“Petty bickering is not the way to the White House.” New Gingrich said this, or something very like it, when he was the last to speak at the end of the debate. He was gently chiding the rest of the candidates, and rightly so. It was a night of bickering, cheap shots, and instances where two candidates talked at the same time. Only Newt, Ron Paul, and to an extent Michelle Bachman stayed on the higher ground and consistently spoke to the issues.
Anderson Cooper moderated the debate, and read all the questions. Only seven candidates were present: Cain, Romney, Perry, Paul, Gingrich, Bachman, and Santorum. John Huntsman boycotted the debate in Las Vegas for some unknown reason, and held a town hall meeting in New Hampshire instead. I speculate that he may be in his withdrawal process. More on that later.
Each candidate received about the same number of initial questions, but every time Romney, Cain, or Perry was mentioned by another candidate, which was almost every time, the one mentioned received 30 seconds for rebuttal. Consequently, speaking time was again dominated by the three leaders.
At the beginning, almost everyone attacked Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. He stuck to his guns and said their criticisms were wrong. Bachman asserted his 9% corporate tax was really a value added tax, imposed at multiple stages of manufacture. She also said giving Congress a new revenue stream is dangerous.
Perry and Santorum became very heated when attacking Romney, so much so that Mitt had to ask them to let him finish what he was trying to say. Mitt maintained his poise, but gave back as much as he got. It appeared to me like the way 15-year-olds argue, rather than those aspiring to be President of the United States. Romney was not at fault, and deflected most criticism, mostly on his Massachusetts health care plan. But Perry ranted on about how many jobs he had created and how few Romney created. This is getting old, and Newt’s characterization of it as “bickering” was on target. Perry also threw a cheap shot, accusing Romney of hiring illegal alien workers – thus being a hypocrite on illegal immigration. Romney’s response was that he had a lawn service who brought in illegals without his knowledge, and when he found out, he asked them to stop. Even if the conclusion Perry drew is accurate, it hardly rose to the level of an important issue.
When Newt spoke, he sometimes complimented the others on stage, and stuck to the issues. As I see it, He and Bachman gave the most direct answers, but again Romney won the debate by making no mistakes and receiving the most speaking time.
Here is my assessment of the candidates at this time:
Perry – makes a huge mistake by his continued attacks on Romney, rather than speaking to the issues. Also, he disappoints me, by acting like a teenager. He provides little information on what he will do as president. He also seems dogmatic – taking ill considered positions (such as tuition assistance to illegals) and resisting all logic to the contrary.
Santorum – his pattern of continual boasting about his rather limited experience and sharp attacks on others has made me think less of him. He needs to mature. I’d advise him to go away, grow up, and stay out of presidential races until at least 2023.
Paul – still crazy, although he makes a crazy kind of sense sometimes, which makes me worry about my own sanity. By and large, he is a waste of time.
Bachman – an intelligent, dedicated person. I really think she would be a good president. Unfortunately, her chances appear slim for reasons not her fault.
Cain – definitely has some strengths, but I think he erred by being so specific in his 9-9-9 plan. Also, when asked about health care, he responds that his plan is like the Chilean model. If you actually look at the plan in Chile, you might believe, as I do, that it couldn’t work here. (Examples: free clinics, paid for by the government, as well as private insurance for those who can afford it. Everyone over 60 receives free health care.) I don’t think it’s sustainable here, and I’m surprised no one has yet taken him to task on it. He doesn’t strike me as extremely intelligent, but rather seems too formulaic in the way he attacks problems. His track record in business is good, however.
Romney – would make a good, but moderate president. He is a good executive, has strayed across the line a few times and likely would do so as president. He does understand business – remember, he straightened out the Olympics mess and received many kudos for doing so.
Gingrich – far outshines the others when allowed to speak. It is instructive to consider that he was in the House for twenty years, and the fact that he was the sharpest tack in the box, and therefore became speaker. He has been out of politics for nearly 13 years, but has been active in considering how America should address her problems. To an extent, he has been preparing himself for the presidency. He is still the sharpest person in the group.
Money may decide the race. The time to get on the ballots in the 57 states (count provided by Barak Obama) is fast approaching, and it takes money to do so. Apparently, November is the latest candidates can qualify for the ballots in the various states. I’ve heard that Romney, Perry, and Paul have the most money. Cain is probably pulling in a lot since his surge to the top of the polls, but the pundits say his organization is poor, and he may stumble because of it. Bachman, Santorum, and Huntsman may not squeeze through into December and the first polls and caucuses, which start at least in early January. I’m not sure about Newt. His wife Callista has money, as he does, and he may use his own funds to stay in the race. It’s instructive to read about his wife: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callista_Gingrich This article touches on what Newt has been doing since leaving the House.
The next two debates are scheduled for November 8 and December 1.
Greta van Susteren talked with Newt on Fox News last night, as well as Herman and Michelle. She mentioned the difficulty of having 7 or 8 candidates on the stage at the same time, and suggested that instead they be broken into groups of 3 or 4. I think there is great inequity in the current system, which favors the leaders. Suppose they scheduled two and a half hours for 7 or 8 candidates, and gave half the time to the first group, and the other half to the second. The next debate, they should change the groups around randomly. Extend speaking time on a question to 2 minutes. I think that would be an effective format, and we’d learn much more about the candidates.