Belated debate thoughts
During Monday night’s debate, I was in the middle of a long drive from Washington, DC to southern Virginia in more traffic than was tolerable for that time of night. So, since all bloggers think that everyone wants to hear our opinions, I just wanted to offer a few thoughts on the debate. Keep in mind that this is from someone who heard, but didn’t see, the event, and that I didn’t hear the whole thing.
Since I don’t know where they were standing, I’ll make just a few comments on each in the same order as my remarks following the prior debate.
Rick Santorum: Other than when he beat the heck out of Rick Perry over the Gardasil issue, he didn’t make much of an impression. Indeed, I missed the first few minutes of the debate but from when I first started listening, I didn’t hear him speak for at least 15 minutes. He has no chance even though he’s a fairly smart guy and he needs to be gone from the next debate so we have time to hear more from the electable candidates – even though I do like his feisty contributions from time to time.
Newt Gingrich: As always, smart and occasionally funny, but as always unelectable. As much as I love Newt showing the world that Republicans can have brains, he’s going to have to depart the stage soon as well.
Michele Bachmann: I feel sorta bad for Michele. She’s good and getting better every debate, but she’s like a sailboat on a becalmed, windless day, with Rick Perry’s candidacy having sucked all the wind out of her sails. More on this later.
Mitt Romney: Punched a little harder than the last time, and defended himself better than average on the Romneycare issue. Got in a good jab/metaphor against Perry when saying, regarding job creation during Perry’s tenure as governor, that “if you’re dealt four aces that doesn’t make you necessarily a great poker player.”
Rick Perry: If he thought he was the piñata in the previous debate, he must have felt like he was in a demolition derby on Monday night. He was beaten up from every corner, not just on requing STD vaccinations for young girls but also for giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens. Although I am sympathetic with Perry’s argument that it is the American way to allow opportunity for everyone who wants to chase the American dream, I was very surprised not to hear anyone (and perhaps I missed it, so please tell me if I did) point out that an illegal alien with a college degree still cannot be legally employed in the US. Also, if the cost of providing an education is lower than the in-state tuition then the illegal alien’s education comes at the price of raising the cost to everyone else.
More than once, Perry simply seemed at a loss for words or simply not that bright which, unfortunately, matches somewhat with what I’ve heard from people who have had longer experience with him than most of the non-Texas-based American electorate.
In short, I thought Perry had a terrible night. It’s possible, as with the prior debate, that if you only watched the first third or half of the debate, you might have thought Perry did well, but if you watched to the end his late-game fade was again obvious and does not bode well for someone who needs much more stamina to run a campaign against Barack Obama than to finish a relatively easy couple of debates.
Ron Paul: Other than his aggressive accusations against Rick Perry about his tax burden and Texas’ spending going up under Perry’s administration, Paul continues to drift into irrelevancy, even when he says something I like. Time to go quietly in that good night of retirement, Dr. Paul.
Herman Cain: Like Bachmann, getting better with almost every appearance, but unlike Bachmann truly has no chance to get the nomination. I still think he’s the next Secretary of Commerce.
Jon Huntsman: Huntsman sounded downright bitchy from time to time during the debate. I think I’m getting sick of him faster than any other Republican candidate ever. Well, Alan Keyes probably still holds that distinction. Huntsman needs to be uninvited from future debates before any other candidate. How a guy can be so smooth and so much like nails on a chalkboard at the same time is quite a feat.
The always amusing, even if almost always wrong, Bob Beckel, on Fox’s TV show “The Five” made an interesting suggestion, that Romney needs Bachmann and Perry both to stay in the race, to split the Tea Party vote in primaries. It does make sense, and I think the fact that Perry may perceive himself as the front-runner while Bachmann may perceive herself as finally bouncing off her lows, in part due to Perry’s bad performances, will keep them both in for a while.
But it’s not just vote-splitting that benefits Romney with both of them, and most of the others, still in. It’s the contrast. I am not pleased with Romney’s Democrat-sounding answers regarding Social Security. I am not at all happy with a Republican saying that talking truth about Social Security is “scaring seniors". BUT, I think it’s decent political strategy and plays well into the theme – which I don’t think has ever gone away – that he is the most likely candidate to beat Barack Obama.
While betting odds can certainly be wrong, at this writing (24 hours after the debate), over at Intrade.com Romney is trading more than 5% higher than Perry, at nearly 40% to under 34.5%, by far the biggest gap (in that direction) since Perry officially entered the race. (The day after Perry got in, he was briefly trading 8 points over Romney, which I said at the time was ridiculous.)
Again, bettors can be wrong, as shown by the ridiculous current pricing of Jon Huntsman at 6% to get the nomination, versus, for example, Newt Gingrich at 1.3%. Seriously? I’ve been selling Huntsman all the way down from 17%. Must have been a bunch of Utah Mormons betting on their golden boy? When you see prices like this, it makes you question the theory that there is wisdom in crowds. Let me make this clear: There is no way Jon Huntsman has a 6% chance of getting the nomination. No way he has a 2% chance. Maybe a 1% chance if an asteroid hits the first debate he’s not invited to and kills all the others, but probably not even then.
Back to Perry and Bachmann for a moment: Even if Perry completely collapses, which I don’t think he will, it will be at such a late date that it will be too late for Michele Bachmann to have any chance of regaining her incredibly brief early momentum. Remember, Rick Perry intentionally rained on her parade, entering the race on the same day that Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll. I know, the straw poll isn’t exactly an enormous event, but if you were a political candidate who won it you’d be pretty annoyed at someone stepping on what might be your only moment of glory, and I’m not surprised to see the long fingernails out for Perry. I’d be pissed too, especially if he’s the guy who is supposed to represent the Tea Party views even better than I am and turns out to be a can short of a six-pack in the IQ department.
They’ll both stay in for a while and as Beckel said though not precisely for the reason he said, it will be good for Romney.
I continue to believe that Republicans will focus more on electability than purity in 2012 and that many people will decide at the very last minute to support Romney at their caucuses or primaries, even in places where we’re supposed to believe they won’t go for a Mormon.
Do you remember who was leading the polls and the betting precisely four years ago? Fred Thompson was just catching or, depending on the poll, passing Rudy Giuliani for the lead in the GOP horserace, with John McCain a distant third. (Romney and Huckabee were fourth and fifth.) Also remember that many polls showed Giuliani beating Obama at this point in that election cycle.
My point is many things can – and probably will – change. But if I were a betting man (and clearly I am), I would not bet much on the chances of Rick Perry getting the nomination despite early polls. His luster is wearing off quickly with the debates like sandpaper wearing away the slightly appealing surface and showing the uninspiring core of the man. And please note, Perry fans, that I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, just that the more I see of him the less inspiring I think he is (to others in particular, as he was never inspiring to me…and neither is any of the other Republican candidates.)
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