Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Analysis and reaction to Tuesday’s presidential debate

Mitt Romney had another good debate performance and none of his rivals really laid a glove on him. His experience really shows. He plays the game on an entirely different level. In fact, his biggest rival might be himself. When he rambles answers to questions, he comes off looking slick and untrustworthy.

Herman Cain proved he’ll be in the top tier for at least a few more weeks. Much of the debate focused on his 9-9-9 tax plan which was only good for his profile. He took some heat from his rivals — particularly from Ron Paul on the Federal Reserve — but handled it well enough. He doesn’t get rattled easily.

Rick Perry did almost nothing to distinguish himself. Once again, he seemed tired and incoherent. Perry needed a good performance to turn around the narrative that his campaign is flailing but didn’t have one.

Of the remaining candidates, only Newt Gingrich seemed to shine. He frequently put himself into the discussion and made good points. But at the end of the day, he’s more of a pundit than a presidential candidate.
One other note: Karen Tumulty did a wonderful job asking questions. She was the best prepared on the entire stage tonight.

In one line, here is why Rick Perry is not only done, but why he was never a serious candidate to begin with: ”We don’t need to be focused on passing this policy or that policy.”
In a different world, he would not have had to go through the gauntlet of these past two months of nationally televised debates and might still be the front runner, writes James Fallows. He is really not good in “debate format,” and has not gotten better enough fast enough.

At a certain level, you can’t blame Newt. His schtick has worked for so long, why change it now? So you get things like this:
There’s a stream of American thought that really wishes we would decay and fall apart and that the future would be bleak so that the government can share the misery. It was captured by Jimmy Carter in his malaise speech. It’s captured every week by Barack Obama in his apologias disguised as press conferences.

Jim Antle III:
Mitt Romney won by not losing. He has regained his frontrunner status and nobody really emerged from the pack to challenge it. But can he do what he failed to do last time: run the table in the early states? It’s to his advantage to secure the nomination before the field winnows to just him and a popular candidate to his right.
Associated Press: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney took some less staunchly conservative stands than his rivals in their debate Tuesday night, declaring he can work with “good” Democrats and positioning himself closer to the center in line with his claim that he can draw crucial independent voters in next year’s general election.

He even defended portions of the Wall Street bailout, a particular sore point with many conservative voters who will play an important role in choosing the Republican nominee next winter and spring. But the former Massachusetts governor joined the others in sharply criticizing numerous aspects of President Barack Obama’s economic policies in a debate focused on the nation’s frail economy.
The economy is Romney’s bailiwick and he delivered. It is becoming increasingly clear that he operates at a higher level than the other candidates. Perry is toast. If he’s not actually dumb as a stump, he doesn’t know how to show it. Herman Cain continues to come on strong as the non-Mormon conservative alternative. Bachmann and Huntsman both sounded smooth, assured, and smart, but they no longer matter. Ron Paul continues to dominate the Ron Paul vote.
Erick Erickson:
Mitt Romney won the debate. No one knocked him off his game. He really is that good of a debater. Herman Cain proved himself a bit of an unstable number two. He is starting to get the tough questions on his 999 plan and his responses sound like they were crafted in the land of unicorns and rainbows …
Is Romney so much better than everyone else because he has made a serious run before? (On the other hand, so have Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, etc). I don’t know, but it’s a huge gap.

John Hinderaker:
Rick Perry, during the half of the debate that I saw, bordered on invisible. I don’t know whether the pundits who say this was make or break for Perry are right, but it certainly was not a strong night for him. One thing that strikes me as odd is how little mileage Perry gets out of his job creation record in Texas. He mentioned it a time or two, but, as in prior debates, he didn’t use it effectively as the foundation of his claim to be the strongest candidate.
Kathy Kiely:
Perry says blame Obama for income disparities but non partisan analysis says the gap between the haves and have-nots has been widening since 1979, when Barack Obama was 18 years old.
David Kurtz:
The average low-information voter isn’t going to be exposed to any account of this debate that includes this necessary corrective: The prescription for economic recovery offered by the Republican presidential field is completely divorced from reality.
Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight offers the following grades: Romney B+, Cain B, Huntsman B-, Gingrich B-, Bachmann C+, Paul C+, Santorum C, Perry C

Washington Post: The government is the problem. That was the message Tuesday night as the eight Republican presidential hopefuls clamored to blame Washington for the nation’s economic ills. In turn, they pointed fingers at President Obama, the Federal Reserve and the government generally as the cause of the nation’s economic collapse.

Together, they were strident in their belief that Obama-era regulations are stunting growth. Yet although the White House aspirants largely agreed on their overall visions, the two candidates whose positions at the top of the field were expected to rise or fall in Tuesday’s Washington Post-Bloomberg News debate at Dartmouth College — Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain — were short on policy specifics, even when pressed by the moderators.
Why did Romney use his question on Bachmann? Well, there are ominous signs that she may not last until the Iowa caucuses. If she drops out, it’s easier for someone like Cain to actually win the state; she stays in, and Romney can eke something.

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