Location: Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan
Sponsor: CNBC, the Michigan Republican Party and Oakland University
Participants: Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Huntsman, Paul, Perry, Romney, Santorum
The subject was: the economy. I thought there were too many candidates on stage. Increasingly irrelevant are Huntsman and Santorum, while Bachmann and Paul are becoming so.
Moderators: John Harwood, Maria Bartiromo. and questioners: a host of Liberals from CNBC, including crazy Jim Cramer whose frantic style made him seem crazier than Ron Paul. Most of the questions were posed in snippy, arrogant fashion (my opinion) but candidates weren’t egged onto each other. There were few attacks on other candidates. Several questions contained implied assertions with a Liberal slant that the candidates had to correct before answering the main question. One in particular by Cramer seemed to imply that corporations shouldn’t go for profits. Newt slapped him down on that one, without referring to him directly, saying in effect many journalists and politicians don’t understand how capitalism is supposed to work.
There was very little back-and-forth arguing between the candidates, and many fewer 30-second rebuttals were called for. I liked that. Romney received the most questions, but the other candidates weren’t totally slighted.
The main event was Rick Perry’s all-too-human slip of forgetting a name during the debate. He said (paraphrased): “there are three agencies I’d cut – commerce, education, and . . . “ He couldn’t come up with the 3rd one, which he has previously said was the Department of Energy. Someone, it sounded like Mitt Romney, prompted him, “EPA?” and he almost went for it. The prompt sounded malicious. For Perry, it must have been terribly embarrassing. After the debate, CNBC commentators suggested the gaffe may end Perry’s campaign. He has been slumping badly in the polls anyway, and, although he still has many millions of unspent dollars, he probably should drop out.
All the candidates are under severe pressure to say something important, in a 60 second sound byte, on a terribly complex issue which they probably don’t fully understand, without making a slip. That is both the genius and the major flaw in the many-person debates. Perry stumbled and may not be forgiven by many.
The rest of the candidates did reasonably well. I thought Romney and Gingrich won the debate, with Bachmann, Cain, and Paul next, and speaking well but with less substance were Huntsman and Santorum. Huntsman, who has been ambassador to China, gave a very poor response (my opinion) when asked whether we should apply tariffs to counter unfair Chinese trade practices. He worried about starting a trade war, ignoring the likelihood that we’re already in one with them and we’re losing. Perry did well except for the gaffe, which was sufficiently bad to deserve an F.
Newt hit a couple of home runs, one on the question of guaranteed loans to college students, another on what to do about the housing crisis. Romney was smooth and impeccable, and particularly strong on business. CNBC had some Oakland students equipped with tracking devices, and after the debate 40% of them said Romney won, 25% said Gingrich won, about 11% named Paul, and the rest were in single digits. Several students changed allegiance to favor Romney or Gingrich. Obviously, Cain and Perry lost ground with them.
The next televised debate (10th) will be held on Saturday November 12 in South Carolina and will be sponsored by CBS. South Carolina is the home state of both Gingrich and Cain, so I expect them to do very well there because the audience should favor them.
I now see the race as coming down to Romney and Gingrich. Although I have been wrong before, (I thought I had made a mistake, but I hadn’t) I now predict Gingrich will win the primary majority and will be the national candidate. I see the possibility of a Gingrich-Romney ticket, or a Romney-Gingrich ticket. Either should be extremely formidable.
If I’m correct, Newt’s presence on the ticket will likely drive Liberals absolutely wild. Many will remember he helped bring Jim Wright (Democrat speaker of the House) down on ethics charges, supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton, was involved in the brief government shutdown, and was himself run out of the house by Democrats on innumerable and spurious ethics charges. Newt has not pulled and will not pull his punches against Barack Obama, and there is no aspect of Barack’s record he will not discuss in public with merciless logic. The same could be said of Romney. Obama has little to look forward to.