VIVA LAS VEGAS!!! – Random thoughts about tonight’s GOP Debate
(Rick Perry wins the Debate Raffle, accepts life-size inflatable Mitt Romney Doll prize from Herman Cain.)
Two quick confessions:
First Confession: I have not seen any of the GOP debates up to this point. I’d like to make excuses about time and commitments, but the truth is I kind of have a “meh…” feeling toward the three-ring circus you get with debates that feature so many people trying to be heard and remembered, and also toward the three-ring circus that is this particular field of candidates.
Second Confession: I listened to most of the debate in my office as it was streamed, so whatever appeal CNN’s game show-like set and LucasArts-style graphics might have had was lost on me.
I’ll leave it to others to pound chests on either side of the aisle. I came in not particularly liking the idea of any of these people as President, and they did little to sway me. However, I must say that I found the whole thing enormously and surprisingly entertaining. (This is not necessarily a good thing.)
The blogs are going to be abuzz about this debate for the next day or so. People on all sides will be trying to spin imaginary triumphs and begin crafting potential attack ads from sound bites. But that’s those bloggers. What about the blogger that has no horse in this, sitting in the back of the room quietly wondering more about whether or not to grill burgers for a second night in a row than he’s wondering who can beat Obama? What are that blogger’s thoughts?
Well, that blogger’s thoughts are as follows:
• An interesting format for this debate, in that it gave anyone who had been slighted a 30 second chance to respond. I assume that all camps had been informed of this rule in advance. But maybe not, because everyone kept attacking Mitt – which meant after whatever anyone said Mitt got extra time (and the last word) to respond. The dynamic started with Herman Cain and his 999 tax proposal, and I remember thinking “Ooo, bad timing for Mitt. Now everyone will know not to talk about him so much.” Or so I thought. The other candidates didn’t seem to ever figure this out, and thus made the evening kinda feel like The Mitt Romney Show.
• I am assuming that their campaigns were banging their heads against the wall with this same observation, because when everyone’s closing statements started to morph into a game of “Let’s See How Far Mitt Can Hit THIS Softball,” moderator Anderson Cooper initially did not let Newt Gingrich or Michelle Bachman give a closing statement. When they complained, Anderson explained that CNN had been asked by their own campaign staffs not to let them speak. Yes, that’s right – Gingrich and Bachman’s campaigns asked the nice TV people to not let their candidates say anything else on camera.
How freaking awesome is that? It might be my favorite TV debate moment of all time.
• When I was young and in sales, my manager once told me I had to be more aggressive and bold, and not allow myself to be intimidated by the competition. So of course being a kid I overcompensated; I was just enough of a d**k in the way I talked about my opponents to ensure that no one would ever want to buy anything from me ever. Which brings me to Rick Perry.
I’ve heard that his earlier performances were soft and tepid, and that it was common consensus he needed to come out with fire in his belly tonight. That may be true. But this was not the way. Maybe it would have come across different seeing the words come out of his handsomely rugged jaw line, but with only audio he came off as shrill, bitter and desperate. The way he sounded against Romney, I kept wondering if Mitt was giving him the low bird and winking whenever Anderson was looking somewhere else. He seemed to settle down for a bit after he called Romney an illegal immigrant magnet, but that might just be because he was starting to get booed. (Substantially more, I might note, than the gay GI got in the clips I’ve seen. So good for the GOP there.)
• Ron Paul is actually kind of amazing, in that admirable “they’ll never elect him in a million years” kind of way. I’ve known that he’s not afraid to buck the system with pulling troops out of other countries, stopping aid to Israel and stopping Medicare, of course. But if I’m not mistaken, tonight he reminded everyone that Ronald Reagan traded arms for hostages with terrorists. (Or, as Newt was carful to point out in Reagan’s defense, sponsors of terrorists.) Seriously. Ron Paul dissed Ronald Reagan. In a GOP debate.
Can you even do that in a GOP debate? Is it allowed? I didn’t hear much from him after that, and until he spoke at the end I had assumed that he’d been automatically disqualified from the race, escorted out of the building, and relocated to live in Newfoundland with David Frum.
• 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. Tomorrow when the White House and the nation’s employers realize the answer has just been staring them in the face all this time they’re all going to feel pretty stupid.
• Santorum has never been a favorite, but this whole faith/values thing felt a little like “When I talk about how my religious beliefs are an awesome reason to vote for me it’s a good and healthy values discussion, when you point out that my religious beliefs might not be so mainstream it’s talking about one’s faith and you’re not allowed to go there;” it was a little strained and I found it icky. Which brings me to…
• Romney’s talk about the need to refrain from religious litmus tests was out-of-the-park awesome, and reminded me of when Bill Clinton had a similarly great response on the subject during a debate with Bob Dole. For me, the best and most adult moment of the debate. The GOP is better than I give it credit for these days if they do not make him pay for saying that out loud.
• What happened to Bachman? Even when she says things I think are bat-s**t crazy, she does so with style and charisma. Tonight she just sounded like the kid that didn’t want to be left behind. Is that a radio thing? If I’d seen her while hearing her, would I be thinking differently – or is she finally running out of gas?
• Biggest take away for me: Only one guy remotely electable in a general election, and it’s the one guy the GOP faithful seem to have zero interest in putting up. In other words, everyone leaves the debate the way we came in.
Thoughts from those that actually watched and paid attention to it?