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.

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Family To The Rescue

What does Mitt Romney have that Cain and Gingrich don’t?  A clear 40+ year record of unchallenged fidelity to his wife.  On the right, that matters.  It’s something many of us respect Barack Obama for as well.  Cain’s sexual harassment story is one of the major things that can be attributed to his recent decline.  Gingrich is sure to face the same thing regarding his previous marriages.  In fact, Bill Maher has already set the distasteful tone for this line of attack, despite Gingrich’s years of faithful marriage to Callista.

But in Cain and Gingrich’s cases, both are receiving help from just the right place, family.  As reported yesterday, Gloria Cain has surfaced to stand by Herman Cain and refute allegations based on his character and her knowledge of him.  Still, without hard evidence and with such a late showing, it will be interesting to see if this has much effect.

Gingrich got a boost yesterday in a pre-emptive strike against the false message that he delivered divorce papers to his cancerous wife on her death bed.   His daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, wrote an article describing what really happened.  In a divorce that Gingrich’s wife had requested, Newt delivered the papers when he and members of the family drove to the hospital to visit her after she had a benign tumor removed. Gingrich’s daughter writes:

“For years, I have thought about trying to correct the untrue accounts of this hospital visit. After all, I was at the hospital with them, and saw and heard what happened. But I have always hesitated, as it was a private family matter and my mother is a very private person. In addition, for the four people involved, it was one of a million interactions and was not considered a defining event by any of us.”

Cushman also reiterated that her mother is a very private person and will not give media interviews, but that their family has healed and the two daughters have great relationships with both parents.

 

The Field Is Set: And Herman Cain Could Win

Sarah Palin has now announced she will not be running.  It appears the 2012 GOP Primary is ready to kick off.  So you heard it here first: barring a major disqualifying gaffe, Herman Cain will win the 2012 primary.  Here’s why.

Cain passes on the right to pull even with Romney

Ok, seriously.  No one knows at this point how this  is going to go down.  Candidates surge and fall, as Rick Perry has proven.  I don’t really know that Herman Cain is going to win the primary.  But he does have a clear path to victory.  Right now it is his race to give up.

But wait, isn’t Romney leading the polls??  Yes, but as I pointed out in my last blog Romney’s majority is an illusion caused by a split vote among social, TEA party candidates.  As Perry continues to fade and Cain continues to pick up his supporters, you will see more polls like the most recent CBS poll that shows Cain and Romney tied.  Perry’s demise is all upside for Cain while Romney maintains his solid base of support.

So why Cain?  Why didn’t Bachmann, Gingrich, or Santorum gain any momentum from Perry’s fall?  Perry dropped 11 points in this CBS poll while Cain jumped 12 points.  Gingrich and Santorum both got small bumps, but are still considered unelectable and still cannot shake their baggage from the last 20 years.  Santorum continues to come across as an unelectable champion of family values with a support base that loves what he says and believes but won’t vote for him because they’d rather have Obama gone than lose with the most socially conservative candidate on the stage.  For Gingrich, conservatives have already written the USA Today, Time Magazine and New York Times headlines in their heads about his failed marriages, hypocrisy in the Clinton impeachment, global warming commercials with Nancy Pelosi, and other things from his decades in the spotlight.

Bachmann, with a relatively small public history, is a different story.  Although her message, naivete on some issues, and ability to stir a TEA party crowd mirror Herman Cain, she somehow comes across differently.   While Herman Cain gets away with announcing that no future President will raise the rates on his 999 plan, Bachmann promises $2 a gallon gas and becomes the laughing stock of the mainstream media and even conservatives.  Bachmann tells stories of raising her kids and foster kids and is seen as homely and amateurish.  Cain tells stories of him and his brother sneaking drinks from the Whites Only drinking fountain as kids and the story simply tugs at anyone’s heart strings.  Bachmann embellishes Perry’s Merck connection and the potential health risks of the HPV vaccine and the media drags her through the coals on it.  The media tried to make hay out of Cain’s comment about blacks being brainwashed into voting Democratic and the story was dead on arrival.

Perhaps the greatest difference that speaks to American hearts is that Cain is not bitter or angry.  Yes, he is the first to tell us that Obama’s policies are destroying the country.  But he does it with an air of policy sincerity, not partisan gamesmanship.  Cain doesn’t seem to have a racist bone in his body, to the extent that some Democrats seem to think he is racist against blacks.  Cain simply comes across as a successful American who believes in America and in every American’s ability to become whatever they want to be.  Cain brings back with sincerity something that politicians have been falsely touting for years: a sincere belief in the American dream and the ability of Americans to achieve it.  His simple, Reaganesque faith in the American people and freedom will be enough to preserve his seat as the top social conservative.  As other social conservatives call it quits, Cain will continue to swallow up their supporters and surpass Romney.

Just a month ago Cain was barely on the radar.  With Perry’s self-destruction and the Florida straw poll, Cain now has the potential momentum to carry him through.  The key will be surviving early Romney primary wins until the race narrows to just Cain and Romney.  From there he can coast to GOP victory.

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