New Hampshire debates.

There were 2 debates in New Hampshire, on consecutive days. On Saturday, January 7, ABC News held a debate lasting an hour and 40 minutes. Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulis moderated. Candidates present were, left to right on stage, Huntsman, Paul, Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry. Michelle Bachmann is out now. The debate management was nothing special.

Note the placement on stage: Romney, as always, center left, and Santorum had a middle slot for the first time in any debate. As usual, the center candidates got the most time. Romney was his usual teflon self, no one really got to him, although everyone else tried. The audience didn’t applaud much.

There currently are videos and articles about the debate on ABC News, but links to these will quickly leave the main page. They should be long-term accessible at: Why Romney wasn’t attacked, Fact checking, and Short debate video.

From my notes on the debate:

Romney: If jobs are starting to turn around, Obama didn’t do it; Washington insiders don’t understand the economy, my experience is in leadership. Santorum: we don’t need a CEO in the White House, we need a leader.

Gingrich: Bain Capital (Romney’s firm) was a story of greed, killed as many jobs as it created. Cited a New York Times article.

Romney: not surprised that the Times did that article, was surprised that anyone on stage would quote it.

Huntsman: Bain is part of his record. Governors (such as himself) will do as president as they did as governor. Pats himself on the back about Utah.

Romney: thinks himself superior because he has worked in the private sector.

Paul – Santorum exchange: Paul called Santorum corrupt – took money from lobbyists, raised debt ceiling 5 times, is a big government person. Santorum denied, saying he was attacked by CREW, a George Soros organization, and anyone who hasn’t been attacked by CREW isn’t conservative. Paul: Santorum is a big spender, not conservative.

Perry: Huntsman and I are the only Washington outsiders. The Tea Party should love us.

Huntsman: will push for term limits. I understand China (by implication, no one else does.)

Romney: Unlike me, Obama had no experience as a leader, made mistake after mistake learning on the job.

Perry: My having served in the military is an advantage; Obama doesn’t understand the military.

Gingrich: on being asked about a Paul ad which asserted he dodged the military and wouldn’t understand it, said Dr. Paul says a lot of things. He cited being an army brat taught him a great deal, Newt has taught military history for 32 years to military personnel, and said he didn’t dodge or ask for a deferment, but was in college and wasn’t eligible for the draft, and his father was in combat area at the time.

Paul: asked about racial slurs in his newsletter, said he has explained all that, and it happened a long time ago. Said he understands racism, blacks unfairly prosecuted for crime and drugs. Minorities suffer more. Drug laws unfairly enforced.

After a long break for commercials, George asked Romney a question he thought strange (as did I) — Do states have a constitutional right to ban contraception? I don’t know if this was an oblique reference to Roe vs. Wade, suggesting that abortion is a form of contraception, or if some state is trying to ban condoms or morning after pills. George didn’t explain it very well, and Romney didn’t know what he was talking about.

Romney: no state wants to do it. He turned to Paul and said: ask the expert on the constitution.

Sawyer read a sob story letter from some gay guy saying his marriage should be recognized.

Gingrich: marriage is between a man and a woman, has been for all of history, but nothing should stop gays from forming long term relationships.

Huntsman: would support civil unions.

Santorum: marriage amendment is a federal issue, he supports it. Same sex adoption a state issue.

Romney: civil union OK.

Gingrich: on same sex adoption, Catholic adoption suppressed in New Hampshire because they don’t accept same sex couples. Federal govt. forces them out of adoptive services. It’s bigotry. (He received the most applause of the night when he condemned this.)

Perry: Obama administration is fighting a war against religion. He’ll stop it.

Huntsman: Time to bring troops home from Afghanistan. Would leave 10,000 to counter terrorism. A civil war is coming there.

Gingrich: there are serious region-wide problems. Cited Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, etc. Says a new overall strategy is needed.

Santorum. Agreed with Newt. Obama has made many mistakes. Says he sanitizes the language so that the enemy (Muslim extremists) aren’t called by name.

Perry: would send troops back into Iraq. (gasp) My note — since Iraq doesn’t want us, that would require another invasion. This was probably a gaffe by Perry. Perry says Iran will move into Iraq at light speed.

Gingrich: disagreed,

Romney: would only send troops if American interests are involved.

Paul: sanctions only lead to war.

Santorum: the Iranian people like Americans; Obama turned his back on them.

Romney: government must encourage private sector.

Gingrich: govt. should be technologically smart, need systematic investment in infrastructure.

Various candidates: asked how we should bring back jobs, cited the usual things: cut corporate taxes, regulations, etc.

Huntsman: China’s GDP is falling, Wall Street Journal endorses his tax plan.

Romney: Obama put America on road to decline.

Gingrich: Romney is a Masschusetts moderate, and is cautious, even timid.

Santorum: Romney is not bold. Romney used the term “middle class”. Santorum thinks that’s class warfare rhetoric.

Romney: uttered platitudes on open markets, deregulation.

Huntsman: we must succeed in relationship with China. Must sort through trade issues with all countries.

Romney: China is a bad actor, they manipulate currency, steal our intellectual property, etc. He would rein them in.

Huntsman: Romney would start a trade war.

Romney: China has much more to lose in a trade war, they wouldn’t start one. Cited the small sales to China, their huge sales to us. (My note: cutting off goods from China would cause American prices to go up, but might cause enormous problems for the Chinese.)

My take: the debate wasn’t managed well, questions didn’t produce new information. Debate went over old ground. Stephanopoulos may have acted like a Democrat in posing his questions: Stephanopoulos may have been unfair.

 

*********************************

On Sunday morning, January 8th, NBC held a one-hour debate in the time slot for “Meet the Press”, or as Rush Limbaugh calls it, “Meet the Depressed.”

This was moderated by David Gregory, and was one of the best-run debates of the campaign. Gregory’s rapid delivery seemed to entice the candidates to speak rapidly in answering, and his questions were good, in my opinion. Some new ground was covered.

From my notes:

Asked who of the group would make the best candidate:

Gingrich: not Romney. He is relatively timid, is a Massachusetts moderate, and will have a tough time beating Obama. I’m a Reagan conservative.

Romney: (defending) I cut taxes 19 times, New Hampshire knows I did a good job in a neighboring state; several governors have endorsed me.

Santorum: if Romney’s record was so good, why didn’t he run for re-election? When he and Romney ran at the same time in 1994, why didn’t Romney stand for conservative principles?

Romney: It’s not unusual that career politicians should want to stay in office, but he is not a career politician.

Gingrich: (after Romney talked too long) the red light doesn’t mean much to Romney; would like him to stop the pious baloney; he’s been running since the 90’s.

Romney: proud of my service.

Paul: Romney supported TARP; no one is talking about real cuts.

Perry: I have the best chance to beat Obama and re-invigorate the Tea Party. When I look at the rest of the candidates, I see nothing but insiders. Insiders caused all our current problems in spending.

Romney: I will stand up for Republican ideas.

Huntsman: We are in an age of austerity. Romney’s spin confuses the audience; indignant because Romney criticized him for putting the country first. (So Huntsman said – I rather doubt it)

Romney: Huntsman worked for Obama.

Huntsman: this nation is divided because of attitudes like that; agrees with Ryan plan; would means test entitlements.

Santorum: agrees with means testing entitlements;likes food stamp, Medicaid block granted to states.

Gingrich: likes the Ryan-Wyden plan because it contains options;national columnists and journalists seem to like stories involving pain for the American people;Newt doesn’t;would cut the fraud and embezzlement from Medicare.

Perry: would eliminate commerce,education, and energy departments. Continuation of the joke about his forgetting the 3rd one.

Santorum: would impose immediate means testing of entitlements, for all; his plan similar to the existing one for federal employees (premium support and choice) which works well; in his plan seniors would have choices.

Romney: right choice is to shrink government.

Huntsman: my tax plan endorsed by Wall Street Journal;

Gingrich: asked about dealing as president with a hostile congress, said he negotiated successfully with Bill Clinton.

Romney: worked with legislature containing 85% Democrats; developed respect for each other; they granted him unilateral power to cut spending; thinks he can always find common ground.

Paul: dodged an assertion that he was ineffective in the House – Steph. said Paul originated 620 bills in his career, only 4 made it to debate, only 1 adopted into law. Paul: in his spending cuts would go back to the 2006 budget.

Santorum: Paul has always been in the margin of the House, would be very dangerous president.

(Here, a few minutes of some trite stuff I’ll skip over) then:

Perry: biggest problem is congress; they are out of control; I’d change them to part-time. (my note – congress would have to vote on that. Not very damned likely to happen – therefore, it’s meaningless noise.)

At this point, a couple of New Hampshire yokels (journalists, actually) were brought in to ask questions.

Q. Obama administration recently cut support for poor families to obtain heating oil. Would you continue that?

Huntsman: country should fix energy problems; oil distribution monopoly (whatever that is) is bad, would favor other forms of energy.

Q. How do you feel about subsidies?

Paul: subsidies generally bad.

Romney: don’t need fed to solve all problems; send these programs back to states; block grants.

Q. having to do with gays or gay marriage: (remember, New Hampshire allows gay marriage)

Romney: I don’t discriminate, marriage is between a man and a woman.

Santorum: wants all to be respected, but supports marriage amendment; gays should be treated like everyone else, have no special “rights” as such.

Q. on right to work laws:

Perry: right to work is a federal issue.

Q. what contributions do unions make?

Romney: training; government unions pay scale should reflect private sector pay for same jobs.

Gingrich: removing restrictions on energy production would make prices fall.

Q. What to do about cross-state pollution laws?

Romney: Need to keep air clean, so some regulations needed; natural gas for power production is cleaner than coal.

Q. You would replace the EPA with an “Environmental Solutions Agency”. What is that?

Gingrich: EPA has become increasingly dictatorial, bad for business; talked about their attempted regulation of dust in dry areas; his new agency would take effect on business into account.

(skip trite exchanges)

Paul: Health care is a “right”? Entitlements are not rights. I don’t like “rights”.

Huntsman: what the presidency needs is real leadership (me); will attack the “trust deficit”.

Q. Why can’t we live with nuclear Iran?

Santorum: because they’re governed by a religion which likes martyrdom, death not a deterrent; Pakistan not a theocracy.

Here, a heavyweight exchange between Gingrich and Romney. Gingrich complained of untruth in Romney’s PAC ads against him, Romney said he didn’t control them but they were true and cited his “being kicked out of the House, being fined $300,000, etc. Gingrich denied that it was a fine or that he was kicked out. Gingrich’s PAC is releasing a 27 minute film about Bain Capital, Romney’s firm, and their predatory business practices – buying companies in trouble, selling off their assets, dissolving them, and putting employees on the streets.

There was a bit more, but nothing major. This debate lasted an hour and 27 minutes, including breaks. This may have been the strongest criticism Romney has received. Gingrich faced him and accused him of dishonesty. Romney gave as good as he got. I’m not sure who won this one. Santorum was strong, Perry made no gaffes, Romney was smooth, Gingrich was strong and confrontational.

New Hampshire is probably a battle for 2nd and 3rd. Romney will win, the others are fighting for crumbs. If Romney doesn’t do better than 30% or doesn’t have at least a 10% lead over whoever is in 2nd place, he might be seriously hurt. Perhaps Paul will make a strong showing, but he is almost irrelevant. Huntsman has staked all on New Hampshire, was not particularly impressive in the two debates. He might drop out if he finishes last or polls less than 10%. Perry will most likely finish last, most certainly less than 10%. Less than 5% might make him think seriously about dropping out.

 

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