Bill Whalen

Thoughts on the Republican Debate

I watched all two hours of Monday night’s GOP presidential debate live from New Hampshire (wondering how many New England Republicans did likewise, as the Boston Bruins were skating at the same time as the debate, in Game Six of the Stanley Cup finals).

A few observations:

  1. What a better debate this would have been by subtracting Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum (three campaigns seemingly headed nowhere), and adding Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman, Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Palin and Giuliani are second and third to Mitt Romney in polls these days – time for everyone who wants to play to ante-in.
  2. The audience member’s question about the GOP addressing broader “mainstream” (i.e., centrist) politics raises an interesting point: there’s not a candidate in the field (so far) who’s started that conversation. Perhaps the pro-choice/socially-moderate Giuliani will, should he decide to run. However, the same approach back in 2008 was an utter disaster for “America’s Mayor” (indeed, that presidential campaign apparently is still deeply in debt).
  3. We’re halfway through this debate and I’m starting to think that sleep research centers could learn a thing or two from CNN’s approach to presidential debates. There’s little energy in the audience. Michele Bachmann, asoutspoken/flamboyant/controversial as anyone in public service, rarely has had a chance to speak, much less make an imprint. This is the shortcoming with this kind of debate. Far too easy to keep personalities in check.
  4. Very strong answer by Gingrich on illegal immigration reform – he’s right, both politicians and journalists contort and confuse the issue (notice how the hypothetical dealt with a five-year-old needing care, not an illegal felon). Did you catch the applause when Gingrich lashed out and Homeland Security bureaucrats – how long before Janet Napolitano and the agency Americans love to hate become a punching bag in this primary?
  5. CNN’s moderator, John King, declares: “It’s likely that the Republican nominee is standing on this stage.” I wouldn’t go that far . . .
  6. Overall, a good night for Romney – in that no other candidate had a breakout moment, especially one that came at the frontrunner’s expense. I expected Tim Pawlenty to be much more aggressive in going after Romney, but he backed down after stumbling through his answer on “Obamneycare” (indeed, it was the first post-debate clip that CNN replayed . . . the talking heads are questioning Pawlenty’s tactics).

And for Romney, that translated to two productive hours in New Hampshire, even if it meant missing the big hockey game: no one dropped the gloves and suckered him into a fight; the frontrunner skated free.

(photo credit: enjoiskate8)

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