NBC-National Journal-Tampa Bay Times Republican Presidential DebateI did watch the NBCNational JournalTampa Bay Times Republican Presidential Debate last night, but I don’t have much of a review.  It’s basically an airing of grievances-only partially directed at the candidates.  One thing to note: The WiFi I had been using, nay, stealing, disappeared on me so I had to run to Starbucks to get a feed there.  Twenty minutes later I’m viewing the debate, but the site I used to watch the live stream kept buffering on me. By the last 30 minutes of the debate, however, I had a clear, clean feed which was probably due to the massive drop off of viewers-and here’s why:

This was a maddeningly boring and unsatisfying debate. When I finally jumped in, I was treated to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich arguing over the definition of “historian” and this new term dropped by Team Romney: “Influence peddler.” Romney did take a much more direct and tough approach with Gingrich this go around and surprisingly, Gingrich didn’t push back as fiercely as he did against John King’s opening question in SC. As a voter, the exchange between the two men went on far too long and there was a moment where I wondered if Rick Santorum and Paul were just there to hold the two brawlers’ spit cups.

For the second portion of the debate, Santorum and Paul eventually had questions directed at them and once again when Paul was asked his opinion on a foreign policy issue, this time Cuba, he gave his standard response: “We’re the bad actors here.” Williams also kept asking ridiculous hypothetical questions no President would ever face: “If Martians landed in Canada and the Iranians gave them Nigerian yellow cake, how would you respond as President?” Or something like that. Buffering…remember? Ron Paul‘s response: “Why can’t the Martians have yellow cake? Don’t they have just as much a right as we do to yellow cake? Mmm.”

Two other journalists were added to the panel, Beth Reinhard of the National Journal and Adam Smith, of the Tampa Bay Times. Conservative stalwarts, both…I’m sure. From that point Brian Williams checked out and started reading ESPN.com and let Reinhard & Smith take over. Reinhard threw out questions on immigration and asked the candidates to admit their hypocrisy at airing commercials in Spanish but not supporting ballots written in Spanish. If she really wanted to drive that question home, why not ask the whole question in Spanish? Go full NPR on these backward conservatives. Gingrich and Romney responses:

“I would have ballots in English, and I think you could have programs where virtually everybody would be able to read the ballots,” Gingrich said, and nearly all of his rivals agreed.” –Gingrich

“English is the language of this nation,” Romney said. “People need to learn English to be able to be successful, to get great jobs. We don’t want to have people limited in their capacity to achieve the American dream because they don’t speak English.” –Romney

Points off for not prefacing those answers with: “Republicans don’t hate Latinos-just asinine questions by journalists who’ve probably never met one.”

Some Florida specific questions were asked. Drilling offshore (good answers by Santorum and as an energy nerd he totally spoke my language), Immigration (One of the few points were the audience showed it had a pulse: Romney argued essentially that we don’t have to deport illegals because although they initially broke the law to get here, they’d be happy to return to their home countries on their own recognizance. “Self-deportation.” That one slipped by Team Romney’s spin doctors. He was deservedly laughed at for that). Other questions involved the Space Race, Big Sugar and Terry Schiavo. Issues big in every decade put the present one.

The debate wrapped up with one last question: “What have you done to further the cause of conservatism?” I like Gingrich’s response as it was forward looking and focused on taking out Pres. Obama‘s job. Romney’s fell flat for me. Stated bizarrely that having a family helped further the cause. Look, if Bachmann was mocked for her 23 foster kids line, I’m going to mock this one. Shorter Romney: “I helped further the conservative cause by having babies. Well, my wife did, but I had some input.” I saw that Ann Coulter tweeted a response to this: “Why isn’t this enough for you people?!” That one has gone off the deep end, no? Santorum had a good line and one I second. These guys rejected conservatism when it got hard.”

At this point in the night, the Barista at Starbucks is making a point to sweep extremely close to my table and I take the hint. I guess NBC has a vendetta against 7:30 EST. How I’d score this debate: Santorum, Romney/Gingrich, Paul.

Three Things:

(1) It was a  hard debate to score because so little happened. I think Romney needed a performance better than the one he gave in SC and although he didn’t hit a home run, he at least got on base. Gingrich’s performance was off and I’m wondering if it was a calculated move on his part to seem calmer and less combative or it simply came down to having a catatonic moderator and a stiff audience. I’d say he also hit a single. Both Santorum and Paul didn’t get much play in the beginning, but did toward the end. Once Paul starts on his foreign policy views I’m reminded why he’s a bad idea. When he brings it back to monetary policy he shines and I see why folks like him. I picked Santorum for the win because his answers are solid and he can frame things from a blue collar perspective. Also, I don’t know what to do with Gingrich and Romney here so that’s also why he places 1st.

(2) As this was a REPUBLICAN primary debate, geared toward REPUBLICAN primary voters, I am against baffled why these questions were so out of tune with the issues folks want to hear discussed. Keystone Pipeline, Unemployment, this noxious phrase of the President-“fair share” and many other questions not asked by the moderators.

(3) This debate shows why Fox News continually smokes its competition’s cigars. The admonition to attendees to hold their applause killed whatever energy the candidates could draw on to put passion into their arguments. And there was zero dueling between the candidates and moderators. Brian Williams acted as if this was just a time killer while his 10pm reservation at Tampa’s Six Tables rolled around. Fox brings the bells and whistles and encourages audience participation-to a point-Brett Baier does regulate.

Enhanced by Zemanta
5 comments
  1. The reason they asked for a holding of applause is largely because in the general election debates the audience is forbidden from applauding.  The decision was made in part to more accurately reflect the conditions of a debate against Obama.  As a Florida Republican, I can say that the questions did reflect the issues which are important in primary politics in this state. Florida is a more diverse venue than any of our other primary/caucus states thus far. 

Comments are closed.

Get CT In Your Inbox!

Don't miss a single update.

You May Also Like

Palin Documentary, The Undefeated, to Premiere Tuesday in Pella, IA

The Undefeated a new documentary which  focuses on Sarah Palin’s time as…

Rick Santorum’s Presidential Campaign Announcement

You can watch former Senator Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign announcement speech that…