Monthly Archives: October 2011
In the very early stages of the 2012 election cycle as the GOP field was solidifying, I began watching the televised debates to learn more about the candidates. The first such debate I watched was on October 11th, 2011 and I made a quick candidate by candidate assessment after the debate. For the sake of full disclosure, I have posted it below. I think some of you will find it interesting to compare my initial thoughts about the candidates to how I view them now and to see why my perceptions changed. As of October 2011, The following candidates were still in the race: Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. Here’s what I thought of them in the first debate I was able to watch:
Bachmann: She handled herself very well and is actually a pretty good speaker. She didn’t always answer the question being asked, and wasn’t really put on the spot by anyone, but was pretty skillful at the wordplay and will likely leave a good impression with some people. I still think she’s borderline crazy and full of crap on many of her promises, but she’s at least charismatic and that is bound to lure a few people in.
Cain: This was the first time I’d seen him live and I was impressed. He was grilled the most of the candidates presence on actual economic issues (Romney probably got the most heat overall, which isn’t surprising, but his was on a broader range of issues) and he never seemed frustrated or lost composure. He seemed honest and upfront and answered the question being asked without going into a bunch of party line rhetoric and fake patriotic ramblings like some of the others. He didn’t let people misrepresent his views (when they gave him time to rebut) but he never stooped to insulting anyone else to win an argument. I can see that being a very good feature for our future leader and I think he would probably do well at diplomacy without being a pushover. I did some looking into 9-9-9 after the debate and it’s interesting and I do think he truly believes it would work, but I don’t know enough about how it would work to think it’s a totally realistic option at this point. However, his history in business and ability to turn around under-performing companies may be exactly what the country needs right now. He’s a new face, he’s not a career bureaucrat, he seems to have good ideas and experience, and I’ll keep him on my short list of people to watch.
Gingrich: Possibly my favorite from last night performance wise, but not my favorite candidate right now. He called it like he saw it last night and it was refreshing to hear someone that isn’t afraid to speak the truth (as they see it, at least). He didn’t try to blame every single problem we have on the current administration (like a few last night did), and I enjoyed listening to him speak. He strikes me as a very smart man, but I think his political baggage and history in D.C. will make him too unappealing to the voters to be a realistic candidate.
Huntsman: Last night was the first time I had listened to him live as well and he did a reasonably good job. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he was also very upfront and had some good ideas. He seemed a little combative at times and didn’t offer a lot in the way of real solutions (he just kept leaning back on how well Utah had been doing under his tenure instead of offering a specific plan), but he seems like a smart guy who could probably cater bipartisan support for some issues and has diplomatic experience with our biggest economic partner. I don’t like him a whole lot overall, but he might not be a bad candidate if more people knew who he was.
Paul: I like Ron Paul overall because he has a good handle on many aspects of economic theory and he’s not afraid to call out whoever he feels is doing a bad job (regardless of party affiliation). However his solutions are so ambitious/seemingly impossible that he sometimes comes across as crazy and there is probably an endless bank of soundbites out there that would be turned against him in a campaign. I think that he would try to do what he felt was right if elected and he means what he says, but his passion is both an asset and a liability.
Perry: Easily the most disappointing performance of the night, especially considering his “front-runner” status. He didn’t answer the questions, instead all he did was talk about his unknown plan to bring energy independence to the US and promised an economic plan to come in the “next few days”. He strikes me as an easily rattled speaker that didn’t know his own platform well enough to defend himself in a debate and had to resort to talking in circles to avoid looking completely incompetent. I think he needed to perform well last night to be taken seriously and he didn’t. His decline in the polls should continue.
Romney: As the top pick right now, I watched him closely and came up with a few thoughts on him. First, he is a good politician in that he speaks well and can turn attacks on his past into awkward promotions for himself or his platform. That said, he comes across as a bit of a used car salesman and I have a hard time trusting what he says. He’s likely to be the republican’s top choice, but I also think he’s one of the least likely to offer any real solutions. He strikes me as another typical politician who will come up with complicated solutions and poor compromises to our country’s problems. I don’t see him being very effective at appealing to bipartisan support for his issues, and I think most of his tough talk on Obama and China is just that- talk. I don’t dislike his stance on most issues, but he managed to avoid answering the tough questions last night by talking in circles and sliding the subject to something he’d rather discuss and it makes me very skeptical of him as a potential leader.
Santorum: Had one or two good points but seemed to spend the whole time trying to pick fights and belittle others’ ideas without offering anything of substance of his own. It was off putting, and I don’t see him being a realistic candidate or a good choice for the country.
How they would perform against President Obama in a debate: It is my personal view that President Obama is nowhere near the gifted speaker many claim he is. His 2008 campaign speeches were very well delivered, but in press conferences, interviews, and other on-the-spot settings, he frequently loses composure or has difficulty answering questions. As such, I view him as a teleprompter-dependent speaker. He isn’t a bad speaker when his speech and notes are prepared, but in a debate setting he won’t have a teleprompter to guide him. Romney (regardless of my feelings about him one way or another) is good at debates, even when he’s not really saying anything of substance. He comes across as confident and collected, and the only times I’ve seen Obama unscripted he stumbles all over himself (much like Perry did tonight). He loses all charisma without preparation and a Republican nominee with decent debate skills (like Romney, Cain, Gingrich, or even Bachman all have the necessary speaking abilities) could make him look incompetent. With the most recent polls showing under 40% expecting him to get reelected and his approval rating continuing a downward trend (around 40% now), he doesn’t have the energy of a popular candidate for this campaign and his old tricks are going to need some tweaking to have a real chance at re-election.
Earlier today I commented to an acquaintance that I planned on watching tonight’s GOP Debate, to which they responded:
I think debates are useless for party-faithful. They’re more useful for “independents” who don’t know jack about what’s going on and vote based on candidates image.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard statements like this, so I had to explain to him why debates actually matter in the process of choosing a nominee. Simply put, I disagree on both counts. I am one of the (some would argue naive) people that actually is trying to see if potential candidates can actually back their platforms and get a sense for how they would perform under pressure. I don’t care for Obama as a president much at all, but I’m also not willing to vote for some random guy off the street just because he isn’t Obama, which is what some of the Republican candidates seem to be banking on. I’m paying as much attention to debates as possible and if a potential candidate can’t defend their positions, comes across as clueless, or just seems like the same empty suit toting the party-line rhetoric, they’re not going to get my interest or support. I think the debates serve a pretty important purpose when it comes to seeing how the candidates interact with each other, defend (or don’t) their positions, and respond to criticism. I don’t really consider myself an independent, but I don’t think being as informed as possible about your potential options is a useless exercise.
The first step towards putting some sanity back into politics is to actually pay attention to what is going on. If you’re not making sure you do enough research into a candidate, especially someone you are trusting to run the country for four years, to have some real concrete reasons for voting for them you’re part of the problem with the US and our political system in general. Don’t vote for a candidate based off 30 second TV ads. Don’t vote for a candidate because of the party letter by their name. Don’t vote for a candidate because they use some flashy rhetoric that makes you feel good. Do your research. Know the issues and where you stand on them. Vote for someone you think represents those issues. Democracy only gets good results when you are an informed voter. There’s no room for laziness.