Courtesy of State Central Committee member Gopal Krishna, my wife and I had great 8th row seats for the Iowa GOP/Fox News Presidential Debate.
The debate included: Speaker Gingrich; Governors: Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney; Senator Santorum, Representatives Bachmann and Paul; and businessman Herman Cain.
Iâ€™m writing this post on Sunday morning, August 14th. I intended to write it before the Straw Poll, but I didnâ€™t get it done. My observations will include some thoughts about the Straw Poll, although I was not able to attend it in person. I donâ€™t believe in titling people as â€œwinnersâ€ or â€œlosersâ€ so I will define my analysis in terms of my personal expectations.
Governor Romney â€“ Mitt Romney spoke powerfully and articulately on every opportunity. I was particularly impressed with his handling of the â€œgotchaâ€ question about the Bain Capital investments in businesses that later failed and lost jobs. His answers on Romneycare are consistent with what can be expected of a Republican governor in a liberal state. I believe the 10th Amendment has meaning, so I respect his answer. He did not compete in the Straw Poll.
Senator Santorum â€“ Rick Santorum sprinted from anonymity to relevance with his precise, powerful responses on his legislative achievements related to welfare reform and middle east foreign policy. For me, his clash with Ron Paul made me consider again the Congressmanâ€™s views on foreign policy. His debate performance helped him to 4th place in the Straw Poll.
Speaker Gingrich â€“ Newt Gingrich had a great start when he criticized Chris Wallace for asking â€œgotchaâ€ questions. The crowd was 100% with him. Unfortunately, he finished weakly with an oddly placed plea for citizens to contact their representatives now because we canâ€™t wait until 2012â€™s election for leadership.
Representative Bachmann â€“ Michele Bachmann had an overall good night. I thought she had the most difficult of the â€œgotchaâ€ questions when she was asked if she would be submissive to her husband as President. She showed great control over her emotions. She came across as thoughtful and confident in her responses. I thought she relied too much on lines from her scripted stump speech. She is the Iowa leader coming into the debate and I thought she held her own, as confirmed by her 1st place showing in the Straw Poll.
Failed to Meet Expectations:
Representative Paul â€“ Ron Paul should be in my wheelhouse. I have strong Libertarian leanings in my political ideology. I thought he made a mistake engaging in the cat fight with Senator Santorum. He came across as a little shrill in his efforts to defend Iran and criticize past U.S. foreign policy. I imagine President Obama was nodding in agreement. Most of all, I donâ€™t understand why he does not ask his ardent supporters to show respect and refrain from aggravating the many people who attended the debate to hear candidates, not activists. Of course, he nearly won the Staw Poll, but Iâ€™m skeptical that his national polling numbers will improve based on the debate.
Herman Cain â€“ Herman Cain should also be in my wheelhouse. I believe strongly in capitalism as the engine of prosperity for America and the world. Hermanâ€™s strength is his ability to provide short understandable answers to complex questions. He has not moved quickly enough from process to solutions. I thought he performed at about the same level as the South Carolina debate, but that is not good enough at this point.
Governor Pawlenty â€“ Tim Pawlenty looked petty in the way he engaged Representative Bachmann. I realize that some of this was driven by the questions, but he would have been well served to remember Reaganâ€™s 11th Commandment. Given the time and effort he has put into his Iowa effort, his % of the vote in the Straw Poll confirms that he did not meet expectations in this debate. He had the organization, but he did not have the committed voters like Bachmann and Paul. I understand now why McCain did not pick him as his VP in 2008.
Editorial Note: My comments were finished before Governor Pawlenty dropped out.
Governor Huntsman – Jon Huntsman is a Republican. I donâ€™t understand why Dick Morris keeps saying he should run in the Democrat Party. I appreciate his willingness to stick with positions that he knows are unpopular with a meaningful segment of the Republican base. That takes character and integrity. I think he has those qualities. I thought his demeanor lacked sparkle and emotion. His responses were not crisp. He has not spent much time in Iowa so the Staw Poll doesnâ€™t mean much for his candidacy.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that I would be willing to work hard and support any of these candidates, Rick Perry or Sarah Palin should they win the Republican nomination for President. Each of them would be a far better President than Barack Obama, who has turned out to be the most partisan, divisive President of my lifetime.