Romney will need to beat the strongest campaigner in history should he become the nominee

The result in New Hampshire tonight for Mitt Romney ensured he captured the nation’s first primary election with about 35% of the vote following two tough days, in which the presumptive front runner by the establishment, withstood attack from his Republican opponents.

Romney who has led in New Hampshire, where he owns a summer home, for several months, and where anything less than a double-digit margin of victory might have been viewed as a loss won very comfortably. There is a historical aspect to his victory insofar as, he’s the first non incumbent to win both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary since 1976.

Ron Paul finished a very credible second in his head to head battle with former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman coming third. Paul and his campaign will have to be pleased with their 25% of the vote and second place finish.

Former House Speaker Gingrich finished fourth as he predicted however, his last two days of attacks hurt the Romney Campaign and sets up a fierce battleground fight for what many neutrals perceive as the first real competitive primary in South Carolina on January 21.

The media bias has been incredible in the run up to the New Hampshire primary, Fox News has literally turned into the Romney adoration channel and their commentary while Romney attacked Gingrich with his Super Pac was, it’s part and parcel of any primary race however, their viewpoint with Gingrich’s Super Pac poised to launch Romney attack ads in South Carolina is, Gingrich is being nasty & angry for criticising Romney. Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and Ron Paul did not escape Fox News’s condemnation over their sparring with Romney.

The irony for conservative media outlets like Fox rushing to Romney’s defence, is rather then protect and support Romney; they are in fact exposing how weak he could actually be as a potential nominee. Do not misunderstand me, if Romney eventually wins the race, I’ll throw my weight behind his election effort, as I mentioned, this general election in my opinion is unlike any other for generations. America and Western nations are on the economic brink at present, the policies of the Obama administration have proven a failure and we desperately need the American economic engine working on full throttle to get growth, expansion, and job creation underway again in a meaningful way.

I believe all the GOP candidates have very solid economic policies which will be needed to tackle the key issues of managing the national debt, curbing spending and tax reform. What has disappointed me most about the current campaign is how little the discussion has centred on actual policy. If the eventual nominee is to stand any chance of developing their message and vision for restoring America, they need to hone it in the primary race and start talking more about the key issues.

Personally, I don’t think any of the GOP candidates should be attacking each other in the personal manner they are, it only damages themselves, the party and their chances. Romney’s victory in New Hampshire tonight though should not be sold as a ringing endorsement of his candidacy, or his policies. Iowa was a good result for Romney, tonight’s result was expected, and the really important result will come in South Carolina. Romney is currently leading there ahead of Santorum and Gingrich and victory there and in Florida, and one would have to accept that it is highly unlikely with such momentum that anyone could stage a winning comeback.

What Republican’s have to realise is one thing, forget about President Obama’s performance in office, and ignore the current economic statistics and the expected $1 billion war chest. The eventual GOP nominee will have to take on President Obama at what he does best, campaigning and beat him.

I’ve maintained all along, anyone who believes President Obama short of an unexpected scandal or disaster between now and November, is going to be easy to beat in the general election is very badly mistaken.

President Obama is a community organiser by profession, organising, raising funds, communicating a message and rallying people to a cause are his strengths, they are what he can do better then anyone, dare I say it performance aside, he comes across more charismatic and electrifying then most politicians on a campaign trail that I’ve observed.

The GOP establishment and media need to be cautious about what they wish for, it is more important than ever to select the right candidate for the general election. One thing, I learned from New Hampshire, is how organised Romney’s set-up actually is. Popularity is one thing, but victory is only possible with solid organisation & strategy executed well. Romney did it effectively and he’ll need to target the Florida primary to essentially reduce the field of candidates down to the serious contenders.  It is important however to pause and remember that the race could have many twists and turns yet. Victory is not yet guaranteed for Romney and he’ll still have to work hard to secure the nomination.

I liked Romney’s closing remarks about the upcoming election being about “American Greatness,” and his emphasis on the need for everyone to still believe in that America

Post New Hampshire Debates – The GOP have a problem – Winning!

The two New Hampshire debates and mainstream media coverage of the GOP presidential race has convinced me more than ever of one simple fact, the GOP nominee will face an uphill battle to defeat President Obama come November.

Assessing both debates, the ABC News one was without question, the most disappointing one of the campaign to date. The standard and content of the questions was shameful for a presidential debate, and when a major network avoids asking the president’s rivals questions on Obamacare, debt or entitlement reform, it provides an insight into what the eventual nominee can expect in the general election.

Today’s “MeetThePress” debate was much better however, after a fast paced and engaging start, it seemed to run out of steam for the second part of the debate. In fairness, David Gregory and the two moderators made a much better effort to challenge the candidates, and provide a better standard of questions.

The two debates, as events, were disappointing and one can only hope all networks assess how they went and make a better effort for future debates.

I don’t intend to analyze the second debate here instead; I thought it may be useful to discuss some truths and where the GOP race is at present, and look ahead to the challenge and scenario’s in the coming weeks.

On the interesting side, I think Jon Huntsman did himself a power of good during the second New Hampshire debate, and came across as a real patriot for serving his country in his exchanges with Mitt Romney over China.

If Huntsman can finish in the top three in New Hampshire, he could well be the surprise package as I’ve predicted in the GOP campaign. Huntsman is electable as president make no mistake, yes; conservatives may not exactly love his moderate positions however, in this election cycle they may well have to agree to support a candidate who can beat President Obama over their more traditional GOP candidate.

What we know & who can win the general election

Mitt Romney

The mainstream media clearly want Mitt Romney to win. I think Romney is a good candidate and has a lot of positives on his side especially his business background, no matter what allegations are thrown against him. If someone creates even one job or 10,000 they are making a contribution to the economy and they should be commended not criticised for it.

My concern about Romney is two fold, firstly, he is struggling to ignite the support base despite planning his campaign for four years, having the most money of any Republican candidate and the backing of more establishment colleagues and party elders than any other candidate.Despite all these factors he is struggling to fire up the base.  My second concern comes from observing the last four debates in particular is his grasp of foreign policy. Romney can tell us what President Obama is bad at doing however, he can’t tell us what he would do as president. He also tends to buckle and panic when he comes under pressure. I’ll definitely support Romney if he is the nominee however, do I believe he can ignite the enthusiasm and attract enough support to beat President Obama in the general election? I’m yet to be convinced.

Newt Gingrich & Rick Santorum

The truth is former Speaker Gingrich would make an exceptional president in my opinion. I’m not interested in people’s mistakes over a lifetime, I want someone elected this time with the ability, skills and leadership who can make a difference and deliver on what they say without isolating sections of society. The establishment are firmly Anti-Newt no matter how they use their outlets to spin the argument; it is plain and clear for the average person to see. Speaker Gingrich’s biggest challenge is over coming those odds and Senator Santorum.

Senator Santorum did himself a world of good and achieved a massive credible second place in Iowa. We must be clear, can he at this stage of his career beat President Obama in a general election race, truthfully, no! The reality is that both these men may need to make concessions with each other and my honest belief is they would both best be served by uniting.

If they run on a President and V.P. ticket together and win and go on to perform well, the platform would be there for Santorum to be president in the future. If both men fail to reach a consensus, it is likely that both will lose out to Mitt Romney in the primary race. Together, they could both challenge President Obama and I believe, offer a clear contrast in the general election and win!

Jon Huntsman

Yes, my third pick for winning the general election is Jon Huntsman however, it all hinges on him getting a top three finish in New Hampshire. Make no mistake about it; President Obama would not have picked him for Ambassador to China if he and his team weren’t worried about Huntsman making a run for president this time. Also, they would have vetted Huntsman for the role, so there really can’t be too much hidden baggage to attack Huntsman on in a general election campaign.

I would recommend to anyone questioning my logic here to go to C-Span and take time to watch the Huntsman-Gingrich debate. Huntsman is brilliantly clever and respectfully perhaps the most intelligent and knowledgeable candidate in the GOP field except for Gingrich. He has a great economic plan and has an excellent record as Governor.

If the GOP base can take a second look at Huntsman and he starts gaining some interest and accept that like Romney, he is a moderate on some issues, I believe Huntsman could definitely beat President Obama in the general election race. It all comes down to the result in New Hampshire this Tuesday, democracy will decide.

Ron Paul

I do admire the Texas Congressman for his long and consistent record. I think he has some good ideas on domestic issues however; I cannot warm to his foreign affairs positions. I don’t think Paul could beat President Obama in a general election or frankly come close however, Paul will play a very important role in the GOP primary race. He will potentially decide the outcome of the entire primary race and he will insist on certain policy commitments in return. I expect the Texas Congressman to prove the most influential of all the candidates in the eventual destination of the GOP Nomination and to go out on a high.

Rick Perry

I credit the Texas Governor for entering the race and he has achieved many fine things during his tenure there as governor and has improved considerably, as a candidate, at a national level after some disastrous hiccups. Personally, I would like to see the Governor make a final decision whether to bow out or stay in the race following South Carolina’s primary. I think he can attempt another run in four or eight years time and use the experience this time around to prepare for that. Realistically, he can’t win the primary race or a general election campaign this time round after the earlier mistakes.

I appreciate that many people are passionate about their candidates however; the establishment and GOP supporters need to make a conscious decision on whether they want to win back the White House on November 6, 2012, or leave it resting in the hands of President Obama for another four years

An interesting couple of weeks lie ahead.

ABC News/Yahoo Debate GOP New Hampshire post-debate analysis

I stayed up until 02:00hrs (UK Time) tonight to watch with anticipation the expected slug feast that was meant to be the GOP ABC News /Yahoo debate. Sadly, the standard of debate questions were the poorest of any to date, and I actually felt more sorry for the moderators asking the questions, then for the candidates, who had to stand through this whole debacle which was capped off with the most amateurish of finishes.

Ron Paul was put on the spot early by moderator George Stephanopoulos, over his accusation of corruption against Senator Rick Santorum in his campaign ads.

“It was a quote,” explained Paul. “Somebody did make a survey and he came up as one of the top corrupt individuals because he took so much from lobbyists.”

There was a good composed opening by Romney and Santorum on the issue of the latest jobs report although Santorum was reluctant to repeat his criticism of Romney when urged by the moderator.

At that moment, there was a loud noise and the microphone had some feedback, Santorum seized the moment saying, “They caught you not telling the truth, Ron.”

Mr. Paul quickly went after Mr. Santorum as well, faulting him for his “big government” votes while in Congress, controversy regarding his residency, and money he has taken since leaving office.

“I wish I had 20 minutes to answer this,” Mr. Santorum said. “It’s a ridiculous charge, and you should know better.” He defended his earmarks on behalf of Pennsylvania and the work he has done in the private sector.

“You’re a big spender,” Mr. Paul insisted. “You’re a big-government conservative, and somebody has to say it.”

Governor Perry did well citing his record and Washington outsider status in his quest for the presidential role and accused Ron Paul of taking earmarks for his district and then voting against the Bill saying it hinted of hypocrisy. Ouch! Perry also did well on the military question highlighting the $1 Billion in cuts under the Obama administration in three years, not just the recent cuts.

The next heated exchange came between Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich in a fiery heated exchange following a remark earlier in the week by Paul that Gingrich was a “Chicken Hawk” for supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even though he himself has never served in the military.

Asked whether he stands by the remark, Paul responds:

“Yeah. I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments, they have no right to send our kids off to war. … I’m trying to stop the wars. At least I went when they called me up.”

Newt clearly annoyed but disciplined not to appear snarly coolly responds, “Dr. Paul makes a lot of comments. It’s part of his style,” he says. He adds: “Dr. Paul has a long history of saying things that are inaccurate and false. The fact is, I never asked for a deferment.”

Paul responds, ““I have a pet peeve that annoys me to a great deal, because when I see these young men coming back, my heart weeps for them.”

Gingrich then notes his father’s years in the military and chides Paul: “I think I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like as a family to worry about your father getting killed, and I personally resent the kinds of comments and aspersions he routinely makes without accurate information, and then just slurs people.”

The debate then turned to a social values question on Contraception which Romney, Huntsman and Santorum all did their level best at ducking the question and trying not to sound too controversial.

Step up Newt Gingrich! “I just want to raise a point about the news media bias,” he says. He goes on to say that there is more “anti-Christian bias” than bias against other religious groups under this current administration and attacks the administration for their treatment of the Christian faith and receives rapturous applause from the audience.

The debate continued with some further questions and probing on the Patriot Act and privacy, with Ron Paul delivering a good response on the right to privacy under the constitution.

The next controversial issues was the right to Gay Marriage which Romney ducked again, and clearly did his level best to view it as a states rights issue with Santorum effectively agreeing with his assessment and Jon Huntsman distinguishing between traditional religious rights and legal rights. Newt stepped up again with a good answer on gay rights and designation and contrasted his position well to the right of marriage.

On the issue of Iraq, a huge talking point will be no doubt Rick Perry’s tearing up of the textbook by saying he’d send U.S. troops back into Iraq. Nobody expected that response and no doubt his team will try and walk back his response.

There was some discussion over tax and economic plans but to be fair to the candidates, the questions were of such a poor standard that we learnt nothing new and the questions didn’t enable us to learn anything factually new.

All the candidates struggled on the issues of Afghanistan, Iraq and foreign policy in general with the exception of Newt Gingrich who gave a master class in the level of thinking and vision a president needs. “If you want to stop Wahabbism, get an American energy policy so no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king and rattled of a number of ideas and solutions with so much ease frankly, it made the other candidates look poor. Romney was again exposed showing he is great at saying what President Obama isn’t doing but can’t tell us what he’d do as President.

Santorum did well when talking about being a president who would bring every American together not be a divider like President Obama saying, “If you want someone that’s a clear contrast, that has a strong record, has a vision for this country that’s going to get this country going – an appeal to blue-collar workers in Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Michigan and Indiana, and deliver that message that we care about you too, not just about Wall Street and bailing them out, then I’m the guy that you want to put in the nomination.”

Gingrich came out with a very humourous but well driven home point about President Obama’s attempt to develop a radical European socialist system in the United States which went down very well with the audience.

All the candidates did relatively well with the possible exception of Jon Huntsman who despite an encouraging start got completely slammed on the issue of trade with China by Mitt Romney and desperately resorted to speaking Mandarin to try and save the point, he didn’t.

Overall, the debate was the most disappointing so far, largely because of the lame questions being asked & it made of mockery of it, supposing to be a presidential standard debate being put on by the network. It left the viewers and candidates short changed. I couldn’t believe that throughout the entire debate there was no question on Obamacare, debt or entitlement reform.

Newt & Romney are in a league of their own compared to the rest of the field; I just wish we could narrow down the field and have some real substantive debates.

All candidates generally had a good night, Newt was the quality class responder however, Romney was the winner purely due to the fact that, nobody laid a glove on him and he hammered Huntsman on China.

P.S. I’d like to thanks Tina Revers for her input & contribution in producing this analysis.

Disgusting Ron Paul attack Ad against Huntsman brings campaign to new low

The depths of personal attacks in the Republican party race sank to a new low yesterday when a video was released by a supporter of Ron Paul attacking Jon Huntsman, but using footage of his adopted children to question his “American values”.

The video, posted to YouTube by the account “NHLiberty4Paul,” first calls Huntsman the “Manchurian Candidate,” asking: “What’s he hiding?” It then shows footage of Huntsman speaking Mandarin, and photos and video of him and adopted daughter Gracie Mei.

It goes on to ask if Huntsman “shares our values” and is a “man of faith,” before cutting to a picture of him with possibly his adopted daughter from India,  Asha Bharati. It closes with the message: “American Values and Liberty. Vote Ron Paul.”

“It’s just stupid,” the former U.S. ambassador to China said at a gathering in New Hampshire on Friday.

“If somebody wants to poke fun of me for speaking Chinese, that’s OK. What I object to is bringing forward pictures and videos of my adopted daughters, and suggesting there is some sinister motive there. I have a daughter from China who was abandoned at two months of age and left in a vegetable market, picked up by the police and sent to an orphanage.”

Huntsman joked that Gracie Mei, now 12, is “my senior foreign policy advisor.” But more, she and Asha are “part of my family.”

“I have two little girls who are a daily reminder that there are a lot of kids in this world who don’t have the breaks that we do, and who face a very, very uncertain future  . . . and any sense of upward mobility. Now these two girls are on the presidential campaign trail. I say how cool is that?” he said.

Paul’s spokeswoman for New Hampshire, Kate Schackai, responded saying she didn’t know who was responsible for the footage, but said it was not connected to Paul’s campaign.

“The video was utterly distasteful and no one who actually supports Dr Paul’s principles would have made it,” she said.

Abby Huntsman Livingston later speaking to Fox’s Megyn Kelly on the matter referred to her adopted sisters as the “love of my dad’s life” who came from very unfortunate circumstances, saying they have been “what makes us happy every day” on the campaign trail.

“I was surprised to see this ad. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this, so I think we’re all a little bit stunned by it,” she said, adding that she fears that her sister Gracie, who is 12, will come upon the video.

She also warned the apparent Paul supporters behind the video: “Unfortunately, the Ron Paul supporters don’t realize that these actions really affect the Ron Paul campaign.”  It was brilliant to see a bright young lady putting family before politics and putting the distasteful nature of the attack into excellent perspective, proving she’s a credit to her father.

Later in the day Ron Paul’s campaign called on the person who put up the video to take the spot down, calling it “disgusting.”

More controversy is looming with a five page attack mailing going out to South Carolina residents attacking all of Paul’s competitors with a particularly harsh emphasis on Newt Gingrich. “Newt Gingrich has a long record of liberal appeasement, flip-flopping on key issues, and lobbying for insider millions even calling him a “counterfeit conservative.”

Paul also attacks Texas Governor Rick Perry’s immigration record and Mitt Romney on his flip-flops on abortion and “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.

There is no doubt regardless of the outcome, Rep. Paul will play a decisive part in the eventual destination of the GOP nomination however, at what cost to the party and his legacy.

The New Hampshire Presidential debates – It could be “live free or die” – for some candidates challenge.

The race for the Republican Party presidential nomination heats up this weekend with a set of weekend debates providing what could be, the last chance for some of the Republican presidential hopefuls to prove, who is the best alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney ahead of next week’s New Hampshire primary.

The six remaining candidates will go head to head in Saturday’s ABC News, Yahoo and WMUR sponsored debate.  Front runner Mitt Romney who has a residence in the state and was governor of neighbouring Massachusetts, appears to have an unassailable lead according to the latest Union Leader poll with 47 percent of New Hampshire GOP primary voters saying they would vote for Romney, compared to 17 percent for Ron Paul and 13 percent for Jon Huntsman.

Saturday’s debate will be followed by another on Sunday in NBC’s – Meet the Press debate, which will be the first time in the campaign that major debates will have been held back to back.

Romney has come under increasing attack since his slim-line victory in Iowa over Rick Santorum and is expected to be very much the candidate under fire in both debates. Romney also suffered a huge blow with the major Newspaper – The Boston Globe coming out in support of Jon Huntsman over Romney, on the eve of the debate.

Romney has the most to lose, not only is he expected to win New Hampshire comfortably, he is expected to win big, so any slip ups in the debates could severely damage his somewhat expectant party nomination. Romney needs to remain on message and appear presidential like as in previous debates. Romney has shown a tendency to be prickly when challenged on his record, and he will need to avoid any reactive snappy comments.

Fresh from his excellent second place finish and injection of campaign cash from donors, it will be an equally big night for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum who will find himself front and center of the attention for the first time in these debates. Santorum has struggled for air-time in all the previous debates, but his good fortune and excellent Iowa finish brings with it a higher level of expectation. Santorum needs to win the conservative battle with friend and fellow challenger former speaker – Newt Gingrich to be the clear alternative to Romney. Santorum is a good debater but some possible chinks in his armour may be his social stances on Gay-Marriage, Gay members serving in the military and earmarks during his time as Senator. Social issues do not have the same level of weight in New Hampshire as they do in Iowa, and policy and position stances are very much more under the scrutiny of voters. Santorum needs to remain composed and focus on his policy stances as far as possible to maintain his excellent momentum.

The two candidates who could prove decisive in the outcome of both debates are Ron Paul & Jon Huntsman.

Ron Paul’s campaign has raised a massive $13 million in the fourth quarter, behind only Romney’s fundraising of more than $20 million. New Hampshire’s primary has a considerable number of independent voters and it is likely, Paul will place well regardless of the debates. Paul’s domestic policies are popular, but with the increasing current tension with Iran have come increasing scrutiny and attention on his foreign policy stance which has drawn a sharp contrast between him and the other candidates. My belief is that Paul will go after Perry and Gingrich in these two debates strategically, hoping to deal their campaigns the all important fatal blow. A three horse race as opposed to a six horse race would suit Paul considerably more in his efforts to be the Romney alternative.

Turning to the dark horse of the race Jon Huntsman, it depends which Jon Huntsman turns up to the debates. Anyone who observed the Huntsman-Gingrich debates in December would’ve realised here is a candidate who is as equally intelligent as Gingrich, he has a very unique perspective on Asia-Pacific matters and an exceptional record as former Governor of the state of Utah.

Huntsman in my opinion has been too quick to play the “I’m your guy next door” routine in previous major debates. He needs to show he is serious on the issues, remain focussed and appear presidential like, all at the same time as challenging front runner Romney. Many believe Huntsman and Romney are from the moderate side of the Republican Party however, Huntsman has bet his entire strategy on doing well in New Hampshire. Perhaps Huntsman’s strategy was to wait until these debates before really showing what he is capable of doing. If so, it will prove an effective strategy, if however, he performs as in previous debates his entire campaign will be over once voting is completed next Tuesday.

Texas Governor Rick Perry appeared to be on the verge of pulling out of the race following Iowa’s result. In Perry’s favour going into these debates is the fact that expectations couldn’t be lower. Perry has become a hit on YouTube due to a series of blunders in his campaign and previous debates however, he has absolutely nothing to lose and his last few debate performances have been encouraging. I believe Perry will have a few key attack moments prepared for tomorrow night and he can choose his moment to go on the offensive. I actually expect Perry to surprise a lot of people for all the right reasons in both debates, and it could provide the boost he needs ahead of his make or break challenge in South Carolina later in the month.

Finally, I’ve saved the best for last, former Speaker Gingrich who many are saying he’ll be “Nasty Newt”. Other then Romney and despite the claims of many in the media and establishment, Newt as it currently stands, is the only other real electable candidate at a national level in the race. Newt was clearly hurt by the attacks from Romney and Paul in Iowa over the last month, and where he has tried to run a positive campaign, he now realises he has to not turn negative, but stand stronger.

Newt has a brilliant mind and like all brilliant people, they sometimes make mistakes but America as a nation needs a president who is prepared to change the course of Washington, has the knowledge and ability to do it and above all, someone who will not be afraid to explore new departures for the benefit of the nation.

Newt has performed extremely well during all the previous debates but must be careful not to be overly eager at attacking Romney tomorrow night. Newt in my opinion needs to focus on his own ideas & policies, if challenged on his record or a mistake must be honest and if necessary, apologetic. Most importantly, he needs to avoid appearing snarly.

Newt should focus on President Obama and not the other candidates unless they attack him. The watching public want to see the alternative to President Obama emerge and he needs to draw a clear contrast between what he’d do as president, compared to the president. This is where Romney attacking Gingrich has been clever, he has forced Gingrich to remain on the defensive and appear local while he strides forward appearing to look presidential and national level like.

Newt needs to play to his strengths and avoid going on the attack however; he needs to be prepared for them. Where Newt can win these debates in by focussing on President Obama and being firm but assertive in his responses to any attacks from the other candidates against him. If he follows these points and remains disciplined, he’ll win both debates comfortably and remind everyone, why he can be the real alternative to President Obama.

One thing is guaranteed from both debates; expect them to be highly negative and vicious in some cases. It is make or break time especially for Huntsman so the stakes are getting higher as the field is getting smaller. I’m hoping whatever the outcome; an alternative to Romney emerges over the next three weeks who can make the primary race a competitive one and not a foregone conclusion as the establishment and some in the media want for Romney.

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 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?

The Importance or Lack of Importance of Iowa to Each of the Candidates

Bookmark and Share    While readers are free to disagree on this point, it is nonetheless a political reality, that the Iowa Caucuses will bolster or diminish the chances of several candidates but in the end will do little to determine the ultimate Republican nominee.

The fact of the matter is that the lack of an undeniable favorite consensus candidate among Republicans and a higher than average number of undecided voters at this stage in the game will allow for wide swings in popularity for one candidate or another based upon regional idiosyncrasies and local influences in ways that are far more significant than in recent presidential nomination contests.

With the economy still proving to be the issue at the forefront of the election,  Mitt Romney and his succesful background in such things as business and even his incredibly well engineered turnaround of the 2002 Winter Olympics, has allowed him to squeak by as one of the most promising figures when it comes to that critical issue.  However; Romneycare and doubts about his committment to social conservatives issues have prevented Romney from capitalizing on his positive economic credentials as much as he could have.  Meanwhile, social conservatives have failed to find a single figure that they can comfortably get 100% behind.

Given these circumstances, Iowa’s results will still leave the field with very inconclusive results that will not begin to get any clearer until South Carolina and Florida hold their primaries. Nevertheless, at this point in time, the stakes are higher for some than others in Iowa.

Do or Die:

For Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum, anything less than a third place showing will leave them struggling for relevance, a position that will only be compounded by the difficulty they face in New Hampshire where Mitt Romney’s victory is a foregone conclusion and which is the only state that longshot candidate Jon Huntsman finds himself to be much of a factor.  This will make South Carolina Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum’s only hope of becoming viable candidates as the nomination contest moves ahead.  So for these three candidate the race is on for third place.  Anything better than that would be considered a surprising finish tha will give them a brief opportunity to take advantage of the spotlight.

Establishing Themselves as the Clear Alternative to Romney:

Newt Gingrich is the candidate who has the best chance of truly establishing himself as the alternative to Mitt Romney, in order to do this he can ill afford anything less than third  a place finish.  Short of that, Newt will have a hard time maintaining momentum as he heads in to South Carolina and Florida.

Saving Face:

There is a low bar for Mitt Romney to meet in Iowa.  He merely needs to avoid being embarrassed with a finish any lower than third place.  But even if he did happen to finish towards the very bottom of the pack, chances are he will still win in New Hampshire and go in to South Carolina with a strong organization and the backing of the state’s popular Tea Party Republican Governor, Nikki Haley.  But on the flip side, a first place showing by Romney will go a long way establishing the type of impression of inevitability that could stymie the momentum that other candidates may be establishing in their plight to become the candidate with the best chance of beating Romney.

Mattering:

Jon Huntsman is considered the top of the bottom tier candidates that consist of Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer. However being slightly ahead of two candidates who nobody really knows is running for President or really cares if they are running for President, does not say much. And Iowa is a state that that Huntsman simply ignored in order to focus on New Hampshire.  For this reason, Jon Huntsman is essentially of no consequence in the Iowa Caucus and just wont matter.  The only way his name will even be mentioned is if he somehow manages to beat anyone else and not come in last place.

Achieving Undeniable Viability:

Ron Paul’s rise in statewide polls of Iowa has now put him in the unenviable position of needing to meet very high expectations.  With such high expectations anything less than second place will generally be seen as a setback and will do little to help Ron Paul to begin turning around his numbers in other states, most of which place him in the middle of the field.  But if Ron Paul does meet current expectations with either a first or second place finish, he will merely remain a significant barrier between Romney and the emergence of a viable alternative to Romney.

A first or second place finish for Paul in Iowa will make him an undeniably significant candidate who can not be ignored, even by me, a die-hard anti-Paul conservative, or as Pauliacs call me, a neo-con.  However; as Newt Gingrich stated, it will be hard to imagine that Ron Paul will fly among mainstream Republicans and “decent Americans”.   While his limited government views are applauded, his isolationist tendencies which he denies having, will ultimately disqualify him in the eyes of voters who understand that the first constitutional responsibility of an American President and our federal government, is our national security and foreign policy.  Ron Paul’s unwillingness to come up with a proper defense and foreign policy, will ultimatelylead to the type of conclusion of Ron Paul that  Newt Gingrich expressed in his Tuesday afternoon interview with Blitzer, when he stated;

“As a potential President, a person who thinks that the United States was responsible for 9/11, a person who believes,…who wrote in his news letter that the World Trade Center bombing in ’93 might have been a C.I.A. plot,  a person who doesn’t believe that it matters if the Iranians have a nuclear weapon, I’d rather just say, you look at Ron Paul’s record of systemic avoidance of reality,”

Ultimately, I believe rational Republicans will come to the same conclusion that Newt believes they will.

The But:

Given the incredible anti-establishment sentiment within the electorate and a deep TEA movement-like desire to send a message to both Republicans and Democrats, and the lack of a singular candidate with very strong support behind them, even I can’t be sure that Ron Paul will fail in his attempt to draw the nomination down to a contest between himself andMitt  Romney.  If there is one thing I know in politics, it is that you never say never and given the volatility and indecision of the Republican electorate, Ron Paul might benefit from a social conservative vote that is deeply divided by far too many candidates, and an unusually high desire by voters to cast a protest vote for Ron Paul and make him the vessel through which they make their anger known.  Realistically, such circumstances will merely help assure Mitt Romney of the nomination in the end but it will still make Ron Paul a far more significant figure in the 2012 election than many other than Paulites, assumed possible.

Key Factors in the Closing Days

In these final days of the Iowa Caucuses, several factors will have a significant effect on the results.

A very large undecided vote can be swayed  in to the camp of one candidate or another by any number of things.  Most powerful of all would be an embarrassing last minute disclosure that could cost the unlucky victim support they already have and the support of those who were leaning towards them.  The other would be a successful pitch that inspires social conservatives to get behind one candidate and that candidate’s ability to coordinate the type of Get Out the Vote operation that delivers that social conservatives support to their caucus locations on Tuesday night.

Organization and momentum will be key and anyone who inspire and channel that momentum in these closing days, could pull off a surprise finish.  The two candidates with the greatest potential in that area are the two Ricks.  Both Perry and Santorum are best situated for such a result.

The final influence over the results in the Iowa Caucus will be something that no campaign can really effect……..the weather.

Bad weather favors Ron Paul.

His supporters are fanatics who will not allow anything to prevent them from voting for him.  If there is 6 feet of snow falling and a windchill factor of 6 below, expect Ron Paul to land a big win.

Others who would benefit from bad weather, but to a lesser degree than Ron Paul, are Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.

Their supporters tend to be more deeply committed than are those of Romney, Perry, and Gingrich and they too will show up in significant numbers despite any foul weather.

Good weather favors Romney and Gingrich.

Both these men have established relatively wide support that does not run very deep.  This means with good weather, their large but not highly motivated number of supporters will actually show up to cast their caucus vote for them.  Such would not be the case if  bad weather made getting to their caucus location seem more trouble than that it was worth to them.

At the moment, it looks like the weather in Iowa on the day of the Caucus will be cold but clear.

Bottom Line:

Iowa will will have at best, a minimal effect on the race.  Just as it did in 2008 when the eventaul Republican nominee, John McCain, came in fourth place behind Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson, and just as it did in 1988 when then Vice President George H. W. Bush found himself in third place behind Bob Dole and Christian Broacast Network founder, Rev. Pat Robertson.  And it will probably matter as much in 2012 as it did in 1980 when George H. W. Bush defeated Ronald Reagan in that year’s caucus.

The start of the real race won’t occur until January 21st.  It is then that South Carolina’s primary will set up the race between Mitt Romney and one other candidate as they race moves on to Florida which holds its primary on January 31st.  And it is Florida which will produce the best indication of who the ultimate nominee is likely to be.

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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?

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.

 

 

 

Review of the CNN GOP debate from across the Big Pond

Last evenings CNN Republican Candidate debate was moderated by Wolf Blitzer, regular host of the Situation room.  This debate, co-hosted in Washington, D.C., by the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, focussed on four main issues — national defense, the economy, international relations, and terrorism issues and lasted two hours in total and marked the 11th GOP debate of the election season.

The evening was introduced with an introduction highlighting National Security to any president as being the most important and daunting responsibility. CNN showed some footage of major security issues from previous presidencies which put the evening and topic very much into context.

The questions varied on content and context but consisted of the following:

Question1 – Focussed on there being 42 attempted terrorist attacks on the USA since 9/11.

Question 2 – The use of drones and efforts in Pakistan to defeat Al-Qaeda.

Question 3 – The cost to the US for its involvement in Afghanistan and was US involvement to prevent a terror safe haven worth it.

Question 4 – Should Israel be attacked by Iran, would the candidates support/help Israel in their efforts.

Question 5 – Focussed on the effect of sanctions in stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb.

Question 6 – Focussed on development assistance for poor countries and economic development.

Question 7 – Focussed on spending and cuts to the military budget.

Question 8 – Focussed on the failure of the Super Committee and the $600 billion cuts.

Question 9 – The issue of the massive deficit the nation is facing and entitlement reform.

Question 10 – Focussed on the Mexico border and on how to stop the Mexican drug cartels.

Question 11 – Focussed on the need for High Skill immigration and immigration assistance for high skilled workers

Question 12 – Focussed on the violence of Syria and the impact on US allies in the region.

Question 13 – How to deal with Al-Shabab (Al-Qaeda)

Question 14 – The last question focussed on the one unexpected thing that could happen as president and what issue do the candidates worry about.

I’ve summarised the candidate’s responses and ranked them in order of how I believe they performed on the night.

1 – Newt Gingrich

Gingrich had the first question directed at him and drew the distinction between homeland terrorism and foreign threats and stated, he would not change the Patriot Act but would in fact enhance its powers. Gingrich responded citing the example of Timothy McVeigh as to why, he wanted powers to protect Americans in his response to Ron Paul’s view.

On the issue of Afghanistan, Newt put the questions into context stating,” We should start with Pakistan”. He used the killing of Osama Bin Laden as a reason why the US should be furious with Pakistan. He suggested some alterations and to pursue the fight intensively.

On Iran, Gingrich said the first efforts in dealing with Iran should be made at home in building US energy resources to reduce the impact of any sanctions against Iran. He called for a much strategic approach in dealing with Iran.

On the issue of spending and military cuts, Gingrich replied that there were things we could be better and invoked the memory of American efforts to win previous wars, and said the US could open up oil reserves within a year, and just get the job done and make the Millennium challenge work.

Gingrich commenting on the massive structural deficit referenced his own proposals and used Chile as an example of a model, which, he would use for the US to bring down the entitlement spending.

On the immigration issue, Gingrich called for the issuance of visa’s for highly qualified students to encourage them to stay in the US. He called for a comprehensive approach starting with border control, a visa program and a review of current illegals. Gingrich provided an excellent answer saying the party of the family should not force or break up long established families.

Gingrich said the three biggest threats were a dirty bomb in a major city, an electro magnetic pulse and cyber attacks in the unexpected area.

Assessment

Gingrich won the night again despite sticking his neck out on the Immigration issue which he managed to do in a very eloquent manner. He is realistic and practical on the issue, there is no chance the estimated 11 million illegal’s in the United States will ever be deported. It needs to be dealt with as part of a big package of measures. His assessment for future unexpected threats though was also brilliant.

2-      Jon Huntsman

Huntsman said the Homeland couldn’t be secured out of Washington D.C. but required a collaborative and national approach.

Huntsman opened the account on the second question, saying Washington needs to be fixed before the US turns its attention to foreign nations, but called Pakistan a nation waiting to fail and the US should not be nation building in Afghanistan.

Huntsman disagreed with Romney’s viewpoint and called for an honest conversation and called for a reduction in the 100,000 troops and focus on special-forces presence and the use of drones in Afghanistan.

On the issue of spending and military spending, Huntsman said the first issue needing attention was a deficit in trust among the people in the nation. He called for spending for defence to follow a determined strategy and must be driven by economic policy.

Huntsman responded to a Twitter question regarding the Arab Spring saying, history will tell going on to say the US missed the Persian Spring and reminded all that Israel is a friendly ally. He said sanctions won’t work because China and Russia won’t co-operate.

Huntsman said the biggest unexpected threat was joblessness in America and it needed to be dealt with.

Assessment

The best debate performance by Huntsman to date and I have him tied with Gingrich on the night. He nearly dealt Romney a fatal blow in their heated exchange and Romney was saved by Wolf Blitzer as there is no doubt, had the exchange continued, Huntsman would’ve exposed Romney.

3 – Ron Paul

Rep.Paul disagreed with Gingrich and put forward the view that the Patriot Act is unpatriotic. He asserted his view that you do not have to give up liberty to secure your environment. Santorum’s stance on the use of profiling was attacked by Rep.Paul and said liberties should not be sacrificed because people are suspects.

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Paul said he would not support Israel in any attack on Iran. He said Israeli interests are not US interests and they are capable of looking after themselves. He said the US should be very careful in the nation’s willingness to go to war abroad.

Rep.Paul said he didn’t support financial assistance for foreign development saying it was taking money from the poor in America and giving it to the rich in those countries.

On the Mexico border issue, he called for a cancellation on the war on drugs. Paul went on about eliminating benefits which attracts illegal immigrants.

Rep.Paul in response to the Al-Qaeda threat in the Middle East region he put forward the friendly state policy of non-intervention/retaliation.

Paul said the biggest unexpected threat was an over reaction on the part of the US.

Assessment

Rep.Paul had a very good night and was afforded a lot of time most likely due to his many different views on the issues. As always, Paul talked a lot of sense but his exchange with Gingrich on the Timothy McVeigh exchange damaged him along with his stance on how to deal with Iran. A good night overall though for Paul, ignoring his differing views from the other candidates.

4 – Mitt Romney

The TSA systems was the first question directed towards him which he responded to quickly before shifting back to the terrorist threat and agreed with Speaker Gingrich saying the US needed tools to fight threat both domestic and foreign. He asserted that US involvement should continue and withdrawal gradual based on military advice on the ground.

Romney got engaged with Huntsman in his criticism of Romney’s statement on Afghanistan. He was firm that US involvement in Afghanistan should not be a case of cut and run, the cost was too high.

Romney on the issue of development funding and security and drew the comparison between the trillion dollar cuts from the military as being exactly the amount President Obama needs to fund healthcare. He said Obama was cutting the capacity for America to defend itself. He said Pres. Obama was friendly to America’s foes and disrespectful to its friends and promised Israel would be his first foreign trip.

Romney on the immigration issue called amnesty a magnate and said the US needed to attract highly qualified people. He said the country needed to stop the causes of illegal immigration and for the securing of the border.

On the Al-Qaeda issue and the Middle East again Romney cited Pres. Obama’s appeasement and policy of apology in the region and called for the use of covert action and sanctions in dealing with Syria.

On the threats to the US is Iran, China and the unexpected one is Latin America.

5 – Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann opened her night on the role of Commander in Chief and the technological aspects of the new threats and attacked President Obama on giving up protection for interrogators fighting the threat.

Bachmann called Pakistan the epi-centre of Al-Qaeda and raised the threat about the vulnerability of access to their nuclear facilities. Bachmann said on the issue of cutting funding to Pakistan that she would continue it but demand more for the present time. Bachmann called Perry’s view naïve and said people needed to consider the realities of the nuclear threat on the ground.

Bachmann echoed the other candidate’s views on the Iranian issue and again went after President Obama on his failure to pursue energy independence and reminded the audience that it was Iran threatening Israel back in August not the other way around, calling Obama’s approach in dealing with Iran a doctrine of appeasement.

Bachmann on the issue of deficit reduction went back to her stance from earlier in the year and the raising of the debt ceiling. Bachmann said she would first look to balance the budget then look at paying down the deficit.

Bachmann didn’t agree with Gingrich’s approach on immigration and she then went on to reference Steve Jobs. She said America needed to offer visa’s to worker which the nation needed.

Bachmann said domestic home grown terrorism was the biggest potential threat.

Assessment

Overall, a more assured performance from Bachmann on the night and her insight on intelligence and security issues came to the fore. She did her wavering chances no harm.

6 – Rick Santorum

Santorum opened his account by reasserting his stance on the use of passenger profiling. Santorum also supported the use of the Patriot Act and called for the balancing of interests.

On Afghanistan, Santorum said he agreed with Ron Paul and gave an insight into what Radical Muslim leaders teach their recruits. Santorum said radical Muslim’s tell their members that they only need to out wait American involvement.

Santorum responded first on the issue of development assistance calling it absolutely essential and a key component in national security and called for more efforts and the promotion of key values.

Answering a question on a Ronald Reagan quote of getting 75-80% of what you want, you should accept it and move on. Santorum said it depends on what you get, but you should not undermine the ability of the country to grow for the sake of partisan politics.

Santorum answered the question on high skill immigration and praised the innovation that has been produced in the US by immigrants and said America should continue to be the beacon for such immigrants.

Santorum said he was concerned about Central and South America and the spread of socialism.

Assessment

Santorum always presents himself as very capable and competent. He struggles to get time during any debate, and his exchange with Ron Paul on the profiling of Muslim’s was not authoritative.

7 – Rick Perry

Rick Perry opened his account saying he would privatise the TSA and get rid of the Trade Unions. He returned to the issue of the Patriot Act saying it needed strengthening and cited the current administration a failure in their efforts to develop and gather intelligence around the world.

Governor Perry on the Pakistan issue reasserted his previous viewpoint of not sending any funding to the nation until they demonstrate themselves to be willing partners and not representing American interests.

Perry on the Iran sanctions issue called them the first measure in any fight against Iran and would include Syria in the equation and criticised President Obama for inaction.

On the issue of the super committee failure Perry said it is no surprise to anyone that it failed and said President Obama has been a complete failure on the entire budget process. He said Pres. Obama’s threat of the veto puts American lives at risk and said Leon Panetta should resign in protest. Perry referenced his ten years of bi-partisan working in Texas as proof that both sides can work together.

Perry called for a 21s century Monroe Doctrine to deal with the infiltration of the United States through the Mexican border. He said border security with Mexico was paramount to the security of the Western world and he would put boots on the ground. Perry said the whole issue of the border and immigration could not begin to be tackled until the border is secured, it is a must.

Perry said he supported a No-Fly zone over Syria but it was only one of a number of measures to deal with the problem and if implemented it might encourage others in the military to cross over.

Perry cited China as the biggest oncoming threat to the US national security.

Assessment

Perry had a decent debate but when Michele Bachmann called him naïve, the clip was played on all the major networks following the debate and his call for Leon Panetta to resign in protest was not a good strategic move. It is very hard to see Perry coming back from here.

8 – Herman Cain

Cain when asked on his stance on profiling as proposed by Santorum said he called it target profiling. He said terrorists want to kill all of us and every means possible should be used to prevent attacks. He slipped up calling Wolf “Blitz”, but quickly corrected himself.

Herman Cain answered the Iran/Israel question first and stayed on safe ground referring to the content of any plan as the basis of any decision. Cain responding to Paul said he would support Israel because Iran poses a threat in the region.

On development assistance Cain said it depended on priorities and the success of programmes and said he wanted to see the results before making a decision.

Herman Cain said yes the Mexican border was a threat and outlined reasons why it was a threat. He called for securing the border, enforcing the current laws and promotes the path to citizenship and empowers the states to do what the government can’t deal with themselves.

Cain said he would not support a No-Fly zone over Syria and said he would work with US allies to stop buying oil from Syria.

Cain said Cyber attacks were the biggest area of unexpected concern.

Assessment

Cain was sadly very exposed last night for his lack of comprehension of the major international events and security issues required of a Commander in Chief. He constantly adopts a default position reply of assessing the issue, seek advice from the General’s or experts and then plan or act. While on the face of it appears fine, you cannot use such a response when replying to nearly every question. As I mentioned before, the damage to Cain’s campaign was done in his team’s management and handling of the recent allegations, not the allegations themselves. There have been too many missteps on Foreign affairs and security issues for Cain to win the nomination but he is above all else, a gentleman and has added much to the GOP race. Last night unfortunately, only confirmed what many people suspected, he lacks the knowledge and grasp of the major issues to be President and Commander in Chief.

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.

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.

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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