VIVA LAS VEGAS!!! – Random thoughts about tonight’s GOP Debate

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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80 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    The guy that no GOP’er is particularly enthusiastic about is nevertheless pretty much every Republican’s second choice. To Mitt Romney, then, falls the task of picking off the hardcore conservatives one by one, before they set their egos aside and consolidate around a single candidate. Perry looked good, Cain was the flavor of the month, but the nomination is looking more and more like it’s Romney’s to lose and there is precious little time left for that dynamic to change.

    If I were in Camp Romney, I’d start with moving in to Perry’s support, since he is the only one who can compete with Romney from a fundraising perspective. Then, I’d move on to poach Cain supporters, and then Bachmann’s. Gingrich and Santorum will almost surely implode on their own before South Carolina’s primary, and Paul is neither capable of winning the nomination nor of being edged out at all, so the best strategy is to ignore him until the delegate count is locked up.

    If I were in Camp Perry, I’d tell the Big Guy start cutting deals with the other candidates as soon as possible to stop Romney from doing exactly that — Herman Cain would make a pretty obvious choice as Secretary of Commerce; Attorney General Michelle Bachmann would keep the base happy and nicely polarize the electorate; Gingrich can be named a “Special Policy Advisor” or some such thing that underlines that he’s Still Intellectual And Still Relevant. VP spot on a Perry ticket needs to be reserved for a moderate Republican so as to not scare voters back to Obama in the general election, and who can carry a swing state back to the GOP column. John Kasich or Bob McDonnell, maybe.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I agree with the Romney camp strategy. But the Perry camp scenario? What’s the value in getting a whole group of people that have such high negatives and keep saying wacky things the press just runs with?

      Not that I wouldn’t pay to see such a campaign, mind you.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        He’s got to do something to position himself as “the only conservative still in the race.” That means getting the Bachmann-Cain-Santorum Overdrive to voluntarily bow out, and preferably to endorse him as they go.

        If it’s not a Cabinet position, what else might he offer them in exchange for their withdrawal and endorsement?Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I dunno. I’m still of the mind that the GOP faithful really, really want to like Perry – and the others not so much. I suspect very small tweaks to his current on-cam persona would be worth far more than any alliances.

          (Since I banged out the above I have seen the highlights of his interactions with Romney, and was shocked – as bad as it sounded in audio only, it was far worse with the visuals. I seriously can’t tell if he just doesn’t bother to listen to coaching or if he really had so little opposition in TX and he’s just this poor a campaigner.)Report

          • Ryan B in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            What consistently amazes me is how bad Perry looks at all times. I have very little respect for George W. Bush as a person or an intellect, but it’s telling how large the gap between him and Perry is in terms of things like stage presence and politician-ness. Perry just looks like a rank amateur every time the camera is on him. It’s amazing that he has the job he has.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Ryan B says:

              … George W looked good until he started drinking/drugs again, you mean. After that, it got rather … easy to tell which he was on.Report

            • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ryan B says:

              Bush had years of good breeding when it came to politics. Yeah, he was a cokehead who lucked into running a baseball franchise, but he still had the good sense to know how to act toward people in public.

              On the other hand, Rick Perry is basically a redneck from the middle of Texas who became Governor because Bush won in 2000 and stayed in office the same way anybody else in a one-party state does – by winning once. 🙂Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Ryan B says:

              I have been told by people who have seen it that where Perry excels is working a room of people on his own. That’s all well and good up to the level of a state-wide election; on the national stage, a candidate just can’t work enough rooms to make a difference.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

      If I were in Camp Romney, I would tell him to chill the blank out, cuz this thing is over: he’s Hillary Clinton and there ain’t no Barack Obama in this race.


      My advice would be spoken in all caps like that.Report

  2. Perry looked good? Was I watching a different debate?! The immediate after coverage on CNN said that too, and I thought Perry was every bit as stumbling and awkward as the previous debates.Report

  3. mark boggs says:

    Keep in mind that Romney likes to bring out the religious litmus test prohibition when talk turns to his particular religion. He’s more than happy to insist to that our leader needs to have a faith of some kind. Just don’t talk about his.Report

  4. Michelle says:

    If Perry came off as something of a confused stoner in his initial debate performances, in this one he presented as a petulant child throwing a major temper tantrum. Hint to Perry for future debates–he who yells the loudest and cuts off his opponents does not win the debate. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Perry is Bush on steroids–he doubles down on the grating twang, the frat boy cockiness, and teh stupid. Especially teh stupid.

    While Mitt Romney strikes me as a slimy shape-shifter, he’s definitely the only plausible candidate the Republicans have at this point (given it doesn’t look like Huntsman is ever going to gain any traction). I could live with a Romney presidency. All the others on stage last night make me want to run off to hide in Canada for the rest of my life. This is the third or fourth debate I’ve watched, and each one makes me progressively more depressed. Are the Republicans kidding with these candidates? I really need to dose myself with a couple of glasses of wine before attempting to watch another one.

    While I’d never vote for him, Ron Paul was awesome last night in reminding Republicans that St. Reagan traded arms for hostages. Had he also mentioned that Reagan raised taxes as both governor of California and president, the GOP crowd probably would have rushed him off the stage with pitchforks.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Michelle says:

      Michelle, it sounds like you got the same thing from TV as I got from an audio stream. Out of curiosity, had you seen any of the previous debates? I had heard that they were dull, and finding this one entertaining I’ve been wondering if it was a lot different or if I’m just really weird.Report

      • Michelle in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’ve seen several of the debates (though I admit to only being able to stomach the one previous to last night’s for about ten minutes because the number of outright lies told by the candidates left me wanting to smash my TV with a brick). This one was definitely the most contentious. I wouldn’t call it entertaining (the thought of any of these clowns becoming president is simply too painful), but the fireworks level was a lot higher. It’s been clear from the other debates that Romney and Perry DO NOT like each other, but the hate was much more obvious last night. Plus, some of the down-in-the-polls candidates (Santorum in particular) clearly decided to go for broke and up the outrage level.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Michelle says:

          I wouldn’t call it entertaining (the thought of any of these clowns becoming president is simply too painful)

          I get this, but I think my take away from that same sentiment is that no one other than Romney is remotely electable in a general election.

          Regarding Santorum and Gingrich, I can’t figure out why they’re even in the race at this point. They feel like joke candidates. (Others on that stage might be jokes, but at least they have pretty large tribes pushing them on. What’s pushing Santorum and Gingrich to stick it out? I honestly have no clue.)Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I think Newt is gaming for what Burt alluded to earlier: “I’m the Elder Statesman, somebody bribe me with Secretary of State.”

            Santorum I have never understood.Report

          • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            For Santorum and Gingrich, I think it’s twofold. One, running for President is good business. It can lead to having a FOX News TV show or higher sales for your books. Second, at this point, they probably both think they can be the anti-Romney since Perry failed and Cain is currently being kneecap’d. I mean, Newt is still hanging around 10%.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              Newt is many things, but I credit him with enough general politikin’ savvyness that he should be aware he isn’t the anti-Romney.

              Still, that 10% is probably worth a seat in the Cabinet.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                My argument is, “why shouldn’t Newt have a shot at being the anti-Romney?” I mean, he’s more well qualified than Cain, less insane than Bachmann, and has a firmer grasp of public policy than Perry. And all those people have gotten a shot. 🙂Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Because he’s generally regarded as less likeable than Mitt is? So he’s basically Mitt Romney with a bigger downside.

                That’s just my take on the guy, granted.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                True, he’s less likable than Mitt. But, is he less likable than Cain, Bachmann, or Perry? Not really.

                Yes, in a normal Presidential primary, Newt would be dead in the water. But, this is no normal cycle.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Well, there’s “likeable to moderates”, “likeable to liberals”, and “likeable to conservatives”.

                I think Perry, Bachmann, and Cain are all likeable to conservatives. You can go hang out and have a beer with them.

                Newt stinks of pretension even more than Mitt does.Report

              • DarrenG in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                The hardcore base *hates* Newt, and he’s not running to win, he’s just doing the latest variant of the same grift he’s been running since he got booted out of Congress — using a Potemkin campaign to sell books and appearance fees.

                I’m starting to think Cain is running the same game.Report

              • Michelle in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                I think the android of a third wife and Newt’s long history of cheatin’ and whorin’ pretty much rules him out for the values voter crowd who are so desperately searching for an anti-Romney. He also oozes far more slime per square centimeter of skin than Mitt.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Oh, and I don’t think Newt wants to be Sec. of HHS or anything like that. Too much of an ego. He wants to be POTUS, or a Cheney-like VP. If he can’t get that, he’ll happily go back to hawking his books.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                That could certainly be, as well.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Michelle says:

      While romney isn’t McCain, I’d have to see his running mate before I’d decide whether or not I could live with him. [am rather finicky.]Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Kimmi says:

        Yeah. My fear is that in order to appease the rank and file that seem to hate him so, Mitt will have to pick someone pretty high on the bat-s**t crazy meter. I don’t want another Palin looming in the heart-beat-away seat.

        (On the other hand, part of the fear with McCain was the worry that maybe the old guy wouldn’t last the whole term and you’d be stuck with Palin. With Mitt you have some level of confidence that the animatronic lab that built him could quickly fix him up if need be.)Report

  5. JG New says:

    I’ll give some credit to Romney for his defense of religious freedom and the absence of any religious litmus test for high public office. But was I alone in finding it rather self-serving as well, particularly in Nevada which has a substantial Mormon population? I’d have been much more impressed with that speech if he’d given it, say, in South Carolina, but I’ll be that he wouldn’t have.Report

    • Michelle in reply to JG New says:

      Andrew Sullivan said that about 25 percent of the audience at last night’s debate was Mormon (not sure how he came up with that figure) but that does explain why the audience seemed more sympathetic to him than the audiences at previous debates.

      While I too appreciated Romney’s defense of religious freedom, I’ll give it a lot more credence (and Romney a lot more brownie points) if he makes the same argument in a deep South state.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Michelle says:

        Yeah, it was pretty fortuitous timing for Mitt that the Mormon thing became the elephant in the room needing addressing right before this debate at this location.

        I’ll give him the same brownie points for using that in a deep South state. (Once I stop all the pigs flying out of my butt.)Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Michelle says:

        Or makes the same argument and throws in Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and agnostics/atheists in the mix.Report

  6. E.D. Kain says:

    Best I can tell, everyone’s prescription for bringing prosperity back to America is repealing healthcare reform. You know, the one that caused the whole financial mess. Even though it hasn’t been implemented yet.

    • Oh, I forgot – also, creating jobs. That would be good too. I hadn’t considered it prior, but now that the case has been made I can see how creating more jobs could lower unemployment.

    Great stuff.Report

  7. Renee says:

    Is Ron Paul really unelectable, or is he unelectable because of our collective imagination that he is unelectable? Sure he says some ‘crazy’ stuff, but on a stage with Bachmann and Santorum . . . how is that disqualifying? But every mention of Paul (except by his freakishly loyal fans) is obliged to point out that he is not electable. Why? (I admit that I think he is unelectable. But I’m not sure if I think that simply because it has been said so many times, or I really think it).

    An Obama-Paul general election would be like nothing I have seen in my voting lifetime. Other than the results, I know exactly what Obama-Romney or Obama-Perry, etc election looks like and thinking about it makes me shed a solitary tear. But what happens when Obama gets attacked from the left and right simultaneously? At least it would be a general election worth paying attention to.Report

    • DarrenG in reply to Renee says:

      The reasons Paul is unelectable are legion, but it’s easy to point to just a few that are sufficient on their own:

      – His position on the military and foreign policy put him on the wrong side of public opinion by something like 80-20.

      – Gold buggery.

      – Trafficking in bizarre conspiracy theories like the Amero and the NAFTA Superhighway.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Renee says:

      “Is Ron Paul really unelectable, or is he unelectable because of our collective imagination that he is unelectable?”

      No, he’s that unelectable.*

      Why? Because he wants to eliminate all entitlement programs and safety nets.

      Now, there will be a lot of people here that all argue that would be good. (I don’t agree, but I certainly see their argument.) But we have these things not because ‘the government is out of control,’ but because people really, really like and want them. Even if he were to somehow make it out of the primary, he would lose in the biggest electoral college landslide ever. Conservatives might be tempted to rally around a “low tax/privatize SS” flag, but opening the borders, legalizing drugs and throwing in the towel on most culture war issues will stay their hand. Some on the left might be tempted to get out of overseas wars, but I can’t see them risking dismantling the entire safety net system to do so.

      *(So are Santorum and Bachmann, I believe – though for different reasons. They are unelectable because they have doubled down so often in an attempt to sway the far right base that even moderates in their own party will swallow the bile and vote O first. Also, one of the two has a tendency to say wildly nutty and easily disproven things, and the other just isn’t that likable and irritates people.)Report

      • Renee in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Yeah – I agree with all those things. (I honestly had forgotten about the Amero scare – that wouldn’t play well in commercials!).

        I just find it interesting that the prevailing mood (or at least the loudest voice) in the electorate seems to be that we need systemic change. Yet any candidate offering real change is dismissed out of hand, allowing all candidates to not take them seriously.

        I don’t think Romney’s problem is religion, or flip-floppery, or his (lack of) personality. His campaign is based around preserving the status quo, conservative version. Hard to get excited about that. But easier to get elected.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Renee says:

          I’d argue people want systemic change – unless it’ll involve any real change for them that might not be for the better. After all, even Tea Partiers don’t support cuts to Social Security or Medicare.Report

        • DarrenG in reply to Renee says:

          I just find it interesting that the prevailing mood (or at least the loudest voice) in the electorate seems to be that we need systemic change. Yet any candidate offering real change is dismissed out of hand, allowing all candidates to not take them seriously.

          Different parts of the electorate want different kinds of systemic change which the others find mutually unacceptable.

          The people who want to shut down Medicare, Social Security, and the EPA and give more tax breaks to billionaires have a fundamentally different vision from those who want universal healthcare, strong unions, and big government action on climate change, and you can’t expect either group to vote for the other’s candidate just because they also want systemic change.Report

          • Renee in reply to DarrenG says:

            I definitely think people like the status quo more then they want to say. Or at least they like the pieces that serve them (as per Jesse). And of course, I agree that different parts of the electorate have mutually exclusive (in some regards) desire for change (as per DarrenG). Clearly no everybody who wants change wants the same change as Paul. But I would (erroneously) expect there to be a variety of different candidates to serve the various viewpoints. But there really aren’t. And so we get the same election every 4 years. *sigh*.

            My econ friend would describe this as the political version the hotdog sellers on the beach who inevitably move to the middle to outsell one another.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Renee says:

          Hard to get excited about that. But easier to get elected.

          Yup. File it under ‘the worst form of government except for all the others’ category.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Renee says:

      What happens in an Obama-Paul election? Your friends at the defense industry along with other conservatives Astroturf a third party shilled by Fox.Report