with the Donald Trump debate,” Huntsman said. Huntsman was relaxed, natural, and humourous but displayed a knowledge and vision which even the most partisan onlooker could not help but admire. There can be no doubt, the former Utah Governor came off looking like one of the most intelligent, experienced people running for office possibly with the exception of Gingrich himself.

Huntsman said Iran posed a bigger problem than any other country right now, calling it the “transcendent threat” and saying all options are on the table in dealing with the regime there. He continued saying a nuclear Iran would lead Turkey and other nations to build nuclear programs. “I think all options are on the table, and I do believe we’re going to have a conversation with Israel” when Iran goes nuclear. Huntsman also said the Obama Administration missed a huge opportunity to get a foothold in the region with the Arab Spring.

Gingrich put on another masterful professorial display, he managed to speak in clear and simple terms about all the issues showing the audience the vast amount of knowledge he’s picked up and retained over decades of foreign policy work. He controversially said that the next president would most likely be put in a position to choose between assisting Israel in a ground war against Iran or standing by as nukes were unleashed from one side or the other (if not both) which could result in a “second holocaust” for the Jewish people.  One thing you have to admire about the former speaker and his campaign is that he is prepared to speak on the controversial topics that most people think privately but avoid speaking publicly on. It is refreshing to see a presidential candidate being prepared and willing to discuss them on the campaign trail

On the topic of China, Gingrich said the Chinese will be the United States’ most important relationship for decades to come. “The most important relationship of the next 50 years is the American people and the Chinese people,” Gingrich said, differentiating that from the relationship between the governments. “If you don’t fundamentally rethink what we’re doing here, you cannot compete with China,” Gingrich added. “If we do the right thing here, China can’t compete with us.” This was well received by the attentive audience.

On Afghanistan Huntsman said the United States has had success in Afghanistan, and that it should bring the troops home. “I think we’ve done the best that we could do, but I think we’ve done all we could do,” he said, repeating his past statements on the topic, which differ from his GOP opponents. Huntsman said the time has passed for nation-building and counter-insurgency, and that the new mission should be focused on counter-terrorism.

Huntsman went on to say that the United States’ relationship with Pakistan is too “transactional.” “Pakistan, sadly, is nothing more than a transactional relationship with the United States,” Huntsman said. “For all the money we put into Pakistan, are we in a better situation? The answer is no.”

During his closing remarks, Gingrich highlighted how important it was for the public to see meaningful, in-depth discussions of the policy matters which will shape the future. “This is not a reality show. This is reality.

As the moderator was wrapping up he joked with both of the candidates and the subject of doing a two person format with Mitt Romney came up. He said, “I’ll bet you ten thousand dollars he doesn’t show up.”

Following the event, Huntsman said he’d consider Gingrich as a running mate, and added that he’d like to participate in other similarly-structured debates and challenged other candidates, specifically Mitt Romney, to one-on-one issues-focused discussions.

“Based on Speaker Gingrich’s excellent performance, he is now definitely, on my short list for people to consider for vice-president of the United States,” said Huntsman, immediately following the debate.

“We’re always looking for winners and losers in these things, but I think the winners might be the American people because they actually got a sense of the world views on display by these candidates,” said Huntsman. “I think that’s a good thing and a rare opportunity in these formats … as opposed to always defining things by who is up, who is down, who wins, who loses, they actually get a little good information, which they can use to assess and analyze what the candidates are made up of, and what they may then pursue in terms of policies.”

Overall, it was a brilliant format and anyone watching cannot help but notice the quality and depth of knowledge of both men. Both men were winners merely by their participation in the debate and the quality uninterrupted time afforded by the format. Huntsman was perhaps the winner in terms of debate result, as it allowed anyone watching to see how intelligent this man actually is; he articulated his points throughout in a very polished and accomplished fashion.

I’ll go on record now and say, if Romney & Gingrich destroy each other in the primaries. Voters looking for a capable, knowledgeable alternative to President Obama would do no harm giving Huntsman a second look regardless or whether people consider him too moderate, too liberal or too conservative at present. People should be elected on ability and have the confidence that their vote could be valued as an investment in America’s future. Jon Huntsman on the evidence would represent a very sound investment for any Republican, Democratic or Independent voter.

Definitely the most enjoying debate of the election season to date, it is a pity one of the networks don’t organise a head-to-head between two candidates each night in the lead up to the Iowa caucus. This would enable all ten candidates to be afford quality time talking about the issues and not throwing out cheap shots at each other.

Paths to Victory

I have heard recently several conservative commentators marvel about how Newt has risen to the top and stayed there and how Mitt has never gotten over 30%.  It shouldn’t be a surpriseI explained it all months ago.  I’ve said as long ago as this that Mitt is in deep trouble.  He looked pretty good when there were six candidates splitting the other 70% of the vote and 40% were still undecided.  But Romney has always only appealed to fiscal conservatives.  He coasted through the first several months of this election and many in the establishment, now including George Will and Ann Coulter, assumed that his steadiness and assumed front runner status had something to do with him being the best candidate.

So can Romney win?  What about Paul and his recent rise in the polls?  Does he have a shot?  Here is a strategic look at where the candidates stand right now.

Newt Gingrich

Newt has managed to be that candidate who attracts social and fiscal conservatives.  It is his nomination to lose.  So far he has handled attacks perfectly.  Consider Nancy Pelosi’s claim that if he runs she will have a field day spreading every secret from his ethics investigation.  How does he respond?  By stating that out of 84 counts, 83 were dismissed and the 84th was a simple mistake he made and how if Nancy Pelosi is willing to spread secrets from the ethics committee investigation that proves just how corrupt she was in that investigation.  That’s Newt 2, Pelosi 0.  Those type of responses will continue to bolster him.

Next, he has to keep making speeches like he did to the Republican Jewish Coalition.  Newt showed the intelligence and wit that makes conservatives like me giddy about him opposing Obama.  Newt has to keep running on those ideas, setting the record straight, and not going after fellow Republicans who attack him.  I think he slipped up a little when he said Bachmann is factually challenged.  Newt’s message has to stay positive and focused on undoing and being the opposite of Obama.

Mitt Romney

As I said before, Romney’s only prayer in this race is to come out strongly to the social conservative side in a big, public way.  Maybe he needs to go protest in front of an abortion clinic, spend some of his Newt attack ad money on an ad clearly denouncing Obama for making bibles illegal at some military hospitals, or something like that.  Romney will never win this election with only DC establishment backing and fiscal conservatives.  Right now he barely has better electability to run on.  And the attacks from his surrogates are easily being linked back to him.  His smooth Reaganesque style and kindness on the debate trail is getting ugly with people like George Will calling his opponents book selling charlatans and Ann Coulter accusing Newt Gingrich of wanting to do something similar to teaching school kids how to masturbate.  None of this reflects well on Romney.

Romney has to do very well in this next debate at highlighting better ideas, but definitely smaller government ideas.  Newt tends to talk about ideas that he could not do as President but would help the country.  Romney needs to jump on that and be the smaller government alternative.  Romney needs to win the 10th amendment fight in this next debate, while still appearing to be a stronger social conservative than everyone thinks he is.

Ron Paul

Paul’s biggest liability is himself.  His second biggest liability is his supporters.  One of the reasons Ron Paul hasn’t gotten higher in the polls is that people don’t want to support him if they think he is their enemy.  Paul has worked very hard to make himself the enemy of anyone he considers to his left.  In the debates he comes across as abrasive and angry.  His pet issues cloud many great issues that most conservatives would agree with him on.  Hint hint, Ron Paul, constitutionalists want to like you.  But when I sit there and think about my life, I really can’t think of what I did to cause 9/11 or why terrorists can kill Americans because of Jimmy Carter’s foolish foreign policy and what every President has done since then.

Part of Paul’s problem is that his foreign policy approach reflects history, but not reality.  Paul can pontificate all he wants on how we got here, but most conservatives don’t like his solution for how we get home.  In a quick draw, when you drop your gun turn around and walk away, Bin Laden types usually just shoot you in the back.  Who cares if it’s your fault you got in that situation in the first place.  Personally, I don’t want to be shot in the back.

Ron Paul was his best this year when he was talking about domestic policy and when he showed even an ounce of grace in the debates towards his fellow Republicans.  One last thing, Paul will never win over conservatives with his states rights approach to abortion.  No true pro-lifer is going to vote for a guy who is going to ensure that abortion stays legal in most of the states.

Rick Perry

Perry really needs to reassess his chances.  His only shot is a good showing in Iowa, as in 2nd place or better.  He needs to nail every debate going forward.  Perry needs a “My Fair Lady” transformation.  For starters, he can learn how to pronounce Nukuler.

His ideas are not bad.  His tenth amendment stance is very good.  But he has a lot of competition among candidates who are pro-tenth amendment, and his HPV vaccine debacle ruins his credibility on personal freedom.

Jon Huntsman

Huntsman could easily be in the 2012 Presidential race.  All he has to do is switch parties.  I’m being completely serious.  Jon Huntsman could guarantee that Obama does not have another four years by changing to Democrat and running against Obama in the 2012 primary as a moderate.  Of course, he would have to kneel before Pelosi/Reid to get the necessary credibility.

Michele Bachmann

In order for Bachmann to win, two things have to happen.  First, Obama has to get so low in the polls and believe it or not do even more stupid things so that anyone could beat him (even Trump).  Then, Bachmann would have to convince TEA Partiers that she is their candidate more than Newt, Perry or Santorum.  Unfortunately for Bachmann, if absolutely anyone could defeat Obama and electability wasn’t an issue, there is another candidate who would still take the TEA Party vote before she would.

Rick Santorum

If the TEA Party is going to come home to anyone, it would be Rick Santorum.  Get ready, it could happen in Iowa.  Santorum has never been taken seriously because people doubt his electability.  He lost in Pennsylvania.  Of course, that year every Republican in Pennsylvania lost.  Not only that, but some of our best Presidents won after losing senate races.  If you listen to Newt, you know two famous historical names, Lincoln and Douglas.  Did you know Lincoln’s victory was a rematch of their senate race two years before?  Guess who won that senate race.

If one more star is going to rise before this primary is over, it will be Santorum and it will be because the TEA Party takes Bachmann’s advice and says screw electability.  If that happens, Santorum has to be ready for the vetting process with ideas that will knock our socks off and make Romney and Newt look like morons.  Santorum has to not be George Bush II on the war and he has to convince fiscal conservatives that he can get spending under control.  He also has to convince libertarians that he will stay out of their homes.  That’s a tall order for Santorum.

Positively Entertainment?

Earlier this election season, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain sat down in a one on one debate that displayed Newt’s intellectualism and fast thinking, and Cain’s graciousness.  It’s starting to look like Newt will have a shot at another one on one debate as only he and Rick Santorum have agreed to The Donald’s debate on Ion Television, sponsored by Newsmax. 

Mitt Romney politely declined, Paul said no and Huntsman inferred that the whole thing was about Trump’s ratings.  George Will has also infamously declared that the Trump debate is below Presidential politics.  Perry and Bachmann have not confirmed, although Bachmann said she believes Trump will be biased because he is already leaning towards a candidate.  How that makes this debate different from any MSNBC or CNN debate where the moderators are already in the bag for Obama, I’m not sure.

Who is going to be hurt from backing out of the Trump debate? Trump has already declared his position on many things.  Huntsman and Paul would both find themselves on opposite sides from Trump.  Romney probably won’t be hurt by snubbing Trump.

Will Santorum or Gingrich be hurt by accepting the debate?  For Newt, probably not.  For Santorum, the possibility for damage to his campaign is pretty big.  While he will be getting a great deal of facetime, Santorum will be answering questions from a very strong willed and strongly opinionated Trump while going up against Newt one on one.  It is a very risky move.  The risk will be compounded if Trump then endorses Newt.

Bachmann and Perry’s non-committal stance currently is only making them more irrelevant. It also comes across as indecisive.

Or is it helping to make Trump more irrelevant?  Trump has said that if the candidate he wants doesn’t get in the race, he will run as a third party candidate.  Is it better to cater to the crybaby?  Or ignore him?  And honestly, would Trump get any votes as a third party candidate, when four more years of Obama is on the line?

Debunking Newt Mythology

Ok, hold on a minute.  Let’s talk about Newt.

The left has gone all in on Newt.  After three years of seeing that the Democrats have an empty hand with Obama, they have put all their chips on the table and dared us to run Newt.  And as usual, we are folding.  Same thing happened in 2008 when the left and the media scoffed at Mitt Romney and said that the only candidate who could ever beat their guy was John McCain.  Believe it or not, we listened.  For the smarter party, Republicans sure can be stupid.

Now the left is saying it will be a cake walk if we run Gingrich and the only serious candidate who can beat their guy is Romney, or maybe Huntsman, although they seem to have figured out that one is a hard sell.  So why are we listening again?  Ann Coulter came out slamming Newt and endorsing Romney.  George Will has attacked Newt Gingrich.  And what for?

Newt got $1.8 million from Freddie Mac.  Not really, it was actually Newt’s company.  But he did it by lobbying.  Well, again, no.  Newt did not lobby for Freddie Mac, but his company did provide consulting services to Freddie Mac.  Now, I am a businessman and a lot of what I do involves consulting.  Does that mean I can never run for President in case one of my clients does something bad someday despite my advice?  Maybe.

Let’s take it out of the business realm.  Pretend you own a garage and you fix cars.  If George Soros drives up and asks you to change the oil, will you turn him away?  Are you a liberal if you change his oil?  What about Bernie Madoff before he was caught?  Are you part of his illegal pyramid scheme because you changed his tires?

It would be one thing if Newt counseled Freddie Mac on how lose billions of dollars, get bailed out, and pay everyone huge bonuses.  But if you are looking for that smoking gun, you are looking at the wrong person.  Try Franklin Raines, Jamie Gaerlick, etc.  Enough with the guilt by association.  Newt did consulting for large businesses, and they paid his company rates that large, multi-billion dollar businesses pay for high level consulting.

Ok, but Newt sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi.  Yes, he did.  He also had debates with Cuomo, Kerry and Sharpton.  Newt Gingrich is not going to implement cap and trade to prevent global warming.  That’s about as crazy as saying Mitt Romney is going to support partial birth abortion.  Seriously, you have my word that neither of those will happen.  Newt wasn’t endorsing Nancy Pelosi any more than Al Sharpton was endorsing Pat Robertson.  If Sarah Palin stood next to Michelle Obama and did a PSA saying its good for kids to have a healthy diet, would you suddenly think that Palin supports federal government takeover of school lunches? Newt has fought vigorously against cap and trade.

Well, what about Newt supporting a healthcare mandate?  When Hillary was pushing Hillarycare, which would take responsibility away from people, Newt signed on with the Heritage Foundation’s alternative that included an individual mandate. After researching it, Newt backed off that position.  He never implemented it for an entire state, or for anyone actually.  Newt is not going to implement a healthcare mandate on the entire country.  Guess what, neither is Romney.

In fact, let’s talk Romney for a minute.  Mitt Romney is pro-life.  He opposes gay marriage.  He makes Huntsman look like Hillary.  He supports tax cuts for the middle class and not raising taxes on employers and producers.  As much as Romney has been painted as the liberal in this bunch, he was the most conservative viable candidate in 2008 after Fred Thompson dropped out.  He may not be a card carrying TEA Party member, but he has said himself that he supports the TEA Party and shares all of their goals.  By the way, I never got a card either.  I really don’t think they issue them, even if Bachmann has one.

Why did Romney lose in 2008?  It all came down to two reasons.  Number one, Romney was not moderate enough to get the “independents”.  He was too conservative.  Only John McCain could beat the Democrat in 2008 by reaching across the aisle and not being so extreme.  Reason number two, the infamous time-table for withdrawal charge.  Romney said that when the time came to draw down the troops from Iraq, he supported a time-table for an orderly withdrawal.  His opponents turned that into Democrat style cut and run.  No matter how many times he tried to explain that was not what he believed, that became the mantra.

What about Rick Perry?  Why aren’t we going around saying that Rick Perry is going to implement cap and trade because years ago he was a Democrat working on the campaign of the future Nobel prize winner and global warming snake oil salesman, Al Gore?

The only person we have to actually worry about doing half the crazy stuff he’s been accused of thinking is Ron Paul!

So let’s not let people choose our candidate for us.  Research what you hear about candidates.  Just because George Will thinks you are too dumb to vote doesn’t make it so.  Each of the candidates left have some great ideas, and each one will do a far better job at running this country than the current President.  Did Cain have some foreign policy gaffes?  Shoot, the last three years have been an Obama foreign policy gaffe.

Part of this election cycle that Romney has skipped sofar has been the knife in the back from the right and the dare to run that candidate from the left.  Considering how well Newt is handling this complete onslaught from the right and left, wouldn’t you rather have him going up against Obama than the candidate that no one is vetting?  McCain got plenty of vetting after Romney dropped out in 2008.

This is not an endorsement of Newt.  I will make an endorsement of a candidate after the Jacksonville, Florida debate in January.  But this is a serious question to our party.  Why do we have to self destruct again?

Trunkline 2012: Sunday Election News Review-12//4/11

Bookmark and Share ****Cain gone, Newt Ahead in Iowa, Coming in second: Ron Paul?? *****

With Cain gone, the field is looking more and more like Gingrich/Romney.  Meanwhile, liberal pundits and even some conservatives seem to be praying that Newt’s rise will be as long lived as Bachmann’s, Perry’s and Cain’s.  Is it really Santorum’s turn?  How about Ron Paul’s?

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Jon Huntsman – Manchurian Candidate to Washington President?

Former Ambassador to China and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has been rarely talked about when it comes to contenders for the Republican Party Presidential nomination. Huntsman is often referred to as the other the moderate candidate, Huntsman’s disadvantage is because he has served his country abroad in a number of high-level government positions under both Republican and Democratic presidents. It also stems from the belief that his policies although conservative, are not as right leaning as those of most of his rivals.

While other candidates attack each other and news networks finding it fantastic for viewing figures, it is likely that most of the current field will be too badly damaged after the primary process to seriously challenge President Obama in the national election campaign. Huntsman has adopted a very shrewd approach highlighting other candidate’s weaknesses, but remaining focussed on policy and his own consistency up to this stage.

Mitt Romney is often referred to as the moderate candidate with Huntsman the other moderate candidate. Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon and some narrow minded people have tried to raise the religious issue in the race. My answer is simple, people didn’t want a Catholic in the White House not so long ago, and JFK managed to inspire a young nation and set in motion the ambition for NASA to get a man on the moon, not bad for a Catholic I say but moreover, what could a Mormon achieve? Should religion be a factor in this race, no, the only thing that should matter is someone’s ability to do the job and deliver. Huntsman has ample ability and like Bill Clinton, has a record of proven ability as governor, but also recognises the need for strong and effective diplomacy, to meet the world challenges facing us all.

So what is my case for Huntsman being able to mount a serious late surge and cause an upset? It is simple, he has policies which although may not be the extreme conservative stances most GOP supporters would wish for. Huntsman would appeal to both GOP supporters and independents in a general election and his appeal will only increase more, once his face recognition improves.

Huntsman as former governor of Utah possesses an excellent executive record built on cutting taxes, reducing waste and growing Utah’s economy. Utah weathered the economic storm and grew jobs while the rest of the country saw substantial job loss. He also has extensive foreign policy experience and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and able to speak Taiwanese Hokkein. Huntsman also has executive job creative experience working for his family’s business expanding its operation globally.

Huntsman has been blunt in saying America currently faces an economic deficit and a trust deficit. He promises to create a manufacturing renaissance and encourage “Made in America” jobs. He promises to focus on reducing joblessness across America.

Huntsman also advocates raising the retirement age in order to reduce the government’s Social Security and Medicare obligations, change the formula by which cost-of-living adjustments are determined and reduce benefits for high-income individuals.

Huntsman wants to repeal President Barack Obama’s “unconstitutional and unaffordable” health care law. In terms of broad reforms, he wants to streamline the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process to make it less expensive for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to develop health care products.

On foreign policy, Huntsman calls for a withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan and says it “has evolved into an ill-advised counter-insurgency campaign which continues to carry heavy costs in terms of blood and treasure.” Huntsman supports the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, but he opposes the planned withdrawal of all troops by December. “President Obama’s decision … to not leave a small, focused presence in Iraq is a mistake and the product of his administration’s failures.”

On the Iran issue Huntsman has been more measured but nonetheless firm saying he does not want Iran to get Nuclear weapon capability and is supportive of continuing efforts to make sanctions work. Huntsman has alluded to the real case scenario that if sanctions didn’t work then military action in conjunction with Israel would be the only option in the end: “My sense is that their ultimate aspiration is to become a nuclear power, in which case sanctions probably aren’t going to get you there. And that means likely, we’re going to have to have a conversation with Israel at some point.”

So why is Huntsman struggling in the polls, it is simple, face recognition. Most American’s outside of the state of Utah probably haven’t heard much about him, or even know what he looks like because of his overseas’s postings. Huntsman has based his efforts in New Hampshire for the early primaries making somewhere approaching on 120 stops throughout the state however; he still only gets 11 percent in the state polls.

What Huntsman needs to do is a better job at selling himself throughout the state and in the media. Three of his daughters have mounted an effective social media campaign which has probably done more for raising his profile then any marketing or communications consultant has up to this point.

Huntsman is currently struggling because he is the least known candidate domestically. If Huntsman can manage to find a way to sell himself more effectively and deliver a surprise result in New Hampshire, I believe he could be the one candidate who could take such momentum all the way across the finish line.

If I were a democratic strategist, Huntsman is the one candidate President Obama does not want to face in a General election. Bill Clinton defied expectations as a relatively unknown Arkansas governor to become one of the best modern American presidents in my opinion. I believe Huntsman is not as controversial as some of the other GOP candidates. He has the proven track record, is strong on policy and will not flip flop for the sake of gaining votes like Romney. The democrats would of had to vet him before appointing him to the most high profile Ambassadorial role that United States has China. Therefore, there cannot be too many, if any at all, hidden secrets to cause potential damage to him or his campaign.

Huntsman I believe would appeal republican, democratic and independent voters in an election and win their votes. Team Obama would not be able to run the negative campaign they want to run should Huntsman be the GOP nominee. Huntsman has an excellent record but more importantly, it would cripple their whole anticipated 2012 strategy and bring attention to President Obama’s economic and domestic record. The president can’t win on his record that is fact.

My tip, don’t bet against Huntsman going from the Manchurian Candidate, to Washington President.

 

 

 

The GOP Debate Gauntlet – Deciding The Nominee Or Face Time For Media Hounds?

Bookmark and ShareAs GOP primary voters wind down to the last couple of months before the selection process of a nominee begins there has certainly been no shortage of opportunity for the top polling candidates to get their message out.

Is it me or is there a GOP presidential debate every week?

For political junkies it is a fantastic schedule. The candidates squaring off on our tv’s, the trip up’s and slip up’s, the scolding of the media, the embellishing of records and the bickering about who has the biggest…….plan. All kidding aside there have been a few bright moments and some instances where policy has been articulated well to allow the voters to hear and decide who the best candidate would be to put the country back on the right track.

But does the grueling debate schedule also serve another purpose?

Lets be honest here, there are candidates whose funding, message and 15 minutes have dried up during the process but yet they remain there, on the stage, for nothing more than a little self promotion and face time. To steal a quote from ESPN’s weekly blooper segment: “C’Mon Man!”.

Michele Bachmann came out like a lion and is leaving like a lamb. Winning the Iowa straw poll gave her some hope but realistically the big dogs had yet to get on the porch in Iowa at the time. Although she has had some good moments in the debates her chances are slim to none. 28 foster children is admirable but repeating it time after time to people who want to know what you are going to do to help the job market won’t help a withering campaign bank account. Sorry congresswoman but after Iowa it may be time to sit down and pen that book you seem to be promoting. Get off the stage

Rick Santorum has spent a ton of time and money in Iowa. He has spent enough time in Iowa that he may have to file his state tax return in the Hawkeye state. Despite his near residency he is still polling at or near the bottom in the state that kicks off the election cycle. That alone should be enough to tell the former Pennsylvania Senator that it may be time to hang it up. In a socially conservative state, the socially conservative candidate has not been able to gain traction. Not a good sign. He has performed well in the debates don’t get me wrong but if he can’t get off the ground in Iowa he isn’t getting off the ground at all. Especially after all of the effort he has put into it. If he is staying in for VP consideration or to gain viewers for a new Fox News show is unclear but staying in to win is not an option at this point. Your best in Iowa was not good enough. Get off the stage.

Jon Huntsman has also not made any major gaffes in the debate cycle but has yet to make a name for himself in a muddled field. China this, China that. Pointing to his foreign policy experience should be an asset to Huntsman but instead has made him seem like a 1 trick pony. Throw that in with his time in the Obama administration and although it may be unfair, he comes off to the everyday voter as Obama’s China guy and using the words Obama and China in the same sentence doesn’t bode well with GOP voters at the moment. Noting your experience with China every time you get a chance to speak however may land you a spot in the next GOP administration but other than that there is no reason for Huntsman to remain in. Get off the stage.

Ron Paul has been polling well. That is to say better than he has in past presidential primaries. However even his supporters, of which I am one, realize his chances of winning a GOP nomination are almost non-existent. His values are more Libertarian than Republican, everyone knows it and he is unapologetic for it. Some of the ideas he was ostracized for in past primaries have become GOP rallying calls but it still doesn’t hide the fact that he simply is not what GOP voters are looking for. He is still raising enough money and polling well enough to stay in the race but is he going to stay in to win or to gain a national stage for his Libertarian philosophy? I think everyone with an ounce of sense knows it is the latter. He would do much better as a 3rd party candidate and would in the end probably help the GOP nominee by siphoning some of Obama’s more fiscally responsible but socially liberal supporters from the President. It pains me to say it but Dr. Paul – Get off the (GOP) stage.

Rick Perry is a car wreck on the side of the highway. It is very difficult to watch but you can’t help yourself from wanting to take a peek. Gaffe after gaffe has made him the poster boy for SNL skits. Couple that with a very poor decision to pick a fight with Mitt Romney in which he got his rear end handed to him and you have a flash in the pan campaign that started like it was shot out of a cannon and then exploded before it made impact with anything. debates are not Perry’s strong suit. Unfortunately for him there are a bunch of them. Another Fox News gig in the wings? He does have great hair. Governor, Get off the stage.

Hopefully these candidates will see the light after Iowa and bow out gracefully. They have nothing but a prayer of winning the GOP nomination and if they truly wan to show fiscal responsibility will quit wasting their donors money trying to do so. There will probably be a couple that remain in until the coffers run empty simply for self promotion and grandeur, but that’s what we get for scheduling this many debates.

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Foreign Policy Reveals Different Strengths

Whether or not you think the GOP has a strong field, one thing is for sure.  Any of these candidates would be better than Obama when it comes to foreign policy.  That came across clearly from more moderate voices like Jon Huntsman in addition to the two front runners.  Overall it was a great performance by all the candidates.  The contrast between the GOP field, including Ron Paul, and Barack Obama was clear.  So, here are the winners and losers:

Mitt Romney won the debate because of his smooth ability to introduce ambiguity on some issues to give all Conservatives a cushion of comfort.  See Newt’s performance below.  Mitt also took on Ron Paul and I think Mitt won that debate.  It seems pretty clear that Al Qaida terrorists and Timothy McVeigh do not represent the same sort of threat.  In fact, I would argue that lumping McVeigh, a disgruntled anti-American government citizen attacking the system, in with the 9/11 hijackers, foreign terrorists attacking and targeting United States civilians, is a very dangerous way of looking at foreign and domestic terrorism.  I sure hope we would treat a foreign terrorist crossing our border illegally differently than a citizen radical trying to build a bomb in their basement because the IRS just sent them another tax notice.

Jon Huntsman demonstrated his firm control of foreign policy issues.  I think he overcame some fears when he affirmed our strong relationship with Israel.  Huntsman also expressed sentiments on Afghanistan that have been felt by many Conservatives who were mislabeled as “neo-cons” over the last decade.  Many Conservatives supported both wars, but do not support something for nothing nation building in nations that don’t respect us and don’t appreciate the sacrifices we have made.  Huntsman turned again and again to the economy and the failures of Obama and Congress to solve the problem.  Huntsman’s point on how we leave North Korea alone because they have a nuke, but invaded Libya after they gave up their nuclear ambitions is a great diagnosis of the inconsistency in America’s position towards nuclear ambitious countries.

Newt had a great, issue free performance.  Here is the problem.  Newt comes across hawkish, and he is far too honest.  In the end, Mitt agreed with him on long-time illegal immigrants, but Mitt said it in such a way that will be taken better by anti-illegal alien Conservatives.  Newt also hurt himself by endorsing and calling for an expansion of the Patriot act.  This could help guarantee that Ron Paulites stay home and let Obama get re-elected in 2012.  What Newt should have said was that he supported the Patriot Act, but recommends examining it for things that could be eliminated or added.  I think Newt is too straight forward on a subject that honestly Americans would prefer some ambiguity on.  Same with covert operations.  His answer regarding opening our oil resources is not new, but continues to be a very strong point for him.

Ron Paul continued to solidify his base and add some fringe Conservatives who are weary enough of the wars to want to radically change America’s relationship with the world.  For these people, Paul’s angry old man persona, scoffing and reacting to opponents’ answers, and idea that if we leave terrorists alone, they will realize the error of their ways and leave us alone, will not affect his support.  Still, Paul would make a better foreign policy President than Obama.  At least his disengagement would be total, not mixed with war hawkishness like Obama’s.

Rick Perry’s substance earned him a higher spot after this debate.  I still think his idea of zero based budgeting for foreign aid resonates with Americans.  His refusal to dabble in hypotheticals about illegals who have been here more than a quarter century is going to help him as people weed out Romney and Gingrich’s immigration comments and discover the softness there.

Herman Cain did well not to hurt himself in this debate.  He has come across as unknowledgeable on foreign policy.  In this debate he showed he has a recognizable set of foreign policy principles, although he kept things pretty vague.  He didn’t hurt himself and that is a victory for him on foreign policy.

Rick Santorum comes across as a neo-con.   This debate didn’t really change that, and only a change in that perception would cause his status to change as a result of this debate.  No mistakes, but also no movement for him after this debate.  He continues to maintain that we should be paying Pakistan for friendship.

Michele Bachmann is either a career politician or has issues with comprehension.  On multiple occasions she seemed to not be able to grasp her opponent’s position.  A glaring example was when she interpreted Newt’s soft approach to long-time established illegals as some sort of call for general amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens.  She played the same role in Rick Perry’s demise, but now it seems more like a desperate cry for relevance.  Rising and falling as the Social Conservative choice at this point will require superiority on the issues, not loud misunderstanding of opponents, even though that usually produces success with the general electorate.

No matter who the nominee is, what is clear from last night is that we cannot afford four more years of Obama’s foreign policy.

Thanksgiving Family Forum Review

The GOP candidates faced something Saturday night that they haven’t seen in a long time, a friendly moderator.  In a round table discussion without buzzers, all but one of today’s contenders shared personal stories, tears, and their faith.  It was a very personalizing debate where Americans got to see these candidates discuss the issues facing family values voters.  So here is the official review:

Newt Gingrich opened up and shared a real personal side of himself with the audience.  He personalized the healthcare debate in a way that would make pro-Obamacare liberals rethink centralized health planning.  He also was the most genuine in sharing his failures with the crowd.  His failure and the resolution of turning his life around through God’s help is exactly what resonates with this crowd. He presented solutions on judicial activism without betraying a sort of militant anti-homosexuality that will be a turnoff to some states rights conservatives who shy away from a marriage amendment, but in a way that should satisfy pro-amendment conservatives who see the courts stampeding over states rights on marriage.

Rick Santorum had a chance to connect with audiences and take enough time to overcome some of the perception of irrelevance that comes with mainstream media consumer based debates.  This will help him especially in Iowa where social conservatives are searching to an anti-Romney with a clean record.  Santorum helped his changes in Iowa, although even if he wins in Iowa he will probably not take any other states.

Herman Cain played to his strength: being real.  Although there are questions about Cain’s foreign policy know how and tax plan, one thing that has made him endearing to Republicans is his realness and his ability to connect on that personal level.  He may have harmed himself though when as a failure he pointed out that he spent too much time working to the top of the corporate ladder and not enough time with his family.  That is a regret that will not resonate with most Americans, and for those who it does it will not be seen as a good thing.

Michele Bachmann did well, but was once again forgettable.  Her answer on schools was good by itself, but was a shadow of answers given by other candidates.  She must find a way to distinguish herself if she hopes to be relevant again.  Perry tried to make himself relevant, but his tax plan was trumped by Gingrich’s flat tax.  Santorum has not been able to make himself relevant again.  Bachmann’s best shot recently at making herself relevant has been apparent support for a $10 surtax on all Americans to make sure everyone is paying something in.  That is not a defining plan that will rocket her back to relevance.

Ron Paul was able to be personal and share his faith, which is important for him among social conservatives.  However, it may also be damaging among libertarian voters.  Paul showed support for DOMA, which will hurt him with libertarians.  His advocacy for moving issues like gay marriage to the church and family are admirable, but naive like his foreign policy.  Paul does not seem to understand the militancy of some liberal homosexual groups.  Paul also hurt himself with his greatest failure, suffering sports injuries that kept him from playing football in highschool.  Honestly, if someone told me that in a job interview I would probably only continue the interview out of politeness.

Rick Perry had a typical bumbling debate performance.  At one point he said “We’ve all heard that saying…” and I was afraid he might forget what it was.  When he talked about his greatest failure, I think he was saying he impregnated his wife (possibly not his wife at the time?) and had to drop out of veterinarian school.  Overall, unimpressive.

The biggest loser was Mitt Romney.  Mitt will not win this election with just the establishment and fiscal conservatives.  This was a must attend debate if he hopes to win over any social conservatives of family values voters.  Then again, if Mitt could not stand toe to toe with these candidates on family values, perhaps it is best that he didn’t show up.

Other no shows, Gary Johnson, Fred Kargar, Buddy Roemer, and Jon Huntsman.  Let’s be honest, who cares.

As Predicted

Newt is finally getting to taste the view at the top.  In the latest Public Policy Polling poll, Newt has climbed to the top, edging out Cain and Romney.  In fact, in this poll Newt was the only candidate with noticeable upward mobility.  Both Cain and Romney saw declines, while Perry slipped far closer to 5% oblivion with fellow candidates Bachmann, Paul, Santorum, Huntsman and Johnson.

Newt's turn as king of the hill

Newt’s ascension is no surprise to this staffer after Cain’s sexual harassment troubles refused to go away, his 9-9-9 plan came under scrutiny, and he gave a foreign policy debate performance where he may as well have said on a clear day he can see advisers who know something about foreign policy from his front doorstep.  Ok, low blow.  But you have to admit his debate performance was not up to Newt/Mitt standards.

Mitt Romney continues to occupy his base of supporters, but this poll may indicate that many who supported him as the only viable candidate are also giving Newt a second look.  This is especially true considering things like the latest Whitehouse12.com poll that shows high negatives for Cain and Romney, but relatively low negatives for Gingrich.

What Newt Gingrich needs to do now is avoid saying anything stupid.  The top spot in the GOP race is precarious.  And Newt is not spotless.  At times he means well, but is misunderstood.  While he has chalked up his couch time with Pelosi and his weak campaign start as stupid mistakes, such an excuse will not carry him through January.  Gingrich needs South Carolina and Florida to go his way before he can start feeling at all comfortable, and that is a ways away still.

And that’s time

In a short hour and a half, made up of minute responses and thirty second followups, the GOP candidates once again took the stage to answer questions from semi-respectful moderators.  In a debate most looked forward to by Ron Paul fans, Paul received very little time. We have seen pretty much all there is to be seen about candidate style, and many of these questions were repeats.  So here are the winners and losers:

The Good

Mitt Romney won this debate.  His answers were calming, yet clear and determined.  He portrayed the very stature Americans are looking for in a Commander in Chief, and he highlighted American Exceptionalism.  This area is a strong suit for Mitt, and one that does not involve any sort of past flip flops or policy changes.  His answers should give him a bump among social conservatives who are inspired by terms like American Exceptionalism.

Newt at one point had to school the moderators on war versus criminal law.  In some ways this debate seemed frustrating for Newt, but that is an aspect of him his followers often like to see.  Newt brings the fight to the moderators and to the left and usually wins.  Many of his answers were right on, but others were somewhat vague.  One thing that Newt will lose points for is how loosely he called for covert operations in countries like Iran and Syria.  This is something Newt has brought up as a policy in debates and speeches in the past, but is something better left unsaid.

Jon Huntsman did well in the debate.  The question on a tradewar with China is a favorite of most media moderators because it gives them a chance to toss Huntsman an easy softball.    Foreign policy hits many of Huntsman’s strong points without touching many of the issues that conservatives hate him for.  It won’t matter though, Huntsman is done.

The Bad

Santorum did pretty well.  He has the unfortunate bad luck of being a candidate on the back end of two long wars and sharing a policy that sounds eerily like Bush’s.  On the other hand, Santorum seemed to be saying that we need to keep funding Pakistan and being their friend because they have a Nuke.  True or not, Santorum is not going to win American hearts saying implying that we must borrow from China to pay off Pakistan to be our friend.

I have a feeling that media moderators purposefully cut Paul’s debate time short on debates like this to get his supporters riled up.  Get ready, we are going to hear about that for the next week or so.  Paul didn’t do bad for most of the debate, but some of his stances are really not correct.  The idea that the United States must capture a citizen who has declared war on the United States and bring them in to face civilian court, or that non-uniformed terrorists have any sort of rights under US law is wrong and violates precedent.  Gingrich and Perry were absolutely right on those counts.  Paul’s supporters were being their typical selves in the debate as well, to the point where the mods had to admonish them to be respectful.  They are another liability of Paul’s with the overall GOP.

Herman Cain reminded me a lot of Rick Perry in recent debates.  Without 9-9-9 to fall back on, Cain was slow in responses, vague, and seemed as though he would happily defer to a future self, surrounded by knowledgeable generals and advisers.  That’s great, but that is not leadership.  In that respect, Huntsman showed up Cain, and even Gingrich, when he said if a nuke was loose in Pakistan he would secure it.  Cain really did not give a performance that screamed “I am a leader”.  Instead, each response sounded like “How can I answer this without ruining my campaign”.

The Ugly

Michele Bachmann continues to be unimpressive and unmemorable.  She scored some points rebutting Ron Paul, but seemed to spend most of the night trying to get the moderators to let her respond to other candidates.  She also seemed to get less time.  However, I will give her a great deal of credit for her answers on ways to trim military spending without hurting the military.

Rick Perry still doesn’t debate well.  And once again he found himself as the butt of several jokes, made both by the moderators, himself, and Senator Graham.  Perry’s idea of zero based budgeting for foreign aide is a great idea, but the only reason it’s his is because he got to say it first.  Gingrich and Romeny both articulated it better when Perry was done.

But allow me a Newt Gingrich moment to say this.  The real loser was Barack Obama.  The candidates made it clear, once again, that every single one of them would run foreign policy better than Obama.  Several drove home the point that Obama had a range of good choices and bad choices and made all the bad ones and none of the good ones.  The only ambivalent candidate who actually seemed to end up on Obama’s side for some things was Ron Paul.  This is one of the aspects of Newt Gingrich’s leadership because he has focused these debates on defeating Barack Obama, and when Newt sets the tone the other candidates usually follow.

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