Thoughts on the August GOP Debate

I’m looking forward to the 2012 presidential election, so I watched the Ames, Iowa GOP debate last night with great interest. The 8 participating candidates were Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and John Huntsman. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on each candidate.

Mitt Romney: Let me say from the outset that I’m not a fan of Mr. Romney. I don’t like that he passed the precursor to Obamacare in Massachusettes, and he is a little more liberal on other issues than some of the other candidates. However, he IS the frontrunner among the GOP candidates, and he did look very presidential last night. He did not get involved in the brutal fisticuffs like Bachmann and Pawlenty did, but he still managed to get his points across. He even got his 7 point economic plan into the debate within his 1 minute time limit.

Michelle Bachmann: I think that like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, Michelle Bachmann has suffered at the hands of the media for being female. They questioned her ability to lead effectively because of a minor migraines issue (Excedrin, anyone?) and during the debate, one of the moderators brought up a previous statement by Mrs. Bachmann in which she said she only went into tax law because her husband suggested it to her. She quoted Colossians 3:18 which states, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” as her reasoning for this. The moderator then asked if, as president, she would be submissive to her husband. She answered the question as diplomatically as possible, after boos from the crowd indicated their belief that the question was unfair. I think in any marriage (but especially a marriage as high-powered as the president and his/her spouse), partners always go to each other for help and guidance, or at the very least, a second opinion. You can bet that FDR got Eleanor’s opinion on a number of issues, whether he wanted it or not. So to imply that Bachmann would be under the influence of her spouse more than any other president isn’t really fair or accurate. Overall, I think she stood her ground despite a number of punches thrown by the moderators, Tim Pawlenty and others. (By the way, the next verse, Colossians 3:19, states, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”)

Tim Pawlenty: Mr. Pawlenty may have hurt himself by continuing to challenge Michelle Bachmann. I think it was good to see some debate between the two candidates, but I think he came off as somewhat of a bully. He did a good job of pointing out his strengths as a governor though, especially with regards to the economy, while contrasting those strengths with President Obama’s weak leadership and lack of a plan for the economy. I think he’s definitely still got a chance, but Romney is still the guy to beat.

Rick Santorum: Poor Rick Santorum. The moderators kind of ignored him, along with Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and John Huntsman. When he DID speak, he debated with Ron Paul over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also blasted the other candidates for displaying “showmanship, not leadership,” which was kind of catchy. I think overall, Mr. Santorum might be a little TOO socially conservative to click with most Americans. I’m kind of up in the air on how I feel about him.

Ron Paul: Always the crowd favorite, Mr. Paul elicited wild cheers when he spoke about pulling out of Iraq & Afghanistan and talked about championing the cause of liberty and limited government. I agree with a lot of what Ron Paul says, but his comments about a nuclear Iran threw me off a bit. He basically stated that Iran should be allowed to go nuclear, and that we shouldn’t impose sanctions on them for doing so. He said that China and the USSR were allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, so why shouldn’t Iran? My confusion stems from the fact that Mr. Paul is a very intelligent man but he seemed to have no concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The USSR and China know that should they launch a nuclear weapon at the United States, we would launch one in return, and we would ALL be dead. A healthy desire for self-preservation precludes the possibility that either nation would launch nukes at us. They are rational people. The leaders in Iran (Ahmadinejad, in particular) are NOT rational people. They believe that it is their duty to bring about the coming of the Twelfth Imam by “bathing the world in blood.” You can’t reason with people who are willing to blow themselves up for their cause. Because they don’t care about MAD, they are far more dangerous than most other nations with nuclear weapons. That’s why we shouldn’t allow them to have them. I think that overall, Mr. Paul’s campaign slogan could be summed up as “Let’s all mind our own damn business.”

Herman Cain: Mr. Cain was probably my favorite. He seems down-to-earth and knows what’s needed to get the economy moving again. He doesn’t have any experience in government, but that’s probably a good thing. As he said about Rick Perry entering the race tomorrow, “That’s just one more politician that’s going to make this business problem-solver stand out even more!” Among my own friends, family, and acquaintances, Mr. Cain is very popular. I hope the media will start giving him the positive attention he deserves. Do we have a second black president in our near future? If it’s Herman Cain, I hope so.

Newt Gingrich: Easily the biggest surprise of the night for me. When I saw that he was going to be on the debate, I was a little shocked because I thought he had dropped out of the race. He has had a number of problems with his campaign (like most of his staff quitting), and he really just hasn’t been in the spotlight as much as contenders like Romney. But during the debate he made several good points and the crowd really seemed to agree with everything he said. His closing remarks indicated a desire for the Republicans in the House to get to work on repealing various pieces of harmful legislation now, instead of waiting until the next president was elected. I feel like last night’s debate put Newt back on the map as a legitimate contender in this race.

John Huntsman: Who? That was my first impression of Mr. Huntsman. I had not heard of him, I didn’t know he was running, and I had no idea what state he was from or how he was involved in politics. He apparently was a governor of Utah for awhile, and he repeatedly pointed to his economic successes there as his qualification for running. He said more than once, “I’m running on my record. Some people run FROM their record, I’m running ON my record.” If his claims are accurate then he probably would be a good candidate, but like Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum, he simply doesn’t have the national name recognition and adoration of the media to be successful, unless he really steps up his campaign. All four of those men will have to campaign at least twice as hard as Romney, Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Gingrich if they want to win. He also pointed to the failings of Barack Obama to get the economy back on track, saying that he would be able to accomplish that and then pointing to his record in Utah as evidence.

While Romney is in the lead, it’s still anyone’s race at this point. I look forward to continuing to follow the candidates and their progress. I just hope that, regardless of who runs for the GOP, he or she will be a strong enough candidate to take down Obama in November.