Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Occupying Dartmouth: On tonight's Republican debate
#1: Herman Cain won the debate--insofar as you can say anyone can be said to win these things. He came off as competent, informed, and articulate. And since the spotlight was on him because of his recent gain in momentum, all of that worked together to solidify him as a first-tier candidate. He is fast erasing doubts about his electoral viability. The fact that he could say that he had two candidates in mind to replace Bernanke when his term as Fed chair ends 2014 (under the implicit assumption that he might be president) and no one was even tempted to chuckle is a sign of where he is in this campaign. And did anyone notice the seating arrangement? Cain was seated in the center, as if he was the man of hour, which he is, given his recent rise in the polls. He looked like a leader. People were looking on him seriously for the first time and what they saw didn't seem implausible. There is a question that every debate answers. The chief question coming into this debate was whether Cain was a serious contender. His performance answered that question in the affirmative. He has at least put himself in the running for the VP spot, where a person of color or a woman is almost a certainty if the winner is a white male, and possibly taken another important step toward becoming the anti-Romney candidate.
#2: Romney came in second--He continues to be the man to beat in this campaign. As always, he comes off as being in command of the issues, particularly economic issues, and forceful in his presentation.
#3: Michelle Bachmann put in another excellent performance. She continues to impress by her almost flawless delivery of every answer to every question in these debates. She answers the questions smoothly and she answers them as an informed, intelligent political leader. It surprises me that, as much as she has exceeded expectations and put the lie to the media stereotype of some kind of crackpot, she doesn't seemed to have benefited in the polls. I don't think this most recent great performance will be enough to reestablish her as a top-tier candidate. Because of her gender, however, and her performance in the debates, she has established herself as a legitimate VP choice, given that the most important thing a VP does is to perform well in about two debates. She would make Biden look silly.
#4: Rick Perry again did not perform particularly well. He is surrounded in these debates by informed articulate people and, partly because he is a latecomer in this race, his reliance on generalities is starting to wear. He announced that he will be announcing an economic plan, but it may be too little, too late. 999 is beginning to seal the show. Perry needed a stellar performance tonight in order to erase the perception that his campaign is lagging. He didn't do that.
#5 Charlie Rose was the best of all the questioners in these debates--largely because he is a professional interviewer and he knows how to ask good, intelligent questions and keep things moving.
#6: Newt put in another superior performance, but his past superior performances have not put in into serious contention and tonight's will be no different in that regard.
#7: Huntsman continued to look good, but despite all the fawning of the liberal media (or perhaps because of it), he will remain the runt in the litter.
#8: Santorum had great things to say, but he has the gravitas of an over-enthusiastic puppy which is one of the reasons people don't see him as presidential.
#9: Ron Paul again had some good things to say. He will continue to be listened to in the debate and possibly do well in several primaries. But nothing particularly remarkable on the Paul front.
#10: This debate, even more so than the other Republican debates continue to impress by the level of discussion between the candidates. The Republicans who keep looking for the Great Right Hope (as in the Christie episode) need to get over it and take a look at what is a great field of candidates, all of whom would make a better president than Obama and who together have contributed to the most substantive and lively set of debates we have ever seen in presidential politics.