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

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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. Avatar 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

    • Avatar Tod Kelly 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

      • Avatar Burt Likko 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

        • Avatar Tod Kelly 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

          • Avatar Ryan B 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

            • Avatar Kimmi 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

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak 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

            • Avatar Michael Cain 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

    • Avatar Michael Drew 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.

      In terms of debates, I would tell him that this means CALM THE FISH DOWN AND START ACTING LIKE THE FRONTRUNNER IN DEMEANOR AS MUCH AS ISSUE POSITIONING. IN PARTICULAR, AVOID GOING BALLISTIC ON THE LITTLE PEOPLE IN THE RACE (like, you know, the sitting governor of the second most populous state in the Union) OVER THE SPEAKING TIMES OR DEBATE FORMAT. ACT LIKE YOU REALIZE THAT, TO THE PARTY AND THE COUNTRY, THE POINT OF ALL THIS IS TO GIVE OTHER CANDIDATES A CHANCE TO CHALLENGE IN SOME SMALL WAY WHAT HAS BECOME YOUR ESSENTIALLY UNCONTESTED PATH TO THE NOMINATION – THE NOMINATION OF A PARTY, JUST INCIDENTALLY, TO WHOSE OPPOSITION’S VIEWS MOST OF YOUR VIEWS AS RECENTLY AS FIFTEEN YEARS AGO WERE MORE SIMILAR THAN THEY ARE TO ITS OWN BASE’S CURRENT ONES. CRIKEY.

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

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        My advice would be spoken in all caps like that

        .

        This made me giggle. (I need to go to sleep.)Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Perry is a sizeable threat to Romney — one, because despite his flaws, he’s got the political ability to consolidate enough votes to challenge Romney for delegates, and two, because he can raise beaucoup bucks.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          I think you have those backwards.

          The money is the only reason why Perry still has a shot. Even though his potential to gerrymander the remaining candidates and pick up their supporters is there, it’s a far second.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

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      aftercoverage is “biased” to whomever the bigheads want to win. In this case, it’s perry, because it’s profitable to see a longer nom fight.Report

    • Avatar Ryan B says:

      Agreed. I thought he looked an absolute mess. Perry, despite his character sheet, fails every single saving throw.Report

  3. Avatar 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. Avatar 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

    • Avatar Tod Kelly 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

      • Avatar Michelle 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

        • Avatar Tod Kelly 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

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan 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

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak 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

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan 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

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak 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

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan 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

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak 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

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan 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

              • Avatar DarrenG 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

              • Avatar Michelle 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

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak 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

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                That could certainly be, as well.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi 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

      • Avatar Tod Kelly 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

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          fear of McCain dying? Sir, you wound me. Try damn-near certain, and possibly not of natural causes (or being forced to take a backseat to Palin in some other way). Palin’s backers are mean mofos, and they tend to have a bit of a vengeful streak.

          They’re a good reason to never vote Republican.Report

        • Avatar Ryan B says:

          Romney’s running mate is going to be Rubio.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            The GOP ticket having both a Mormon and a Latino? Call me dubious.Report

            • Avatar Ryan B says:

              I can’t think of anyone else who balances Romney the way he needs to be balanced. Rubio is a right-wing maniac, beloved by the base, and believed (incorrectly) by the Establishment to be the key to unlocking the Latino vote. Your skepticism is founded on the notion that the GOP base feels about Rubio’s ethnicity the way it feels about Romney’s religion, and that’s just not the case. These people adore Rubio the way they adore Christie, but Rubio doesn’t come with Christie’s actual policy record (which I consider disqualifying on a Romney ticket for what should be obvious reasons).Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                I’ve never bought that the right adore Christie. I think they adore the idea of Christie, in the same way they adored the idea of Perry until they got a chance to see him. Were he to have entered, I suspect they would have started becoming familiar with his positions and turned feral on him.

                My bet is that Mitt’s camp goes with a relative unknown, white, male, hard right guy with some deep evangelical bona fides. I think anything else and a lot of the base stay home on election night.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                I don’t think Romney’s as stupid as McCain. But I could be wrong.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Yeah, it’s the idiotic part of the right that hates Christie and Romney alike.

                Liberals love their Testers, their Webbs, even the bloke that damn near walked his shoes off in Wyoming.

                Republicans are always so busy having a closed tent that it smells like piss.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Rubio is the sensible choice for sure. But he’s awfully young…Report

            • Avatar Michelle says:

              Cantor would be the more dubious choice. A Mormon and a Jew? No way in hell.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Hurmm. Good call. Hopefully Rubio doesn’t turn into Dan Quayle — a risk with a politician new to the bright lights.Report

          • Avatar DarrenG says:

            Rubio has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to be on the 2012 ticket. I suppose he could be BSing, but the power players seem to be taking his opt-out seriously.Report

  5. Avatar 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

    • Avatar Michelle 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

      • Avatar Tod Kelly 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

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

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

  6. Avatar 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. Avatar 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

    • Avatar DarrenG 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

    • Avatar Tod Kelly 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

      • Avatar Renee 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

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak 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

        • Avatar DarrenG 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

          • Avatar Renee 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

        • Avatar Stillwater 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

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak 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