I’ve seen numerous blog posts and tweets complaining about the GOP Presidential debates. Some complain that there are too many and we’re getting the same answers over and over again (did you know Michele Bachmann was a foster mom?). Some complain that there are too many candidates involved and it dilutes the ability to answer questions. Yet others complain that either the format or the fact that most of the questioners are from the hard left, puts the candidates at an automatic disadvantage in communicating their positions.
To some extent, all of the gripes about the debates have some validity. However, I think the complaints miss an important point.
One by one as the various candidates have flashed, or surged or gained viability, they’ve gotten scrutiny and vetting that Barack Obama avoided for an entire campaign.
The scrutiny has told us much about these top tier candidates. It’s shown us that Mitt Romney is not a conservative, is unrepentant in his implementation of Romneycare and has had more positions on more issues than John Kerry, who served in Vietnam. If it weren’t for the long tradition of the GOP nominating the “next in line,” Romney would already be a footnote in this campaign.
The scrutiny has shown us that the great anticipation of Rick Perry (I’ll admit, I thought he could be a contender at one point) was all about anticipation and nothing about substance. Perry is probably a very smart guy but he is unable to convey that in any of the debates. Combine this with Perry’s penchant for answering questions from a Texas context rather than an American context and it’s no wonder he’s having a tough time recovering from what should have been some easily recoverable early issues of Gardisil and the tuition break for illegals. I’m beginning to believe that Perry had so many people clamoring for him to enter the race that he thought he didn’t need to work at the campaign. I think he believed he was a shoe in for merely showing up. At least that’s what his on going sputtering suggests to me.
Once Romney and Perry sputtered, attention turned to Herman Cain. Again, in candor, I liked a lot of what I heard from Cain. His business experience clearly comes through as he consistently gives specific, actionable recommendations for many of the issues facing the country. However, like the previous two, a bit of time in the spot light has shown Cain to be lacking in the ability to close the deal.
I like the fact that Cain comes from outside of politics. However, it’s this very issue that is his weak spot. Cain seems unaware of the realities of what it takes to get through a campaign and engage a governmental bureaucracy that will be anything but friendly to change from an outsider. From his numerous “I didn’t say that,” responses, the non denial denial of the alleged harassment claims and subsequent inability to handle the media issue, to his 9-9-9 plan that would require a hurculean effort to move through Congress but is only a transition plan to a flat tax plan, Cain just seems like he’s not ready for big league politics.
My point in this is not to say I won’t vote for any of these 3 gentlemen. In comparison to Obama, any of them would be superior. My point is two fold: First, the debates have given us a chance to see each of these candidates hit first place, get some vetting and see how they react. In this, we have gotten a better sense of how each of them would handle a bare knuckle contest with Barack Obama. Second, I think we all realize that regardless of who we end up nominating, there is no Reagan in the mix. In fact, the best we’re going to get out of this year’s candidate slate is one fairly flawed endorsee.
Given the realities that I’ve noted, I’ve decided that the candidate who will get my support in the primary is Newt Gingrich. Ok, I hear the groans. Come on, honestly, is there a debate that you’ve watched that you didn’t walk away saying something like, “Geez, Newt is the only one that sounds like he knows what he’s doing,” or “I don’t think he can get elected but Newt should be a VP or at least on someone’s cabinet.” I know you I have and I’m betting you have said or thought those things. Yes, Newt is flawed, but show me a candidate who isn’t AND show me a candidate at this point who isn’t SERIOUSLY flawed! Really, you think Mitt isn’t a seriously flawed candidate? Whether any of the allegations against him are true or not, Herman Cain has proven he is not ready to play in the big leagues of professional government mud wrestling. Perry? Puhlease!
My support for Newt is two fold: First, he’s the smartest guy in the group and with nearly no exception, has a policy answer that is conservative (OK, we have to work on his answer to ethanol a bit). Second, for all of Newts character flaws, they’ve already been vetted. Newt has been in the limelight so long I doubt there are any October surprises to let loose on him.
At the end of the day I don’t think it is OK to just beat Obama. Yes, that is the first step but we need to have something more. We don’t need someone who can just beat Obama, we need someone who can fundamentally change what is happening in Washington. We need to dismantle the EPA, reign in or eliminate the Department of Education, defang the Depart of the Interior, so on, so on, so on. I think the only person who has the knowledge of DC workings and the intellect to maneuver through or around them and that is Newt Gingrich. While he may not be your first choice, I’ll bet in your heart of hearts, you know that’s right.