CNBC versus the GOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Time to thin the herd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A decent night’s debating, but tougher days lie ahead for the GOP field.

Bookmark and Share   The latest GOP/Republican Party debate took place last night in Dartmouth, New Hampshire and was sponsored by the Washington Post and Bloomberg News. Interestingly, I had to search my satellite channels to locate Bloomberg in the first place. Getting back to serious matters having managed to locate Bloomberg, I settled down to watch what I hoped would be a truly engaging and competitive performance by the candidates.

The major problem with the debate was the format and layout, while well intentioned having a sit around the table layout, I believe it failed to spark the debate into life like previous one’s. Some of the question’s were also less then specific in their content, and presented some hypothetical scenario’s, Mitt Romney being the most forceful at pointing this out during the course of the debate.

Romney was the clear winner and buoyed by the earlier endorsement from Governor Chris Christie delivered an assured performance. He yet again managed to appear presidential, answered the questions in a short, factual and concise manner and really did deliver a performance which displayed a great deal of knowledge and ability on how to turn around the economy. He came to life when attacked by Governor Rick Perry over his health care overhaul in Massachusetts during his time as Governor. Romney masterfully turned the tables replying, “We have less than 1% of our kids that are uninsured,” Romney said. “You have a million kids uninsured in Texas. A million kids. Under President Bush, the percentage uninsured went down. Under your leadership, it’s gone up.” Knock out blow! An all round very confident and presidential like performance by Romney.

The next winner on the night was Herman Cain who as expected, came under considerable attack with some cheap sots dropped by Jon Huntsman saying he thought his 9-9-9 plan was the price of a pizza and Rep. Michele Bachmann who said, “The Devil is in the detail.” To his credit, with Rick Santorum trying to rally the audience into the debate, Cain himself turned in a presidential performance. He managed to defend his plan well and again highlighted the fact that he is the only candidate talking about wholesale changes to the tax system. Cain did well and considering the intense scrutiny of his 9-9-9 plan, did very well to communicate its strengths to the American people. The simple fact is, he has a plan that American’s understand, while his fellow candidates either have plans which are too complicated to communicate, or don’t possess one at all.

Yet again, my top three is rounded off by former Speaker Gingrich. Gingrich doesn’t moan or resent the little time he is allotted during these debates, but consistently proves himself as the most brilliant thinker with a magnificent ability to discuss the complex issues and explain them to the American people, in very simple solution based ways. I appreciate that many people look to Gingrich’s past however, I have this feeling, if given a decent and fair amount of media coverage, Gingrich could be the person with the solutions to make America rise like a “Pheonix from the flames”. In my opinion, he is brilliant and has some truly unique ideas and solutions for the very real current and future challenges America faces.

The next candidate who performed well on the night is former Senator Rick Santorum. He put in another strong performance even tackling the moderator Charlie Rose over time allocation during the debate and he managed to deliver the strongest attack on Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Santorum has performed well in the last two debates and I have to admit, he is starting to win me over in the belief that he has some qualities which, could make him a serious candidate for higher office. Another good night for Santorum.

The losers on the night were again Ron Paul, who although springing to life when Herman Cain called Alan Greenspan the best Fed Chairman in his mind, Paul delivering savage criticism on that suggestion. Paul seemed relatively quite and devoid of innovative ideas for the rest of the evening. In fairness, Paul didn’t seem to get much allotted time last night compared to previous debates.

Governor Rick Perry, My,My,My! what has happened to the strong Texan Governor with a record most candidates would jump at? He couldn’t offer any real suggestions except opening up the energy market as a way of creating jobs and aiding the economy. Romney blew him out of the water when he tried to check Romney on healthcare and for most of the debate, Perry seemed content to just sit there and smile. Another poor performance, and certainly well off the pace in terms of delivering a convincing debate performance after the disaster of the previous two. Perry needs to get back to talking about his own record and achievements as Governor of Texas and forget about challenging Romney for now. If he continues to be too focussed on Romney, his presidential challenge will be long and gone by Christmas.

Rep. Bachmann, now I like the congresswoman and her energy however, she’d absolutely nothing new to add to the debate last night. She was happy to attack Herman Cain with a low blow comment about his 9-9-9 plan. She was like a cheerleader looking to be included in Gingrich’s selling of all the candidates good points. Unfortunately, Rep. Bachmann’s biggest problem is she’s making the same repetitious points since her barn storming debut in the CNN debate. She desperately needs some new ideas and talking points to reinvigorate her campaign and challenge.

Jon Huntsman appeared to start well and for all his experience both foreign and domestic seemed to fade badly as the debate went along. Again, he seems to like trying humour to make his points, note for his campaign, it isn’t working! The frustrating thing about Huntsman is he actually has some seriously good policies. He needs to joke less and sell his ideas more.

I thought all in all, the candidates weren’t really tested to their limits especially on an issue as important as the economy. Still, they departed Dartmouth last night confident in the knowledge that tougher debates and questions lie ahead. A decent night’s work for the GOP field when all is considered.

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Mindless Media Madness vs. Reality

Another Republican Presidential Debate is in the books and another mind-bogglingly clueless post-debate analysis from the media has followed. Let’s not even get into the utter uselessness of the so-called fact checking that can’t even grasp the simple concept of static vs. dynamic scoring. The fact is that so much of the media is so invested in their story that they won’t let the facts get in the way.

Again and again, we have seen the media name the winners of the debates only to be proven wrong by the people who watched them. The media called Romney the winner of the last debate, but I called it for Cain. I was not alone in my thoughts as Cain followed that debate with a straw poll victory and a rise in the polls. The media was blindsided, both the left-leaning and right-leaning media outlets. Tonight I am calling the debate for Gingrich. The mind-numbingly obtuse media analysis equated Gingrich’s success tonight with occasional applause for the JV soccer team. They will be proven wrong once again.

They also focused on the ‘heat’ of the exchanges. They revel on the candidates attacking each other. To them, this is all political theater where issues don’t matter as much as soundbites and personalities. The dumbing down of America begins with the dolts in the main stream media. Their lack of any real knowledge on issues leaves them parroting mindless slogans and focusing on hair cuts. I wouldn’t trust most of them to cover a Snuggie fashion show, let alone serious fiscal, foreign affairs and political issues. So while they report the winners as whoever they think are the hottest names, the reality is quite different. Motivated voters, particularly motivated conservatives, are trendsetters not followers. Chanting “Yes We Can” doesn’t send thrills up their legs. They want substance and leadership. So here is a run-down of the reality beyond the mindless media madness.

Gingrich Wins New Hampshire DebateGingrich has been following a fairly safe strategy to date of remaining aloof from the infighting while basically mocking all the current Obama policies as not even worth discussing because they are so bad. Tonight he was more aggressive and didn’t let the media moderators get away with giving him no time. He insisted he be allowed to speak and he connected on issue after issue. While some may criticize him for not knocking out other candidates, I believe he made the biggest tactical move of the race so far when he picked the best one or two things from every other candidate during one of his answers. That showed that he can pick the best solutions from multiple sources and be a true consensus leader. Maybe that is how he would govern and maybe it isn’t, but the appearance of true leadership combined with the subtle lumping of all the other candidates as either one trick ponies or only party right was a major victory in how Gingrich will be perceived by voters.

Perry, on the other hand, has only weakened himself further. Each debate comes with Rick Perry having remembered to talk about one thing and one thing only. This time it was a less catchy version of drill, baby, drill. I was reminded of the Bush-Kerry town hall debate in which Bush stumbled through an entire series of questions repeating one variation or another of “it’s hard work”. While a President cannot be down into every detail, he also can’t just be big picture. Successful Presidents have advisers they can trust but know enough detail to provide both the necessary oversight and the public face to often complicated policy matters. Perry just doesn’t seem to have that ability. I rate him as ‘all hat, no cattle’ and while I think he’ll stick around for quite awhile, his chances of victory are very slim. Of course there could be another backroom deal like the one between Huckabee and McCain in the last election that resulted in the disastrous nomination of media McCain, so Perry can’t be counted out entirely.

Cain has managed to avoid becoming the next Bachmann and will not be a quick flash in the pan candidate. However, I would wager that the majority of voters share my concern about adding a new taxing authority to the feds. Santorum hit the issue squarely on the head and all the explanations in the world won’t fix the underlying problem with the 9 9 9 plan: the people don’t trust the government. When trust in the government is so low, it will be nearly impossible for Cain to convince people that they can trust the government not to abuse the new taxing power in the future. I do believe Cain’s campaign will begin to fizzle as the 9 9 9 plan just can’t be trusted because it relies too much on government being responsible. When his campaign does begin to falter, keep an eye out for those black ‘leaders’ who attacked Cain for not being ‘black enough’ to blame his decline on the GOP being too racist to elect the black candidate (who suddenly will be ‘black enough’ for them then).

Romney needs no lengthy summary. He is staying on track and made mincemeat out of Huntsman and Perry. There still is no enthusiasm for Romney like there was at CPAC in 2008, but he could get it back especially if the pack thins out and his opposition’s weaknesses can be packaged as unconservative – such as Perry’s anmesty-like policies were in the previous debate.

Paul has no one to blame but himself for tonight’s poor performance. When given the chance to ask any question of any candidate, he indulged his Fed fetish and attacked Cain without even having the sources he was using in the attack at his fingertips. The moderators rarely give him a chance to speak and when they do it is invariably only on the Fed or foreign wars. His failure to use the opportunity to expand his campaign to a broader message was a huge mistake. His biggest win of the night was the bit of praise and agreement he gained from Gingrich. His core followers aren’t going anywhere, so neither is he. But, those numbers will not grow if he helps the media package him as basically a one-issue candidate with a sour attitude and with no positive vision to offer.

Bachmann improved her performance this time and will steal back some of the support she lost to Perry. What many think was a softball question to her from Romney, I view differently. I think Romney was trying to make her look like a shallow, one-issue candidate as a way to push out the attack from the right and ultimately leave him looking more conservative with Bachmann out of the race. I think she successfully turned that back on him and his plan to make her look unelectable failed. Although, honestly, I don’t think she stands a chance.

Santorum, I must admit, is a candidate for whom I have no love. As a Pennsylvania conservative, I supported him when he ran for the Senate and then opposed him when he ran for re-election. I was not alone along conservatives who left his side, which is why he lost. He may appeal to the Huckabee crowd on social issues, but he voted for big spending over and over. Now, when he is running for office, he says he made a mistake and wouldn’t do what he did if he had it to do over again. I don’t believe him. I feel his credibility is even weaker than Romney’s. He may pick up some more endorsements after his fairly good performance tonight, but those endorsements are as much a ball and chain on his campaign as they are a boost. They tie him to neo-conservatives at a time when most Republicans are headed in the opposite direction. Social issues are of less importance and fiscal conservatism is of more importance. That’s the opposite of Santorum’s record in the Senate and that is a hard hurdle to overcome.

Huntsman should just back it up now and take a vacation. His attempts to attack Romney backfired miserably. His attempt to parlay his experience as Ambassador to China on the currency devaluation issue also failed miserably. His attempts to be funny were only marginally more humorous than Al Gore. In the post-debate questioning, he said that government should put caps on how large banks should be allowed to get and put the cap at somewhere around the size Goldman-Sachs was in 1995-98. He’ll be doing damage control for weeks. Pack it up sir, you’re done.

The end result: Romney, Cain and Gingrich will be the new top 3. Perry will fall. Bachmann will rally slightly. Huntsman will seriously weigh leaving the race. Paul and Santorum will continue to only play to their existing bases of support. As a final note, Romney’s campaign blundered enormously by having Christie endorse him today. It didn’t help the debate (which wasn’t even really watchable by most voters) and was generally wasted by coming at this moment. Saving that media fascination with Christie until his endorsement would have potentially separated Romney from a smaller pack a month or two from now would have been smarter. It will be lost in the debate spin and leaves Romney with nothing to counter a Palin endorsement later of someone else.

Welcome to the top, Herman Cain

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

Romney back in the driver seat

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

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

Cain has his work cut out for him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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