February 22, 2012

Post Debate Thoughts

Next debate: Bean bag chairs.
Unorganized, here's a stream-of-consciousness series of thoughts on the final GOP debate before Super Tuesday.

The audience in every Romney - Santorum exchange early on seemed to be members of Mitt Romney's immediate family.  Those tense exchanges made Santorum look underwhelming and made Romney look arrogant and unfriendly.  Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul probably benefited by staying out of the way and letting that train wreck happen on its own.  But when they spoke later on both Gingrich and Paul came across well.  Gingrich was the most statesmanlike.  He also had some clear and well-spoken points.  He won the debate, but he did not dominate.  He just did well, while Santorum and Romney came across poorly.

I mentioned Ron Paul did well early on.  He again blew it when he got into foreign policy.  It's no surprise - his beliefs are his beliefs - and he's not moderating them for the sake of electability.  He said it himself in his one word answer to describe himself "consistent".  It's just not exactly how he meant it.  So he took an opportunity and used it to reinforce his standing with his base.  He had zero need to do that.  He needed to expand his base  and he didn't do that.  In other words, he still won't win.

Mitt Romney had a few good moments and even managed to include a Seinfeld reference.  But the times he came across as affable were more than negated by comments like his one to moderator King "you get to ask the questions you want and I get to give the answers I want".  When Gingrich engages the media, it comes across as challenging them.  When Romney does it, it comes across as arrogant and condescending.  I'm not saying that because I prefer Gingrich over Romney, I'm saying that because it's a fact.  You remember that Romney family in the audience comment I made off the top of the post?  That audience booed Romney's terse answer to King.

Rick Santorum did not do well.  That's unfortunate for the Not Romney crowd because the debate could leave voters in the lurch regarding voting for him, and right now he's the only one who can beat Romney in Michigan and Arizona.  The GOP establishment should be breathing a sigh of relief because of that.  Their guy will probably win those two states.  Unless the Gingrich performance can create a dramatic surge in the next few days.  But the distance to go makes it seem more unlikely, even given the volatility of the races and polls along the way.

Newt Gingrich once again kept his hopes alive and probably secured more funding from Sheldon Adelson.  He may end up doing better in the pre-Super Tuesday primaries than polling heretofore has indicated.  But it likely won't be enough to win either state.  Expect a surge though.  He could pull off a second in one of the races. 

A few other thoughts - seated debates?  Put the candidates in recliners next time.  It wouldn't be any more wrong.  CNN managed to focus most of the debate on their liberal demographic by asking questions about women in combat, border security and contraception.  The GOP base, and Americans want to hear about the economy, gas prices, the national debt.  Those are key issues that CNN managed to relegate to far too small a portion of the debate.  Next election cycle, the debate moderators should be independent of the broadcasters and indeed the media in general.
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