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.

Who Won Thursday’s Fox News/Google Debate in Florida and Why?

Bookmark and Share  With nine candidates and many questions asked by American citizens through Youtube, who if anyone do you think won Thursday’s Fox News/Google Debate in Florida?

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Then leave your comments explaining what made candidates winners and losers in this most recent debate. Or join the debate about the debate on White House 2012’s Facebook discussion page.

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