CNBC versus the GOP

Last night the GOP candidates went into hostile Michigan to face a hostile set of moderators who were booed into sticking to economic issues by the crowd after an unfair detour against Herman Cain.  In all, the night turned into somewhat of a circus.  Hopefully, the GOP will shun CNBC in the future, as this was the worst and most unprofessional case of moderation we have seen.    But aside from that, let’s get to the winners and losers.  First up…

It floored me when they tried to ask if companies should be making a profit or growing jobs.  Excuse me, but how the heck do you create jobs if you aren’t making a profit?? Gingrich’s response was beautiful. Watching the moderator rolling her eyes when Gingrich said a 30 second answer on healthcare was ridiculous was fun to watch.  But my favorite answer of Gingrich’s was on education, where he offered a real life example of a real life solution that addresses the issue of education that is getting exponentially expensive with much cheaper results.  As someone who works full-time, is a full-time grad student and has been in college for a decade following various business and religious pursuits, I connected with Gingrich’s answer and could not agree more.  This morning Neil Boortz in a morning phonecall to WOKV implied that Republicans needed to worry about who could beat Obama, not who would be the best President speaking of Newt Gingrich.  Bull.  Gingrich keeps winning debates because he is the smartest man on that stage.  And he made a joke out of those bombastic, rude moderators.

Rick Santorum did well.  This doesn’t mean anything, he still can’t win.  But he did highlight his leadership on things like medical savings accounts and gave viewers no reason to mark him down.  He has struggled in debates, but performed well last night.  Ron Paul also did a good job.  He avoided saying anything outlandish and produced a solid, constitutionalist approach.  Bachmann did well, but was once again forgettable.  Huntsman also did pretty well, though his attempt at “answer this in 30 seconds?” humor sounded like a lame, screwed up retelling of a good joke.

Mitt Romney needs to understand his precarious position.  He is stuck at 30%.  The rest of the GOP voters are looking for not-Mitt-Romney as their candidate.  His smoothness, economic savvy, and gaffe free debate performances have gotten him this far (along with a great deal of establishment money).  He needs to figure out how to get himself the rest of the way.  He has to find a way to make Social Conservatives trust him. Mitt, if you are listening, make a major statement in favor of state personhood amendments.  Consider that step one to breaking into the 40s in the polls.

Herman Cain also has hit a roadblock, but it is a policy roadblock.  I think many viewers were left with the feeling that if nuclear missiles were airborne from China heading for the US, President Cain would be on the phone with the Chinese President telling him how his bold plan, the 9-9-9 plan, could solve their problems by growing China’s economy.  9-9-9 is to Herman Cain what Windex was to Tula’s family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  This one dimensionalism will leave him open to a Gingrich rise.  On the other hand, Cain did very well defending himself against accusations which are more and more looking like racist smears from the Axelrod/Democrat machine.

Rick, Rick, Rick.  By the way, if you want to see the sexism of the left, just watch how long Perry’s crash and burn stays in the media cycle and blogosphere compared to a Palin or Bachmann gaffe.  Talk about not being ready for primetime.  I think Perry likes to start talking and get rolling, and that’s why he sometimes forgets what he was talking about mid-sentence.  No excuses.  You are running for President of the United States.  Running before you secure the ball is how you lose games.  Running your mouth before you have your answer and grasp on the issues is what makes Presidents say stupid things.  E.g. Barack Obama talking about police officers who arrested his professor friend.

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Time to thin the herd

All is not lost!  Yes, it was an ugly night for several GOP candidates.  Newt’s frustration with the format is certainly understandable.  It made for great television, but it was a bad debate.  However, there were some glimmers of hope, starting with the Vegas Champ…

Newt Gingrich.  I didn’t give Newt the win last time because I didn’t think his campaign would see a boost.  After this debate, I think it will.  Newt once again is the adult in the room.  He puts himself above the fray and really acts as a second moderator.  Voters should give Newt a second look.  Give Newt seven debates with Barack Obama and Obama might even drop out of the race before November.  I would love to see these debates as more candidates drop out and more time is given.  Newt has been so supportive of other candidates that his questions of other candidates carried a great deal of weight and were therefore more devastating.  Cain will not survive the 999 barrage, look for Newt to pick up steam.  Newt’s statement on faith put him squarely in the majority of conservative thought.  Newt’s biggest slip up was on appearing weak on states rights.  Another candidate who performed well, but likely won’t see much change because of it was…

Mitt Romney.  Romney was once again the big punching bag, and once again hit back.  He continued to defend his healthcare program as a state program and did pretty well.  But here Newt hit him hard on the big government aspect of it.    Romney kept his cool when being shouted down by Rick Santorum and talked over by Rick Perry.  Romney screwed up on Cain’s 999 plan trying to argue that Cain’s plan would add federal taxes to state taxes.  Excuse me, Mr. Romney, but you already pay bushels of apples and oranges.  Don’t feel bad, every candidate but Cain and Newt seemed to forget that 999 would eliminate our current tax code.  In the end, especially with no Huntsman, Romney’s got his support base solidified and did nothing to hurt that. Unfortunately, this is the last good report on a candidate performance in this review.  Although, it wasn’t terrible for everyone, especially…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele, Michele, Michele.  First, Obama took us to Libya, THEN, he took us into Africa!  Oops, Libya is in Africa.  But again, if Joe Biden can be VP, we shouldn’t be too hard on Bachmann for her frequent misspeaks.  Aside from that, she did well in another forgettable performance/turned stump speech.   As a tax litigation attorney though, I am disappointed in her evaluation of Cain’s 999 plan.  A VAT because every corporation in the manufacturing process pays 9%?  What does our current corporate tax do?  Same thing.  Shame on you Michele.  But most people won’t figure that out, so you’re good.  We will see if the media picks up on Bachmann’s idea of a $1 poor tax.  Bachmann won’t see any uptick from this debate.  Another candidate with no uptick or downtick…

Ron Paul. Paul is good on state’s rights.  The other candidates would do well to learn some things from him.  On the other hand, we heard a lot of the same platitudes and fuzzy one liners that leave us scratching our heads about if Paul actually has a viable plan.  Get rid of the income tax?  Oh, ok.  Is that like repealing Medicare part D?  Would be nice, but not a priority?  Paul came out with a new economic plan that cuts a trillion in spending.  Worth taking a look at, but didn’t get much play last night.  He will maintain his small support base, but with his vagueness and legend over substance approach this debate won’t give him a bump.  But at least he won’t lose support, like…

Herman Cain.  Cain gave the media some pretty good quotes last night.  Would he shut down Guantanamo to negotiate with terrorists?  Kinda sounded like it.  Apples and Oranges?  Cain, that is simply not Washington speak.  Cain looked amateurish.    He is an amateur though, so he may get a pass for the inability to articulate his 999 plan in a way that Americans can understand and latch on to.  Fortunately, his opponents weren’t much better.  In fact, only Newt seemed to have a clue how 999 works, but he wasn’t about to throw Cain a bone.  Cain right now is riding on populism, but poor debate performances can sink that ship (Bachmann, Perry).  In fact, I think it did sink two ships last night, starting with…

Rick Santorum.  Rick continues to be an advocate for the family.  He continues to present strong conservatism.  But his discussion with Romney early on just set a bad tone.  He reminded me of an angry teenager.  It was unprofessional and amateurish.  It’s been good to have Santorum in these debates for the most part, but after last night he needs to drop out and endorse a social conservative who can still beat Romney.  You’re not going to win, Rick Santorum.  At this point you are hurting more than helping.  But at least Santorum did better than…

Rick Perry.  Geez.  I don’t want to sound politically incorrect, but Perry seemed…slow.  Can we still use that term?  When Romney was answering and Perry was slowly drawling over him and droning on, I couldn’t help but laugh.  But it got worse as the night went on.  Perry, who gave instate tuition to illegals and opposes a full border fence, went after Romney for hiring a landscaping company that hired illegal aliens.  And that wasn’t the only 2008 unfair attack that Perry dug up.  Even when Perry made a good point (We need to uh, look at, uh the…darn, which amendment was it again?  Oh yeah, tenth amendment for uh…issues) it was lost in translation.  Perry was put in his place over and over.  It was a complete dud.  Even his distancing from Pastor Jeffers was not believable.  The best we got from Perry was a promise that next week he will have a tax plan. The good news is that even Rick Perry had a better week than…

Barack Obama.  Rumor has it, after a bunch of his tour supplies were stolen, that his teleprompter is currently being interrogated by Iranian sponsored Al Qaida terrorists in Mexico.  Although, there have also been alleged sightings of his teleprompter in Zuccoti park, smoking a joint and displaying a message about being overworked and underpaid.

Welcome to the top, Herman Cain

The most recent debate is over, and Herman Cain is discovering what Rick Perry felt like when he was the front runner.  The way the debate went, there was clear recognition of Cain, Romney and Perry as front runners.  The other candidates almost seemed to be helping in the vetting process as though they were seeking to help Americans choose from one of those top three.   So here goes, the latest debate in retrospect.  And the winner is…

Romney back in the driver seat

Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney had some good news today.  He picked up an endorsement from Chris Christie, which is huge.  He also had some bad news.  Rush Limbaugh questioned Romney’s conservatism compared to other candidates and gave the death knell that took down Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman.  Rush called him the Republican establishment candidate.  Still, Romney was his usual comfortable self.  His adopting the Trump doctrine on China will help build that portion of his base.  Cain did Romney a huge favor by asking him about his 59 point plan and giving him the chance to explain it and expound on it.  In fact, the questioning session turned into an opportunity for the other candidates to seem to vet the apparent front runner candidate.  Romney’s own question to Michele Bachmann was very gracious and showed the kind of class that simply makes Romney likeable.  Romney’s answer on Dodd Frank was pure gold.  He was polished and Presidential.  Romney still has to get a little bit stronger on his conservative stances and lose a bit of that obvious shine in order to pick up more of the anti-politician minded rightwing, especially the TEA party.  But for this debate, Romney managed to edge out…

Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich is the best debater.  As the best debater, Newt spewed pure common sense.  His best was when he bluntly spoke about how absolutely stupid the debt commission is.  His answers put him above the fray and he maintained his mantra that any candidate on that stage would be better than Obama.  However, Newt did not get enough face time.  He took no arrows, shot no arrows at the other candidates, but simply did not have enough chances to speak to make a difference.  Newt has won several of these debates, but winning these debates is not enough for him at this point.  He must so completely knock each debate out of the park that everytime a front runner falls he is there to pick up the pieces.  In this case, he did not even mention his campaign’s new contract with America.  It was a lost opportunity.   So far he has not accomplished what he needs to do in these debates.  I can’t give him first, no matter how well deserved.  But as a representative of the Social Conservative flavor of this party, he did outperform…

Cain has his work cut out for him

Herman Cain.  Cain’s 9 9 9 plan finally got the inspection it deserved.  A striking moment was when Rick Santorum polled the audience on who wanted a new 9% sales tax, and who thought a 9% flat income tax would stay at 9%.  Not a single hand in the audience was visible.  Santorum hit the nail on the head.  The result is Cain will be in trouble after this debate.  He must now find a way to explain his plan in a way that resonates with Americans.  He made a good start when he talked about how the 9% sales tax would replace a 15% payroll tax, which of course we all pay.  If he can hit that point and solve the question of how to prevent future Presidents from turning his 9 9 9 plan into a 35 35 35 plan, he can salvage his front runner (by my calculations) status.  Cain took a huge hit on the federal reserve when Paul questioned him too.  Later when he spoke about fixing the Fed, Paul made easy work out of Cain.  Still, his likeability level and pure down home realness will keep him afloat for at least one more round.  At this point, if Cain falters I predict voters will finally give Newt Gingrich a second look.  Another candidate they might be looking at is…

Rick Santorum.  Rick Santorum did very well.  He made a key point when he said he did not support the bailout.  He called out Cain’s 9 9 9 plan and struck a very strong blow on it.  He exposed Cain’s naivete beautifully.  But that was the extent of Santorum’s stunning performance.  Like Gingrich, he simply did not get enough other face time to make a huge difference.  No one is afraid of him becoming the front runner any time soon, so there wasn’t much interest in him among the debate moderators.  While Santorum did not make a strong case for himself as President, he certainly gave voters a lot to think about with the latest rising star in Herman Cain.  That may be his purpose at this point.  There is very little chance of his campaign being successful.  Almost as little chance as…

Jon Huntsman.  Jon Huntsman did not do bad for the most part.  His answer on China will not connect with Americans and for a good reason.  Being nice to China does not sell when as Romney pointed out we are already losing to them because they are cheating.  Two debates ago I said Huntsman’s campaign is over.  Nothing changed with the debate tonight.  Feeling our pain because he helped run the family business and was a good governor is so cliche at this point, it’s really forgettable.  But not as forgettable as…

Michele Bachmann.  Michele Bachmann did well.  She spoke on Obama’s failures and conservatism.  But mostly she was forgettable.  At one point, it sounded like she said she raised 28 children, 22 foster and 5 biological.  I could understand, with that many kids, how easy it would be to get the math wrong.  But it’s not good when that’s what sticks out in my mind.  No highlights, no major gaffes, and in fact her role in Congress became even more forgettable when Gingrich asked why the House has not made any move to repeal Dodd Frank or Sarbanes Oxley.  I was left wondering where her actual leadership has manifested itself.  The exchange with Romney was her one saving grace, proving that at least she is not one dimensional unlike…

Popularity off the debate stage won't save these candidates from earning low marks in this debate.

Ron Paul.  Ron Paul did ok.  He made it pretty clear he isn’t a fan of the fed.  But on the fed, especially Bernanke, Newt stole his thunder.  What else did Paul speak about?  Again, another forgettable candidate.  Paul fans, don’t hate me for saying that.  Step outside of the movement for a minute and ask yourself if he truly made a splash.  Did we hear anything new about Ron Paul that would make us want to make him in charge of everything the President of the United States is responsible for?  No, but I’d be happy to see him head up the Fed audit once we get a President who has that as a priority (which apparently is not Herman Cain).  But even Ron Paul did better than…

Rick Perry.  Rick Perry came across as a something between a walking cliche and a deer in the headlights.  He simply does not debate well.  He again was slow in his responses and his wording did not connect.  He came across as very unprepared once again.  His good answers were copies of other candidates, and his bad answers seemed to drag on with his drawl.  I’ve said before that I would love to see Newt Gingrich debate Obama.  I would not love to see Perry debate Obama.  I’m not sure I would be able to watch.  Can Perry turn things around?  Possibly.  I’m not ready to give him the Dead Candidate Walking title along with Huntsman just yet.

The Real Challenge in Tonight’s Washington Post/ Bloomberg TV Presidential

Bookmark and Share   This evening, 8 Republicans will participate in the seventh official presidential debate of the year.   Hosted by the Washington Post and Bloomberg TV, it will take place in New Hampshire at 8:00 PM (EST) and will be moderated by Charlie Rose who will ask questions of the candidates along with Washington Post’s  Karen Tumulty  and Bloomberg TV’s Julianna Goldman.  The entire debate will be dedicated to the economy and unlike previous debates, this one will feature a round table format with the candidates  seated next to each other.

The debate will stream live on PostPolitics.com,  and be broadcast live on Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg.com and WBIN-TV in New Hampshire.

Following the event, the candidates and their advisers will speak to reporters in the political “Spin Room” which you can follow LIVE on C‑SPAN.org at 10:00 PM.

The debate comes at a critical juncture in the nomination contest.  With last week’s announcements by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Alaska Governor  Sarah Palin declaring that they will not be running for President in 2012, this will, be the first debate of the election which forces voters to focus on comparing those who are running to one another and not with any hoped, for but undeclared, potential candidates.  It also comes at a time when shifts in public approval of some candidates are swinging wildly.  Such is the case with Herman Cain and Rick Perry.  While Cain has emerged from the back of the field to take position in the top half of the field, the opposite has happened with Rick Perry.

At the same time Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Jon Huntsman find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to establish themselves as the alternative choice to the frontrunners.  Currently, all four of them are having to fight the “why” factor.  That’s  “why” as in why keep running?

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry is probably under the most pressure tonight.

While the this evening’s debate may not be a deal breaker for him, it is most definitely going to be his opportunity to gain ground that he has lost since he began plummeting in the polls after his las debate performance.  He could either get back on track or concede ground to Romney, Cain, or any one of the other second tier candidates, including Ron Paul.  And with about twelve weeks left before the first nomination ballots are cast, Perry really can’t afford to lose any more ground .  For him, tonight will mean the difference between voters continuing to consider his candidacy or writing it off as a dud.

For Herman Cain, this seventh debate provides him with the opposite version of the Perry situation.

Herman Cain must find a way to give voters who began to take his candidacy seriously after winning the Florida Straw Poll, reason to say, “Yeah.  He really is good“.  A good showing tonight will solidify Cain as the seriously strong, viable, anti-establishment alternative to the establishmentarian candidacy of frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney will also be under a great deal of pressure.  He will be the man in the hottest seat of all.  All the darts will be thrown at him.

Rick Perry believes the media driven perception that the Republican presidential election is a two man race between him and Romney.  So he will largely leave the other candidates alone and simply try to take Romney down.   Herman Cain understands that while Perry has been dropping in the polls, he has be rising and is in striking distance of overtaking Romney.  So he will try to to give voters every reason to do so by taking his own shots at Romney.  All the other candidates would like to make a name for themselves and know that one of the best ways to do so would be by landing a well publicized knockout punch to the current king of the hill.  For Romney, he needs to avoid making any gaffes and to somehow convince the Republican base that he is as as conervative as any of the other candidates sitting with him.  Pulling that off will be difficult but if he walks away gaffe free and standing, he will have achieved all he really needs to tonight.

Lost in each of those individual mini dramas will be another challenge that all the candidates will face in tonight’s debate.  It is a challenge that will come from the media.

Previous debates were televised live on relatively popular and mainstream cable news stations.  Bloomberg TV, has not yet established itself to be a  comparable, mainstream, news source. Due to the fact that Bloomberg does not release figures about the size of its audience and does not have a contract with the ratings company Nielsen, it is hard to say what percentage of the American viewing audience Bloomberg shares, but it is safe to say that its share of the viewing public is somewhat small.    Bloomberg TV’s audience does however have the highest median household income and the highest median net worth among cable news networks in the U.S..  Its viewer’s median income is $156,290.  But that does not translate in to more viewers.  Furthermore, Bloomberg TV is focussed on the New York City Tri-state are which includes New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Connecticut, and for the past two years the station has concentrated on building its 6 AM to 12 PM viewing audience, not its 8 to 10 PM audience.

This means that this evening’s audience will be far more limited than previous debates.  As a result, most people will be hearing about the debate through the filter of the liberal mainstream media.  In other words, the media will have far more control over the spin  of this debate than they have had in the past.  Most voters will be establishing their opinions of the candidates debate performances through whatever headline and spin that talking heads and journalists want us to believe.

That means that the greatest challenge facing the debate participants tonight will not come from one another, it will come from their ability to prevent the media from coopting their messages.

Mr. Fellows attributed the company’s absence on Nielsen to a combination of factors, including cost and Nielsen’s inability to measure the core audience sought by Bloomberg.

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