The 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls gathered at the Reagan Library for a debate, and in case you had better things to do, here are four reasons besides Rick Perry to be grateful that you missed the latest GOP debate.
Rick Perry made his debate debut tonight, and it is clear that he is a proud graduate of the Sarah Palin school of debate. When Perry didn’t care for a question, he simply didn’t answer it. Gov. Perry had no answer for the fact that 25% of the citizens of his state have no health insurance. He couldn’t answer why his state had such a poor performance numbers. If you missed Rick Perry, you didn’t miss much, and here are the four other things you shouldn’t regret missing.
2). The Biggest Loser – The debate between what may very well go down in history as the weakest field ever featured an odd little scene where the two frontrunners, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney managed to use two other historically unpopular politicians (Michael Dukakis and George W. Bush) to point out that neither candidate can create jobs. Two losers using two of American political history’s biggest losers to bash each other was the perfect microcosm of the state of the challengers to Barack Obama.
3). Poor People Would Be Better Off If They Had Less Money – When they weren’t mixing it up, Ron Paul and Rick Perry both agreed that poor people would be better off if the minimum wage was abolished. I can’t wait for the Republican nominee to try to sell to a jobless and impoverished American electorate that they would be better off with less money, while at the same time advocating tax cuts for the rich. As Rachel Maddow has pointed out, the minimum wage is a big winner for Democrats every time it is on the ballot. The Obama campaign is salivating at the opportunity to make the minimum wage an issue in 2012.
4). The Incredible Shrinking Michele Bachmann – On Labor Day the top two officials of her campaign abruptly quit. She has lost 20 points in the polls in about a month. Her once strong lead in Iowa has vanished, and Michele Bachmann was virtually invisible at the debate. Bachmann gave all of her usual talking points, tons of kids, government regulations, Obamacare, but she was an afterthought. Bachmann is now the third wheel in what is clearly a two person race. Ed Rollins knew what he was doing when he quit. The writing is on the wall for Bachmann. She must win Iowa, or she is finished.
5). Here are the Winners and Losers:
1). Rick Perry- The Texas governor showed that he does two things very well. He repeats the popular Republican/tea party talking points, and he attacked Mitt Romney and Ron Paul with the skill of a frontrunner. Perry didn’t commit any gaffes, and he probably sold a lot of Republican primary voters on his frontrunner status when he called President Obama an abject liar when he called the border safer.
2). Jon Huntsman- He may be at 1% in the polls, but he got oodles of television time. He was also able to emphasize multiple times his job creation record in Utah. To non-Republicans who tuned in Huntsman was the only person on the stage who sounded somewhat sane. Unfortunately, his lingering sanity is what is likely to keep him at 1% in the polls.
3). Ron Paul- Rep. Paul always can be counted on to do his thing in these debates, but Paul campaign has learned that if they want to be relevant they must attack the frontrunner. The Paul campaign has been attacking Perry on a daily basis, and it paid off big time as the Rick Perry went after Ron Paul for a letter he wrote to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s where he threatened to leave the Republican Party. Getting attacked by the frontrunner granted legitimacy to the Paul campaign, and got him more airtime than usual.
4). Newt Gingrich- Newt once again played cheerleader in defending the field against the horrible, horrible media that dared to ask the candidates questions that they might disagree on. Gingrich is going nowhere fast, but by waving his right wing pom-poms he is guaranteeing a continuation of his right wing celebrity, and maybe even a healthy raise from Fox News.
1). Mitt Romney- Mitt Romney has gone from frontrunner to the rich prep school kid who is getting a swirlie in the boys locker room from the first team quarterback and empty headed jock extraordinaire Rick Perry. Less than five minutes into the debate Perry hit Romney hard, and Mittens never really recovered. He was shaky, uncertain, and off his game. The confidence of the “new” Mitt Romney has been shattered. Romney is going to need a big Perry blunder to get back into this race.
2). Michele Bachmann- Here today, gone tomorrow. Bachmann was a complete non-entity. The tone was set earlier as the majority of the GOP candidates were brought into the conversation before she was ever asked a question. Bachmann has gone from Iowa leader and Romney challenger to be the 2011 GOP candidate version of John Edwards circa 2007. She has run out of talking points and has absolutely nothing new to offer the GOP field. Bachmann should finish the year in win or go home mode. Right now, she is on the outside looking.
3). Rick Santorum- He is doing better in the polls than Jon Huntsman, but he once again got a tiny bit of airtime, and did nothing to demonstrate that he belongs on the stage as a presidential candidate.
4). Herman Cain- The novelty is over. The ride is over. Herman Cain is an empty suit that is accomplishing nothing more than sucking up oxygen on the stage.
All in all this debate was more of the same. Mitt Romney thinks that Americans should be able to save up to $200,000 of their investment income tax free. (Romney doesn’t seem to realize that before the market collapsed less than 20% of Americans would be eligible for his tax break). Rick Perry sounded and acted a lot like George W. Bush, and the rest of the candidates were mostly invisible.
If this is the best that the GOP has got, Barack Obama won’t be losing much sleep between now and 2012.