I wish this debate had happened sooner. Although it definitely helped that there were fewer candidates on stage – it’s not an accident that fewer candidates and no absurd timeclock led to a far more substantive debate than we’ve seen in the past.
I haven’t seen a lot of the post-debate spin from other people yet, but what little I saw seems to argue that Newt Gingrich put himself back in contention. Maybe. He definitely had some strong moments, but he started weak and was weakest against Romney, the one guy he really needed to take. And at this point, his volatility is the issue, not his debating skills. I’m not sure he can recover from that.
I thought Paul did the worst he’s done in a lot of ways. He really got wrapped around the axle on some fo the foreign policy stuff, and while it won’t matter to his supporters, it will, in my view, solidify his already low ceiling.
Perry and Santorum had some nice moments, but I thought Santorum came off as just too petulant too many times. But then, I’m not a fan of Santorum, he and I have serious philosophical differences (here he is hatin’ on libertarians) and so I’m already disposed to not caring for what he has to say. I also don’t think he’s going anywhere.
Perry had some great moments – I was sort of hoping it would be enough to sustain him, but I’m not sure he can recover either at this point.
I think Romney still came out on top – he was commanding and forceful, but I also think that the previous attacks from the other folks up there have made him much, much better. Hard fought primaries are a good thing for exactly this reason. It was getting so ridiculous that I had come to hope that it would all be over sooner rather than later, but I’m again re-assessing that. Each one of the candidates on stage tonight had better answers and ideas in one area or another than Romney (and they all had worse ones, too), and the more airtime those ideas and answers get, the better Romney will be if he winds up being the nominee. Done right, the forge of debate can strengthen good ideas, destroy bad ones, and ultimately drive better policy, and I think this debate, while not perfect, moved us in that direction.
Click to read the whole, real-time wrap up.
And that’s it. Some wrap up thoughts as soon as I put my little girl to bed.
7:51: NCLB – I agree it’s been a failure, and I used to support it (I know, to my shame). Newt’s answer on this is very, very good – get local!
7:49: Interesting question to Perry about the cost-benefit of border enforcement, and Perry very skillfully turns it back to the economy. What a shame this guy didn’t show up for the first 50 debates.
7:47: LOVE Romney’s defense of the First Amendment here!!!!
7:45: Hitting Romney for not exercising “leadership” over PACS that the law prohibits a candidate from involving himself in. And this just gave Romney a chance to bring up the anti-Romney, pro-Newt anti-Bain ad, which kills Gingrich.
7:43: I really respect Paul’s harping on Federalism, but the Second Amendment does, I think, give the Feds a role they don’t have in other kind of tort reform. And Santorum does a good job pointing out where there is a role for the feds in protecting state sovereignty by not letting one state essentially sue over activity that takes place in another.
7:41: Finally – non-liberal questions from Juan Williams! Santorum’s answer here is pretty weak, I think – I appreciate the “backfire” tactic, but trigger locks? Still, to me this question wastes time that ought to be focused on the economy.
7:40: Guns! Definitely a Romney weakness. But does anyone believe that Romney is going to be a gun grabber in Washington? Not even the Democrats (Obama excluded) want to make that an issue these days. But the CORRECT answer here is that as President, he’ll nominate judges who will support and expand DC v. Heller and McDonald. Why do Republican Presidential candidates ALWAYS forget to make this the issue that it ought to be made?
7:32: Very interesting mini-debate here with Santorum and Newt. And Newt brings back his most powerful argument – that he was responsible for 4 balanced budgets. Romney does a great job pointing out that this is status quo EVERY year in the private sector.
7:29: Rick Santorum isn’t making sense here on the moving jobs overseas issue here. Of COURSE labor costs factor into things. And then he follows it up with a ham fisted attack on not Romney, but Newt?
7:27: Chile’s only been doing this for a few decades. We’ve got almost 80 years on Social Security. Not that I disagree with Newt necessarily, but color me skeptical on any other nation’s forced retirement plan.
7:25: Social Security – tiered approach from Romney. I think this is the only solution. I love the preemptive ridicule of the “throwing Granny off the cliff” ads. He sounds very wonky on this issue – again, this is where having a money manager running makes me feel pretty good.
7:22: Back to discussions of closing tax loopholes and flattening the rate. It’s too bad Huntsman didn’t make this more of an issue. He would have got more traction, and even better, the ISSUE would have gotten more notice and support. Not sure I agree with the part-time congress, though. That misses the point, as I’ve argued before. I like that Perry took on FM and FM directly.
7:20: Romney just takes time, Santorum whines about it not being given it. And Ron Paul, no, the Patriot Act did NOT “repeal the 4th Amendment.” I agree with him on this issue, but then he goes out of his way to make me DISagree with him with absurd hyperbole. No wonder he’s 1 for 620 on getting bills passed.
7:17: This is where I get my inner Ron Paul on – we already have methods of detaining American citizens who commit crimes on US soil, and it isn’t indefinite detentions. The problem with that bill was that it was the only thing on the table that kept the troops funded. I’d love to see a “single issue” legislation rule for federal legislation like we have in the Nevada Constitution.
7:16: Paul is just ignorant about his “distinction” between the Taliban and al Qaeda. One would not exist without the support of the other.
7:13: Turkey is an interesting question. Good move on Perry’s part in using it to point out his military service. “No space between us and Israel.” Yes. Great line about “gonging” Paul. Also interesting that Perry brings up his time in uniform. It bothers be greatly that more of the candidates don’t have this, and it’s very smart for Perry in South Carolina to bring up “pissgate” and show a little outrage over the jihadist barbarians.
7:11: To Santorum: “Should we go to war with Syria?” I dislike Santorum’s casual bellicosity almost as much as I dislike Paul’s naive isolationism, but his answer here was much more toned down. The problem is that if we “effectuate the removal of Assad,” what comes after?
7:09: I like that Romney is making a point to praise other points that other candidates are making. He’s kind of taken away Newt’s “elder statesman of the debates” role away from him. “The way to keep us out of wars is to have a military so strong that no one would ever consider testing it” – NICE!
7:07: Paul being booed, and rightfully so. Hey, Ron Paul – al Qaeda hated us LONG before any of our bombs started falling over there.
7:06: Newt is really warming up. But I think he’s so angry with Romney that he can’t attack him effectively. When he’s focused on other candidates or the moderators, he’s been very solid.
7:04: Paul: “We should just do our best, and if that’s not good enough, oh well.” And then he’s speaking in favor of the capture of Saddam, which wouldn’t have happened if was in charge back then? Terrible, terrible answer, and one that recognizes his FP positions are just not acceptable to the vast majority of Republicans (or Democrats or Americans generally).
7:00: “Ron Paul, would you have let Bin Laden go for want of jurisdiction?” Paul is being very dodgy here – it’s almost as if he’s a human politician! And he dodges and dodges and dodges. The bottom line for Paul is that it doesn’t matter what happened 10 years ago, you’re asking for the chance to take the reins now, and you need to tailor solutions to the situation that exists, not the one you wish existed.
6:52: I love that Newt is talking about the absurdity of “child” labor laws that prevent teenagers from working like I did and everyone I went to school did. I teach a class for kids who get busted drinking or smoking weed, and the vast majority of them don’t have jobs. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. And this garbage about it “belittling the poor” is just trash. I’m losing a lot of respect for Juan Williams here, and Newt is just owning him on this topic. Good. It’s sooooooooooooooo too bad that Newt can’t maintain more discipline.
6:51: Very interesting topic on the incarceration rates, and as a public defender I’ve DEFINITELY gotten cynical in recent years over spending SO much money incarcerating drug addicts. And this IS a federal spending issue.
6:47: Juan Williams: “On MLK Day, shoudl we commit to discriminating against people in the law on the basis of their skin color?” Santorum: “Get married, black people.” I don’t disagree that getting (and staying) married BEFORE you have kids is a crucial part of enhancing prosperity, but how should this be the role of the FEDERAL government? Actually not a bad answer on Santorum’s part, though. We don’t have to shove Jesus down anyone’s throat, but stating obvious truths about familial units is perfectly compatible with limited government.
6:45: I like Juan Williams, but he’s a liberal, asking liberal questions (this one on immigration). He really doesn’t belong as one of the moderators here. Romney’s answer on immigration was solid, I thought.
6:43: Flat tax – yay! Ron Paul lost me at “0%”, but got me again by warning about inflation. It’s too bad that as President, Paul would be so unable to accomplish all the things I like about him, but would be so able to unilaterally do (or not do) the things I DON’T like about him.
6:39: “If you cut the military, SC will lose jobs.” Ron Paul: “I’ll have MORE bases here!” But he’s specifically talked about significantly cutting the DoD budget, and he was called out. “You don’t understand!!” Difference between “military” and “defense” spending? What? I think I see what he’s tryign to say, but Ron Paul’s total inability to adequately articulate his positions here would kill him in a general election. And of course the obligatory, out of context reference to the feared “military-industrial complex.” Sigh.
6:37: There’s an economic/debt crisis in Europe and our debt just outstriped our entire GDP? Bah. Why are we wasting time with such nonsense when we still haven’t exhausted which felonies should qualify for voting rights reinstatement! Thank you WSJ. I kind of respect that Mitt is taking these opportunities to just give little speeches that focus on Obama.
6:35: I agree with Newt that unemployment should be tied to re-training or something, and I love the “99 weeks is an Associate degree!” line, but why isn’t he making a federalism argument here? Total missed opportunity.
6:34: My daughter has curled up with me again, this time with a loud book my dad recorded for her. It makes it tough to hear, but fortunately it’s making it hard to hear Rick Santorum. #winning
6:33: Tenth Amendment + War on Religion. Interesting answer from Perry, and one that would have resonated in SC several months ago while people were still paying attention to Rick Perry.
6:31: After what happened in New Hampshire, why is ANYONE questioning voter ID? It’s NOT racist to ask for ID to vote, and anyone who says otherwise is a race-baiting liar.
6:29: I usually don’t like the Twitter/Facebook questions, but that one to Romney was great – direct, respectful, but pointed. “Convince me you won’t change again.” Romney is answering it LESS directly, which brings it back to why he doesn’t already have it wrapped up. But this little speech about entitlements is pretty good.
6:23: A break, and we’ll move up in time with the power of DVR! (But first another beer.)
6:21: Perry – “insiders having a conversation, leave the states alone.” THAT’S why I had such high hopes for Perry. Excellent way to stop that, and Romney should have done the same.
6:20: We’re facing economic collapse, and Rick Santorum wants to spend this long on frickin’ felon voting rules?!?!?!? This is a state issue anyway.
6:17: Santorum is being such a douche here – let the man answer the question. I agree with Romney that it’s unfortunate that candidates aren’t allowed to have any input on what’s being said in their names. And then Santorum set himself up to let Romney be all tough on crime.
6:15: “Was Huntsman right? Are you all too mean?” It’s interesting here that Ron Paul is going bloodily after Rick Santorum. Santorum responds by attacking the messenger, but refutes NONE of the substance. VERY interesting answer from him about education, though, and this is a totally different response than he had when he was here in Reno awhile ago when every question he got on education involved a Washington-centric answer.
6:13: Mitt is acting like a winner here. He’s the only one so far who doesn’t look worn out, tired, and a little peevish.
6:11: This moderator is better than any of the other candidates attacking Bain from the right. Mitt has clearly done his homework on this, though, and he’s very ably rebuffing their specific examples, in my mind. And he got a union dig in.
6:09: Perry is REALLY screwing up by doubling down on the attacks on creative destruction, I think. “Release your income tax!” He’s right about too many regulations, though. Interesting – he’d get rid of financial regulators, but wants to rein in companies like Bain?
6:07: Romney starts by praising Gingrich – smart. And he’s already talking about “turning around tough situations” – exactly what we need right now. Mitt is far, far, far from perfect, but this in a nutshell is why I’m warming up to him.
6:05: “Newt – you hated negativity until you loved it. What’s up with that?” The interesting thing here is that Newt sounds worn out and defeated already. I don’t have any problem with “negative” campaigning as long as it’s a legitimate hit on someone, but the attacks on capitalism (and they WERE, not JUST attacks on Bain) were just dumb. And Newt’s “I’m just raising questions” thing is weak – is there a more dishonest way to respond when someone calls you on the carpet for a dishonest attack?
6:03: God, I hate that MLK statue – could it look any more sinister? Could it capture his spirit any more poorly?
6:02: My daughter is insisting on sitting next to me to help. That makes me the winner of this debate. I love that they aren’t using the “bell” or anything.
6:00: My computer is being slow to load – ugh. Oh, well – right to it. “Five REMAINING candidates.” Lots of cheers for Romney, and they sounded less forced than some of the others (yes, I’m talking about Ron Paul).
Dinner with the fam came first, but I really wanted to catch and write about this one, since it may be the last one that matters. Times are TV time. And here we go!