Here is an article by our somewhat regular contributor, Michael Sellers.
A few weeks back I wrote that although I’ve voted Democrat since 1992 — but prior to that I voted three times for Republicans and I don’t rule out the possibility of doing it again. It’s just that I’ve had a hard time finding anyone I could imagine voting for. So tonight’s Republican debate from New first of all, if there is anyone that could rise to the level of someone I would choose over Obama — and secondly to start the process of handicapping the race, trying to figure out who will win in the end. It’s a long road ahead, but it’s
‘game on’ from here going forward.
If the winner is the person who helped themself the most — then Bachmann is the clear winner. I think someone on twitter got it right when they said that Michelle Bachmann was supposed to be a “poor man’s Palin”, but it looks like the inverse it true, Palin is a “poor man’s Bachmann”. I was prepared to find Michelle Bachmann to be as irritating as Palin, but she wasn’t. She was sharp and focused in her answers; poised, and substantive. Seen from a distance she didn’t look presidential (she’s tiny), but up close, the camera loves her. This was a particularly important moment for Michelle Bachmann to introduce herself to the Americans who have only gotten to know her from sound bites and quotes, and who had for the most part assumed she is a Palin clone. She came away as much, much more substantive and thoughtful than Palin; not at all erratic; she comes away a winner. And it wasn’t just me — she was trending top 10 on twitter and the only other one who got into the top 10 at all was Herman Caine, briefly. She was in the top five trending topics on Twitter for almost the entire debate. She helped herself substantially tonight among those not that familiar with her, and took a big step forward. Even if she doesn’t make it as a nominee, she showed she can handle herself well and might be an interesting choice as VP. (Even now, 90 minutes after the debate is over, she’s still in the top 10 on Twitter — people are talking about her, no question about it.)
Gingrich came to the debate reeling from, as Jon Stewart put it, getting “fired by his campaign” with 16 staffers leaving en masse. Couple that with the sense that he is a more or less complete dinosaur, he handled himself well. He was thoughtful and articulate, a little professorial, with a strong grasp of issues and an ability to express himself well. His biggest negative is just the look (I’m sorry) of his wife, who is wound so tight that she makes Cindy McCain look positively chill. Gingrich came into the debate looking like a joke; he came out of it looking like he’s a player and will be around for awhile. That’s progress.
Granted Romney didn’t do much — but he’s the frontrunner and no one laid a glove on him tonight, so that’s a win for him. Pawlenty had a chance when John King asked him to explain his “Obamnycare” comment but Pawlenty (more about him in a minute) didn’t take the bait. Romney looked Presidential, as he always does, and he came across as strong and reasonable. He has his “Obama has failed” talking points down and landed plenty of shots on the President — and by going after Obama he implicitly raised himself a bit above the other candidates. He is also someone who, more than the others, has a shot at the middle of the electorate which is where the general election will be one.
I had no particular impression of Santorum coming into the debate; coming out of it, he’s already off my list of anyone who can be taken seriously. There was a whiny, chip-on-my-shoulder quality to almost all of his responses that got in the way of really hearing what it was he was saying. In his case, the medium was the message — his demeanor was distinctly unpresidential and his delviery
was such that it was hard to take him seriously. Sorry Rick, without a major makeover you’re toast.
Pawlenty had a moment or two, but for the most part he looked like a game show host who accidentally showed up on the stage and didn’t belong there. Came across completely as a lightweight and in what will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about moments of the debate, he blinked when John King tried to get him to go after Romney on health care. Generally he seemed kind of plastic, a bit lightweight — veering in the direction of a John Edwards facile-ness.
Ron Paul is hard to take seriously. No matter what the question was, his answer was to blast the Federal Reserve policies. All questions, it seemed, lead back to that issue. He did have a kind of straight talk candor to him that had a certain appeal — but I just don’t see him as ever getting the traction necessary to be a real threat to become President.
Caine didn’t hurt himself; his answers were reasonably substantive, and he has a certain larger than life quality to his presence that serves him well. But my takeaway from everything he said was pretty much limited to what he said in his first 10 second introduction — “I’m not a politician, I’m a problem solver”. The only problem with that is that I didn’t hear any strong ideas.
Sarah Palin that really has an upside. It’s too early to tell — but there’s a possibility that she’s a phenomenon in the making. Keep an eye on her. I will be.