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Saturday, January 07, 2012

New Hampshire Debate #1: Review and Grades

I'll make this short. I have to get to bed and so do you. We need to be up for New Hampshire Debate #2--which is only ten hours from now--on Meet the Press (9:00 AM on MSNBC). Here were some thoughts from tonight's debate:

1. If we were to plot the attacks on Mitt Romney onto a graph, it'd look like an inverted bell curve. The other candidates came out with three quick attacks.

  • Rick Santorum criticizes Romney as simply a "manager" rather than a commander-in-chief or leader. Romney sidesteps the attack, claiming business leaders and entrepreneurs around the country serve as marvelous leaders.

  • Newt Gingrich lambastes Romney's record as a CEO with charges of bankrupting companies, laying off employees, and looking for a quick profit, flip, and departure. Romney parries the thrust, arguing that free enterprise necessarily leads to some failures among the many successes.

  • Jon Huntsman urged everyone to look at Romney's record as governor and compared his own as favorable. Romney doesn't respond. His attacker was, after all, John Huntsman.
But then they laid off Romney for nearly an hour. It wasn't until Huntsman reopened the attacks in the last round of the debate with a great line about Romney having the 47th best record on jobs during his term as governor. How was that stat not seized upon? How can Romney boast about his ability to "turn this economy around" with that kind of ranking? If jobs and the economy are the top issues, shouldn't the candidates remind the American people of such a record in every debate?

I do wonder why they stayed away from anything too aggressive. My guess is that they're waiting for tomorrow and don't want to give Romney a chance to defend himself in a full debate tomorrow. They want the last impression to linger. But I do wonder if they think his nomination is inevitable and don't want to wound him too badly for the general. (Nahhhh...)

Overall, Romney did exactly what he had to do. He held off all attacks, didn't make any big mistakes, and gave few any ammunition moving forward. Grade for Romney: A-

2. Ron Paul laid off Mitt Romney in favor of attacking Rick Santorum. Paul attacked Santorum as corrupt, a proponent of big government, and for working as a lobbyist. At one point, actually, Perry attacked Paul, and Paul retorted with an attack on Santorum! This strategy could mean that Paul is simply in it for the long haul, hoping to perpetually place in the top 3 and shape the debate, rather than take risks and go for the win. (This is not a new theory by any means.) Grade for Paul: C

3. Rick Santorum stayed on message. He did not throw any haymakers at Romney. He clearly wants to survive or, rather, outlast the other candidates, so it's just him and Romney down the stretch. I'm curious if he's been given advice from the outside about this. Are conservative heavyweights whispering to the Santorum camp, "Just be there after South Carolina, and we'll be there for you"? Grade for Santorum: B-

4. I was really looking forward to an enraged Newt Gingrich with nothing to lose. I was sorely disappointed. I can only hope he was saving all his ammunition for tomorrow morning. Pump that man full of coffee and push him out on stage. Grade for Gingrich: C-

5. Rick Perry had his best debate of the campaign, and it wasn't even that good. He was able to tout experience with the military, governership and his record as a job-creator. It's too bad it was too little too late. His flubs, as always, were noteworthy. I don't think anyone in the country wants to hear about his plan to send troops into Iraq for a third time less than one month after they just got out from a second. Plus, I'm sorry, Governor, but we cannot move our military at "literally the speed of light." Grade for Santorum: C

6. Jon Huntsman, a man in need of a miracle, was surprisingly tame all night, though he closed brilliantly. I think he found his message too late. His message for most of the campaign was this nebulous "trust deficit" that we have in Washington. It sounds great, but probably goes over the heads of most voters. However, when he pointed out that the US-Chinese relationship was the defining international relationship of the 21st Century, I'm sure many found themselves nodding in agreement. Such a relationship has huge effects on not only American foreign policy, but the American economy as well. Without question, he is the candidate most experienced with that relationship. (But as impressive as his Mandarin was... he did kind of show off. I liked it, though. Nothing wrong with a president that can show off intellectual skills. Since when did we believe shooting a gun or baskets was impressive qualities to have in the White House?) It was a great moment, but I'm afraid it came far too late. I'll have more on his New Hampshire strategy on Monday in the New Hampshire Primary Preview. I still wonder if it could ever work. Grade for Huntsman: B

But for now... bed. Set those alarms! If the gloves come off tomorrow, we don't want to miss it.



Marky said...

Now that was fast. Very very nice write up. Romney has it in the bag.

Anonymous said...

Romney was awful. Ron Paul 2012.

IC said...

Marky, that's what she said.

Anon, I'm guessing--just guessing--you came in with some bias.

Jon said...

I thought you said you were going to keep it short!!! :)

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