Some of you may know, I’m a HUGE Philly sports fan and so I was in a quandary when I realized that the Eagles Preseason opener and the Ames Debate in Iowa were the same night. My plan was to record the debate and come back to it after the game but to my surprise, my WIFE decided at halftime that the 4th and 5th string Eagles didn’t matter. Boy was she right. It was well worth watching the Ames Debate live, especially with my new HTC EVO Shift 4G by my side and Tweetdeck feeding me the live stream of tweets to the hashtag #AmesDebate (not that I could read most of them as the stream was flying by, it must have been 100 tweets per second). The pulse of the Twitter verse centered on two candidates who have really utilized Social Media and it’s multiplying force to its advantage. Both Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann got A LOT of attention on the streams as the debate went on. Gingrich and Romney each shared some space among the Twitterverse while most of the Ron Paul and T-Paw mentions were at best backhanded compliments and at worst pimp hand smacks. I know Rick Santorum participated but I don’t think I even saw his name mentioned on the Social Media landscape. I know that Frank Luntz, “Lord of the Dials” as I call him, is doing his own focus groups and word testing and he knows far more than I do about the pulse of the people I am sure but I wanted to break down what WE saw from each candidate and what our mood was here at home. As young(er) parents of 4 children we have a unique and different perspective on life but yet it straddles that line between the young, just out of college kid making it on their own and the worldly parent of young children trying to help them grow up right. I think our experience, youthfulness and wisdom will translate well to many people. You be the judge.
I’ll first cover each candidate from our perspective (in no particular order), pro’s, con’s and memorable zingers. Then I will tell you who we thought stood out and finally rank them in our current leaderboard with one line as to why they are where they are. Here we go:
Romney came into the debate with a lot of questions. Now I will admit, that I already had a slightly inflated opinion of Romney after watching his handling of hecklers during a rally in Iowa that was posted on TheBlaze earlier that day but my wife was under no such delusions and in the interest of fairness, we’ll weight this toward her opinion. Romney was the frontrunner in many polls but for us, he wasn’t our first choice (despite my recent discovery that he is a VERY distant uncle of mine…hey Uncle Mitt…share that wealth over here partner!). He’s polished, he doesn’t make many mistakes and he’s got a good business sense which makes him formidable when talking about the economy. I thought he also did a good job of talking about the need to restrain the growth of government. He did not appear to WOW or impress my wife much except in that he knows what he wants to do with the job and he didn’t dance around too many questions. The line that I think stood out for me was in response to an attack by Tim Pawlenty on Romney’s signing of a universal healthcare bill in Massachussetts. Pawlenty was once again asked about a statement he made earlier in the campaign season about Romney’s plan in Mass. and comparing it to Obamacare, he called it Obamneycare. Tim Pawlenty had previously ducked the question at another debate but this time doubled down on his answer to which Mitt responded “I think I’ liked Tim’s answer in the last debate better” then he proceeded to defend his actions in Mass. as follows, “There’s some similarities between what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did, but there’s some big differences,” Romney said. “We put together a plan that was right for Massachusetts. The president took the power of the people and the states away from them and put in place a one-size-fits-all plan. It’s bad law. It’s bad constitutional law. It’s bad medicine.” He also promised to grant all 50 states (not 57 states) waivers to Obamacare on his first day in office to give Congress a chance to repeal the bill and allow the states to opt out if they chose to. All in all, I think Romney sounded Presidential (as did Frank Luntz) and so did my wife but we expected that. This is not his first rodeo and so I think he could have been a little more substantive in his answers. We did like the fact that he spent more time comparing himself to Obama than to the other candidates which I feel shows leadership and an ability to run on ones record rather than personal attacks. We thought Mitt did well in the debate.
Newt came into this debate as one of my least favorites based on his ability (or lack thereof) to beat Obama and his lack of commitment to the race. I’m also not a huge fan of some of his potential policy ideas but as debates go, he really had some zingers last night and he took on a media that focuses too much on personal destruction and less on policy. Gingrich said what a lot of us have been thinking over the last few years (decades in some cases). He also had some unflattering words for a Congress hell bent on NOT making a decision until the final minutes of a deal and then making a bad one. His overall performance wasn’t bad, as former Speaker of the House, I expect him to be able to think on his feet but I was really impressed with the fight he took to the current Congress. When asked about the debt reduction deal, and after zinging the press corps (and moderators Brett Bair, Byron York, Susan Ferrechio and Chris Wallace) for their focus on “campaign minutiae” over substantive policy arguments, Gingrich called the Super Committee “as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with,” and many of us would agree with that assessment. In this house we sure did. Gingrich was able to raise his stock a bit during the debate by not being afraid to take on the media, the moderators, the current Congress and Obama but he has a higher climb than many others because of some of his personal issues and because of his attacks on the Ryan Plan and his previous support of TARP, Medicare Part D and others. With that said, we thought Gingrich did well and we thought he picked up a few spots on our board but he didn’t wow us.
It’s no secret (take a glance to the right of the screen) that Herman Cain was at the top of my board going into the debate. Now, the entrance of Michele Bachmann into the race and some of Herman’s slip-ups in the media have given me pause and reason to consider other candidates but he still hadn’t been passed. Cain is one of those rare candidates who don’t SOUND like politicians. He sounds real and he knows what he’s talking about. His business skills were on display last night as he talked about businesses and regulations. Herman had a great line about growth when he said “I don’t know one company that sits around trying to figure out how to stand still, it’s about growth!” Likewise, he rightly tied America’s energy policy to our national security and lightened the mood when asked about a comment he made in response to Obama’s mocking of calls for border enforcement. His response was “America needs to learn to take a joke.” He also said that he thought the federal government should be out of the business of educating our children and he also pointed out that “people should be committed to the Constitution of the United States first” before they are appointed to the federal government. Cain presented a real regular persons perspective sans political correctness and he really laid things out the way they are. He didn’t get a lot of time to make his points but he capitalized on that time well. We felt like he stood above the fray in the same way that Romney did and that he utilized his shortened chances to speak well. He reacted well to questions about things he said on the campaign trail and he didn’t flame out during the debate.
Pawlenty was one of the weaker candidates going into the debate and he did not disappoint from that perspective. He remained as one of the worst performers and really has made his name by being an attack dog on the other candidates. This time T-Paw as he’s known in the Twitterverse, found that he wasn’t just going to attack Mitt Romney for what he describes as the “Obamneycare” but he would also include fellow Minnesotan Congresswoman Michele Bachmann who he described as failing in her leadership on issues like stopping Obamacare, stopping the debt ceiling increase and reducing government spending. In fact, at one point the debate between them got so heated that T-Paw actually asked Bachmann to stop leading because she was “killing us”. T-Paw’s defense of his own record as someone who not only supported but pushed through Cap and Trade and who supported an individual mandate to buy health insurance (one of the key problems with Obamacare) was shoddy, weak and he danced around those issues while throwing every dart he could at Bachmann. He looked more like a bully trying desperately to remain relevant (a la Mike Castle in the 2010 Delaware U.S. Senate race than he did like a Presidential candidate. He was off putting both to me and to my wife and he was not convincing. He did NOT increase his stock last night but I’m not exactly sure he could have given his record.
So Rick had a podium…and he spoke…and I can’t say I disagreed with most of what he said. He’s principled and he didn’t back down from Ron Paul on the Middle East. As the author of a bill sanctioning Iran, Santorum was clearly on the right side of the debate over whether to let Iran do whatever it wants with regards to its nuclear program and the threat they pose to the U.S. with terror cells working with Mexican drug cartels to setup terrorist training camps just across the border and their use of drug smuggling tunnels to transport weapons, ammo, terrorists and more into the U.S. Paul could muster little more than calling Santorum nothing short of a war propagandist and called for us to talk to the Iranians who have consistently said that they desire both the United States and Israel to be destroyed. Santorum stung Paul with the following comments, “Iran is not Iceland, Ron. Iran is a country that has been at war with us since 1979. Iran is a country that has killed more American men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Iraqis and the Afghans have. The Iranians are the existential threat to the state of Israel.” He followed with this, “He sees it exactly as Barack Obama sees it. That we have to go around and apologize for the fact that we've gone out and exerted our influence to create freedom around the world. I don't apologize for that. I don't apologize for the Iranian people being free for a long time, and now they're under a mullahcracy [sic] that tramples the rights of women, tramples the rights of gays, tramples the rights of people all throughout their society and is the greatest supporter of terrorism in the Middle East and around the world — and — is setting up training camps and is working with Venezuela and other countries south of our border to threaten us.” He also had a good call on political compromise and how you can do it without losing your principles.
His biggest slip in our home was on the abortion issue. My wife and I are STAUNCHLY pro-life but we recognize the care and attention that MUST be paid in the cases of rape and incest specifically. Personally our positions are in favor of life at every turn but we struggle with how it’s our right to decide that for a woman who’s been raped or who’s body has been violated by a relative. In our opinon, if the baby will be healthy then we should look to adoption over abortion but that is a VERY tense situation. So Santorum’s principled stand even on those rough issues is both refreshing on the one hand and potentially over the top on the other. We like Santorum but can he transfer to those in America who are less conservative than we are? My argument is that he was once a PA Senator, a large state with two large cities (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) but my wife argues that it would be similar to the O’Donnell race in Delaware where the media smeared everything and made every issue relate to these contentious issues. I can’t disagree with her position entirely.
Dr. Paul is a traditional Libertarian and when it comes to monetary policy there is none better in my opinion. My concerns with him are and have always been with regards to foreign policy and domestic social issues. His open support of the legalization of drugs is dangerous to American society and to the American way of life. He touched on that issue during the debate although it was not a major focus. I thought Paul LOOKED a little frail and shaky and didn’t get a ton of time to talk (as usual for the lower tier candidates) but his fiscal policy was strong as always. Where Paul completely lost the debate (and in my opinion all chance of winning the nomination) was in his exchange with Santorum (from above) and Bachmann. Paul is flat out wrong to discount Iran and to blame America for the hatred of the Iranian regime. He misses the deep seeded hatred of the Iranian leaders for the freedoms and liberties that we have in the U.S. and his policy suggestions with regards to Iran are scary bad. I thought last night was a bad night for him and he certainly dropped a spot or two because of it.
Michele was the subject of ire from Ron Paul and from Tim Pawlenty and she weathered the storm. She even handled perhaps the most disrespectful question asked of a candidate since the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in Delaware. Byron York from the Washington Examiner, presumably in an attempt to prepare Bachmann for a run in the mainstream media (as if she doesn’t know what they are saying about her) asked Michele if she would be “submissive” to her husband if she is elected President of the United States which implied, of course, that her HUSBAND would somehow be running the country instead of her simply because she believes in the Bible. Bachmann handled the situation well and responded after a long pause (to allow the boo’s to cascade down on Mr. York). The clip below illustrates the nights most uncomfortable moment:
Now Bachmann also had some exchanges with Tim Pawlenty (as mentioned above) and while Pawlenty came across as obtuse, abrasive and rude; Bachmann was cool and measured in her responses. She challenged Pawlenty on his support and push for a Cap and Trade law in Minnesota as well as his support for an individual mandate for healthcare like what’s in Obamacare. Her blows landed sharply and Pawlenty had no real defense for his positions. Meanwhile, Bachmann showed herself to be a leader on key issues that matter to the American people and someone willing to fight for principle even against dramatically high odds. She came out of the debate really unmarred and better for it in our opinion. She didn’t dance around the questions and she defended herself well. She did get bogged down in combat with Pawlenty who was clearly beneath her but we thought she handled it well and zinged him right back.
Huntsman ducked a few questions and that immediately turned my wife off. He’s not the traditional Republican and if we needed to see what a RINO looks like as compared to the current crop of candidates, he certainly presents that option. Frankly, it’s a bad option and one that I hope few people choose but it’s a voice for those who think that “Hey, Obama’s not such a bad guy.” He didn’t do himself any favors last night.
Ok so that’s our analysis. Winners and losers: Cain and Bachmann were big winners in our opinion, Romney was as expected and Gingrich had a few zingers so they are the winners last night. Paul, Huntsman and Pawlenty really dropped their stock and Rick Santorum did what he could.
Here’s our list to this date:
1. Herman Cain – Cain is a real pragmatic candidate who is more of a regular guy than a politician. He’s a plain talker who speaks the truth and who is unafraid of being politically incorrect but he doesn’t come across as overly abrasive.
2. Michele Bachmann – Bachmann is tough and she’s not going to take any guff from Obama or the liberal media. She’s a fighter who doesn’t get frazzled (as we saw with the York question) in the heat of battle and she’s very smart and very right on the issues.
3. Mitt Romney – Ok, so this one was close but Mitt is showing us something lately. He sounds Presidential and he’s been saying the right things and he’s doing well in the debates but that is to be expected from a guy with so much experience.
4. Rick Santorum – We like Rick. He’s conservative, he’s smart and he’s got the right thought process. The only problem we see is that his conservatism may turn off swing voters and Democrats.
5. Newt Gingrich – We had Newt at the bottom before the debate but last night he really made strides to convince us that he deserves a shot. We still feel more like he’s running for Speaker of the House than President BUT his zinger on the Super Committee and his attacks levied at the media for their focus on campaign minutiae vs. substantive issues was also great. Questions still remain about his personal ethics, support for Bush era progressive policies like Medicare Part D and TARP and his attack on Paul Ryan’s plan to reform entitlements.
6. Tim Pawlenty – Personally I think everyone from Pawlenty down should get out of the race and look for slots in the administration but in the grand scheme of things, if we had to pick someone from the bottom, Pawlenty is the pick over Paul, Johnson and Huntsman.
7. Ron Paul – Paul has dropped below Gingrich and Pawlenty because of his foreign policy alone. Anyone that doesn’t understand the threat of IRAN is clearly incapable of leading America in 2012.
8. Gary Johnson – Pot head votes are going here. Great.
9. Jon Huntsman – If we wanted Barack Obama, we’d vote for him.