Free Markets, Free People

The Republican Debate–then there were two

If nothing else last night, the Republican debate did one thing – it narrowed the present GOP field to two.  Oh the others will be around for a while and they’ll press their case, but in the absence of a miracle (or the entry of a better or more appealing candidate) it seems the fight will be between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry as the two battle it out for the GOP nomination.  Again, that’s assuming no other candidate enters the fray.

Why am I saying this – because of the targets each of the two drew a bead on.  Each other.  Romney, who had been considered the consensus front runner went after Perry and Perry did the same with Romney.

It left the rest sort of twisting in the wind.   The New York Times gives you the blow by blow:

A series of spirited exchanges between the two men, which revealed differences in substance and style, offered the first extensive look into the months-long contest ahead. They traded attacks on each other’s job creation records and qualifications to be president, overshadowing their opponents in the crowded Republican field.

Mr. Perry doubled down on his view of Social Security, assailing it as a “monstrous lie,” and he questioned scientists’ assertions that climate change has been caused by human activity. Mr. Romney said that Social Security should be protected and suggested that Mr. Perry’s positions would make it difficult for the Republican Party to appeal to a broad base of voters needed to win the White House.

“Maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country,” said Mr. Perry, who spent much of his time in his first presidential debate defending his Texas record and a litany of positions in his book, “Fed Up!”

[…]

Mr. Perry attacked Mr. Romney’s record of creating jobs in Massachusetts and his championing of health care legislation when he was governor. Mr. Romney, in turn, cast Mr. Perry as a career politician.

“Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” Mr. Perry said, referring to the former Democratic governor who ran for president in 1988.

“Well, as a matter of fact,” Mr. Romney replied, “George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.”

One of the political dangers of these sorts of "spirited debates" is the candidates do the opposition research for the other team. But this was typical of the exchanges last night, made ironically in the library of a president who believed strongly in the political 11th commandment.

However, some blunt talk about the situation we’re in would be refreshing and provide for some actual debate about solutions for a change.

Stanley Kurtz lays out his assessment of the debate in a very succinct one paragraph summary:

This was a very successful debate debut for Rick Perry. It confirms his position as the leader of the field. As of now, this race is a Perry-Romney duel, but Perry’s the one to beat. Romney and Perry were well matched tonight, but Perry’s appeal to the base means he’s got a leg up over Romney just by fighting to a draw, which he did at least, if not better.

Of course the Romney camp is claiming debate victory.  No surprise there.  That press release was written before the candidates stepped on the stage.  But there wasn’t a clear cut winner in most minds I don’t believe.  However you’d have to be deaf and blind to the debate not to have realized the field has really narrowed itself to two:

There are no guarantees here, of course, which is one reason it’s nice to have a continuing Romney-Perry duel.  This next month-or-so of debates is going to help both Romney and Perry with their greatest weaknesses. Romney is going to get a second look from conservatives, which he deserves. Romneycare is a problem that will never entirely fade. Yet it increasingly it looks as though it won’t be prohibitive, should Perry falter. Meanwhile, Perry is going to have a chance to get his message through to the public on the entitlement crisis, and it just might work.

So Rick Perry survived his first debate and will probably learn from the experience and do even better the next time.  Apparently he lived up to most expectations.  Romney, well he’s Romney, the seemingly perpetual second place candidate (even when he is the supposed front runner).  As Kurtz says, these two can spend the next few months sharpening each other up in debates.   What’s interesting though is both of them have better records than the man they would face in any presidential debate.

We’re 15 months out and it takes a lot of money to fund a presidential campaign.  When you are not in the limelight, a hot candidate or a frontrunner, those funds necessary to continue become harder and harder to raise.  It think last night may have signaled the end of many of the lesser candidates chances for the nomination and I expect some to withdraw in the next month or two.

In the meantime, it’s Perry and Romney, slugging it out.  But Jen Rubin issues the Perry camp a warning that they should heed:

The pace of a presidential campaign in the early going is leisurely, but right about now, things pick up. Perry is a good pol, but he better be ready to show he’s got some policy chops as well, and before his opponents start characterizing his views.

Agreed.  Better the candidate frame his positions than let the opposition do it for him.  Perry’s bunch better be able to put some details and specifics on their one-over-the-world policy pronouncements, it will end up an one man race and Perry won’t be the “one”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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12 Responses to The Republican Debate–then there were two

  • If you listened to Mittens…and could believe him…he was slick as greased owl poop.  He said LOTS of the right things, especially on immigration.
    Perry stood his ground on Soch Security, which feels right to me.  He has grabbed the third rail.  I think M.C. Hamm said we will now see if we prefer the palatable political lie to reality.  I do agree that he needs work on marketing this idea.  I expect he will get it.
    Romney’s people were whooping that Perry just lost over the SS issue.  Wrong.  In fact, probably the opposite is true from a nomination stand-point.
     
     

    • Nothing that Perry said was wrong on Social Security.  Now, let’s watch the media (and the left) twist a fact –
      that it can’t go on in the Ponzi scheme mode it’s in –
       
      to “gonna starve YOU! gram and gramp, to death! on a freezing cold winter night in December when the snow is falling and you’re huddled around your fixed income tiny fire wrapped in your threadbare wool blankets while the wolves howl around you in the darkness, waiting for you to pass out from cold and hunger.   Oh, the humanity!”

  • It strikes me that MiniTru is – once again – picking the candidates.  They’ve pretty much declared that Perry and Romney are the front-runners… because MiniTru says so.  Perry I can see: governor of the second-largest state and pretty good GOP credentials.  Romney, on the other hand, seems one step removed from a joke.  The very liberal governor of a VERY liberal state???  IMO, he SHOULD be like Huntsman: a footnote.  Bachmann got the Palin treatment from the outset; I suggest that, had she been given the sort of favorable coverage that The Annointed One (as he was then known) received, it would be a Perry-Bachmann matchup.

    Bah.

    • Yes, and the establishment GOP types find it in their interest to put out some similar spin. Here’s National Review on Perry:

      But Perry didn’t back off of his “monstrous lie” and “Ponzi scheme” remarks, and that just might win him the nomination. Will it kill him in the general?

      This is just a variant of the stupid Erbish argument we saw about how it was “politically infeasible” to get a debt ceiling deal without any tax hikes. Well, we did, even though all the sober, chin-pulling establishment types said it couldn’t be done.
      Besides, for real conservatives and liberatarians, I think it should come down to this: if the American electorate is not prepared to elect someone who tells the truth about entitlements, then we’re well and truly screwed. So might as well go all out and do that. Electing “Plastic Fantastic” Romney isn’t going to fix those issues.
      At most, he’ll tinker around the edge, perhaps delay things a while, but also cause the very real danger that when the meltdown comes, he and the rest of the GOP will be the scapegoat. *That* could well be the end of the GOP as a viable party.

      • And we forget that Bad Luck Barry PLEDGED to “reform entitlements”.  Nobody got their hair on fire over “killing grandma”.
        This is all about demagoguery.  The “third rail” was only that because the whole “entitlement” deal was so successfully used by the Collective as a cudgel against small government types.
        EVERYBODY KNOWS…including even Pres. Limp Duck…that entitlements HAVE to be reformed.  But old habits are hard to break, and the Collective knee-jerks to demagoging, and conventional thinking GOP types knee-jerk to defensiveness.

      • Billy Hollis - [I]f the American electorate is not prepared to elect someone who tells the truth about entitlements, then we’re well and truly screwed.


        I agree.  The problem is that entitlements have become like crack to the American people: even if they finally accept that they are fiscally lethal, they won’t want to give them up.  That leaves PLENTY of room for hustling politicians from both parties to pitch ideas to “reform” or “save” those entitlements, which winds up as AT MOST exactly what you say: tinkering around at the edges and perhaps staving off the collapse by a few years.

        However, as I’ve written before, “Vote for me and I’ll take stuff away from you!” isn’t exactly a bellringer of a campaign slogan.

    • Bachmann has no executive experience. That’s a major disqualifier there.

      Romney was always one of the front runners. He started off with good name recognition, and he is smooth. But Romneycare is a serious problem for him.

      If there is one glaring problem, it is that Gary Johnson isn’t in the debate. He has solid executive experience and libertarian ideas. He does seem too weak on immigration and foreign policy, but he has better qualifications then either Bachmann or Ron Paul.

      • He’s also pretty light on defense policy too, Don. I met him and talked with him in DC at CPAC. Nice guy, but I wasn’t impressed with some of his policy ideas. But, you’re right, he has better quals than Paul, Santorum, Gingrich or Bachmann and he ought to be in the debates.

        • Actually defense is more of what I meant when I typed “foreign policy”. I don’t actually know much about Johnson’s non-miliary related foreign policy ideas. He has about 0% chance of winning, in part because he isn’t being put forth as a “serious” candidate by the media or mainstream GOP, and in part because he is lacking in the superficials that are so important to a POTUS run (our current POTUS only had superficials, that’s how important they are). Because he isn’t a serious contender, I haven’t looked real hard at him.

          It is odd that a governor isn’t viewed as a serious candidate. It is also odd that several representatives from the House, without any major executive experience on their resumes, are considered serious candidates.

          Now, I think Newt does have the advantage of being speaker, of contending with Clinton, and running a pretty good House. That isn’t full executive experience, but it is sort of a partial executive experience IMO, morso then Bachmann for example. But Newt is really already out, and I think his performance as Party Uniter is due to that. He attacked the MSNBC crowd and worked to unite the GOP. He did a good job, even if most of us wouldn’t want him as POTUS.

          • I have to add that a Republican couldn’t win like Obama did–with only superficials. The Republican needs the superficials also, but he needs substance as well. The MSM never bothered to vet Obama, but they will vet the hell out of any serious Republican. The vetted Palin more then they did Obama. Much more.

            But the flip side is, the lack of vetting is kicking them in the butt now.

    • Agreed.  The bigger issue is that Romney has shown himself to be completely untrustworthy in past campaigning.  He will quite literally promise anything to anyone to get himself elected.  There is no way I can support a guy if I can’t tell if he lied to me today or yesterday.  And he had to be lying to me one of those times.  If I judge on his actions, then his history in office contains plenty of stuff like Romneycare that I don’t like.
      It’s like the press wants Romney because they think all Republican want is slick talk and a good smile.

      • RomneyCare is all you really need to know. And that is the reason the press likes him; he is weak on one of The Won’s weakest points.

        Perry has the left scared. They consider him a serious threat.

        At this point, I see one GOP candidate that has good experience and is saying mostly the right things, and that is Perry. If we voted today, he’d get my vote (not that he will get it come election day, I’ll recalibrate and change my tune as the situation dictates).