Friday, September 9, 2011

The Republican Candidates Debate

Did you watch the debate which was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California? Did you, like me, also think that the former President must have been spinning in his grave as his policies were so misconstrued by all on that stage? I must admit that I have never worshipped at the feet (or feats) of the "great communicator," but I do believe that this group was tripping over themselves in stated allegiances to his principles while concurrently marching so far to the right of wherever he had been.

Everyone looks at debates and tries to determine winners and losers; I did the same. Let's see if you agree with my assessment.

Governor Romney appears to have helped his campaign the most in contrast to Governor Perry, although Ambassador Huntsman also tried to stand out. Even though Huntsman moved right, some of his statements were the most coherent, especially regarding a refusal to take pledges and in support of science. Michelle Bachman made no blooper statements, but her remarks neither stood out, nor made a difference. Actually she was lightly regarded by the moderators who wanted a knock-down between the two Governors and were not equitable in their questioning of the candidates. I think this reflected poorly on them, rather than the candidates. There were no questions regarding foreign affairs, nor were solutions sought regarding the world financial markets.

Former Senator Rick Santorum appeared out of his league, Newt Gingrich seemed surly, and Herbert Cain seems to live in an alternate universe. Representative Ron Paul had major differences with Governor Perry which he tried to emphasize, but they were on state, not Federal issues, mostly. And, finally, Perry was apparently his usual self, insisting that Social Security was a Ponzi scheme and would never pay benefits to our children. He was defensive about his jobs program, and could not speak adequately to the lack of medical care for more than 26% of Texans. He appears to prefer posturing to providing real solutions or answering direct questions directly. Once he ran out of prepared responses to predictable questions, he foundered and seemed less sure of his answers. In a surprising response to a question about the death penalty (used more often in Texas than any other state), Perry reinforced his positions, did not step back and received prolonged applause from the partisan Republican audience.

Governor Romney did engage in some give-and-take and appeared to relish the chance to provide a clear difference between himself and Perry. However he still provided no new ideas, nor did he move toward the center or try to reach the independent voters who sit mainly in the middle. Although he vowed that he was not a Tea Party member, he drew no distinctions between the Tea Party positions and his policies. Given the cast of characters on the stage with him, he did not seem to feel that he needed to stray from the radical policies they espouse. He did say that he would try to improve Medicare and Social Security. Although he has supported privatization in the past, he gave few details and tried to expand the distance between himself and Perry on this subject. He alone seemed to be running more against President Obama than his fellow Republicans, despite his drop in the polls to second place once Perry entered the race.

The biggest loser was Michelle Bachman, who despite her win in the Ames straw poll, has been in free-fall ever since Perry stormed out of Texas. Commentators in the MSNBC post debate show relegated her to the second tier and Hunstman and Santorum to the third tier.

One effect of this may be the ability to raise funds. Ed Rollins quit as her manager, citing age and health concerns, but one should wonder. Huntsman, Gingrich, and Romney have independent sources of income, so they do not need to go outside for funds. Perry has lots of moneyed friends, so he can stay the course.

According to the New York Times, candidates were sometimes loose with the facts: Some talked around the jobs issue and called for changes in regulations not in effect and opposed climate change protections which were said to be causing job loss -- a claim which has not been proven. All spoke out against the President's health plan with Bachman shouting out against "Obamacare" as job killing and made extraordinary claims about Social Security and Medicare. Other claims that stated global climate change is not happening and not man-made are -- to my way of thinking -- a denial of reality. There was little attempt to reach out, and in the Reagan Library they went where even Reagan would never have gone. How sad the process on the right has become.

So, who do you think was a winner or loser? Do you think the country is really moving this far right? Share your opinions here.

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