The debate last night at Drake University underwhelmed me.  I’m not even sure I could declare a  clear winner.  I had expected more fireworks and yes while there were some I’m not sure this debate did anything to ultimately help those who are behind in the polls.  This debate didn’t even help voters (unless they haven’t been paying attention) learn anything new about the candidates.

It was at times a disorganized, free-for-all with moderators George Stephanopoulous and Diane Sawyer having zero control as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney going after each other while Stephanopoulous and Sawyer allowing the continual point, counter-point go on.  Several of the candidates busted into the fray without being asked a question – not that I can blame them otherwise they would have been ignored during that exchange.

It was pretty much a non-event.  Looking at each of the candidates:

Newt Gingrich: The first hour was brutal (with the questions), but he didn’t have any gaffes or stumble and was able to hold his own.  He got the better of Romney on several occasions, and had a nice comeback when Romney accused him of being a career politician.  Gingrich responded, “Let’s start with the last one, let– let’s be candid.  The only reason you didn’t become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.”  Romney’s criticism of Gingrich’s answer regarding Israel and the Palestinians which was pretty solid and he finished the debate strong.  I doubt he gained ground based on the first hour, but I don’t believe he was hurt either.

Mitt Romney: This was not a good debate for Romney, and if there was a loser in this debate it was him.  Gingrich got the better of him, and Rick Perry even got a shot in bringing up his book saying, “But I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts which should be the model for the country.  And I know it came out of the reprint of the book.  But, you know, I’m just saying, you were for individual mandates, my friend.”

Romney then disputed that and said he’d bet him $10,000.  Probably not the best comment to make if you want middle class folks to relate to you.  The rest of his answer is fine, but he just gave opponents and later on Democrats, should he win the nomination, a major talking point.  Romney also seemed rattled by Michele Bachmann’s attack.  Also when explaining his support for the individual mandate in Massachusetts by citing the 10th Amendment said, “states can do whatever they want to do.”  Perhaps with the individual mandate, but no they can’t do anything they want to do.

Michele Bachmann: Congresswoman Bachmann had a very good debate, and her dual attack on Gingrich and Romney was masterful:

You started out with Mitt Romney with Newt Gingrich, asking them about whether or not they’re the conservative in this race.  But you have to take a look.  You, when you look at Newt Gingrich, for 20 years, he’s been advocating for the individual mandate in healthcare.  That’s, that’s longer than Barack Obama, or if you look at Mitt Romney as the governor of Massachusetts, he’s the only governor that put into place socialized medicine.  No other governor did.  Our nominee has to stand on a stage and debate Barack Obama and be completely different.

I led 40,000 Americans to Washington D.C., to the Capitol, to fight ObamaCare.  I didn’t advocate for it.  If you look at Newt Romney, they were for ObamaCare principles.  If you look at Newt Romney, they were for cap and trade.  If you look at Newt Romney, they were for the illegal immigration problem.  And if you look at Newt Romney, they were for the $700 billion bailout.  And you just heard Newt Romney is also with Obama on the issue of the payroll extension.

So if you want a difference, Michele Bachmann is the proven conservative.  It’s not Newt Romney.

“Newt Romney” good line.  This debate would have been better had she left Herman Cain out of it.  The “win-win-win” plan was an attempt at humor which fell flat.  So consider that a Cain supporter pandering FAIL.  Other than that she did well, but probably not enough to really upset the cart.  One question I had is how she worked in the private sector for 50 years when she is 55-years-old?  Perhaps Newt Gingrich was thinking of her community when he suggested overhauling the child labor laws.

Rick Santorum: No gaffes.  He gave solid answers, he distinguished himself from the rest of the field when discussing job creation by bringing up his manufacturing jobs plan.  He also had the best answer with the discussion of poverty:

Unfortunately, America, we see the family continuing to break down.  And with that, the economic status of those families.  Single-parent households in America now have poverty levels approaching 40%.  So you not only have the lack of security and stability in so many cases, because moms are doing heroic work trying to hold things together, but it’s hard.  And so what we can do as a federal government, we can do more importantly as the leader of this country, to try to promote this institution of marriage.  Try to promote the family and try to nurture this environment that we have to make sure that families are elevated and supported and fathers and mothers are there to take care of their families and be there for their children.  That’s the most important luxury, is a mom and a dad.

He also countered Bachmann’s argument that she was the only constitutional conservative in the race.  He unfortunately was overlooked most of the debate, and even at one time was rushed by Stephanopoulous.  It is hard to gain ground in a debate when your involvement is limited.

Ron Paul: This was a good debate for the Texas Congressman.  He seemed looser, he was funny at times.  He gave some great answers.  In particular one in response to the question about fidelity and character.  Congressman Paul said:

You know, I think character is, obviously, very important.  I don’t think it should be necessary to have to talk about it.  I think it should show through in the way we live.  And I think it should show through in a marriage.  And I happen to have been married for 54 years and family person.  But, I don’t think we should have to talk about it.  But, you know what? … if your marriage vows are important, what about our oath of office?  That’s what really gets to me.  That’s where you’re really on the line as a public figure.  And that’s where I think a lot of people come up real short.  Because there’s many times that I have been forced to Congress because I take my oath very seriously.  I am up sometimes, believe it or not, voting all by myself thinking that, “Why aren’t there people paying attention — why don’t they read Article One, Section Eight?”  You know, if– if we took that oath of office seriously in Washington, we’d get rid of 80% of the government.

His weakest answer was on Israel.  Speaker Gingrich is historically accurate about the Palestinian people.  Whether that is a helpful thing to say is a different question.  Overall, however, I thought Congressman Paul did very well.

Rick Perry:  This was probably his best debate.  I’m not sure he gained any ground as a result, but it wasn’t painful to watch so that’s progress.  He had several good exchanges with Romney.  He had one of the better lines of the night with his response to the question on Israel.  He said, “This president is the problem, not something that Newt Gingrich said.”  He also gave a strong answer on illegal immigration noting that until the border is secure any other discussion is just an intellectual exercise.

Winners: No clear winners in that I don’t think anyone’s going to get positive gains in the polls as a result.  I do believe Bachmann, Santorum, Perry and Paul had a good debate.

Broke even: Gingrich, the first hour was brutal, but landed some good blows on Romney and had a good 2nd hour.  He didn’t win, but he more than likely solidified his support which is as good as a win at this point.

Loser: Romney – not a good debate, he looked tense and rattled on occasion.  He lost several exchanges.  He’s bleeding some support in Iowa, and I’m not sure he stopped the bleeding.

 

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