by Mark Rhoads
Cattle call debate forums sometimes turn on trivial moments that nevertheless reveal some personality flaws. Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a credible conservative but got caught up in the moment when he tried to press Rep. Michele Bachmann on her credentials for high office.
In his attempt to be aggressive and knock down Bachmann, Pawlenty might have crossed the fine line that some people thought was crossed by former Rep. Rick Lazio (R-New York) when he seemed to invade the space of Hillary Clinton during their debate for U.S. Senator in 2000.
Former House Speaker Newt Gigrich might have breathed just a little oxygen back into his campaign by pointing out the trivial nature of some Fox News panel questions. But then he closed with references to bills that most of his audience would not know by names such as Sarbanes-Oxley or an obscure Dodd bill. Newt’s mastery of legislative details can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to blunting his impact and putting an audience to sleep.
Ron Paul never puts his own audience of partisans to sleep but his absolutist and extreme positions in foreign policy are more likely than not to put off many GOP primary voters as they did in 2008.
Former Utah Gov. Huntsman sounded like former Senator Chuck Percy (R-Ill.) in his 1964 campaign for governor of Illinois when he called himself a “conservative problem solver” (yawn) and wanted to appoint a “council of business leaders” to advise him on recovery.
One huge problem with the GOP is that the party often has to bear the cross of big GOP business leaders who in the past are all to happy to make deals with big government Democrats if they think it will give them a government-sanctioned advantage over their competitors. It is amazing how many business leaders who claim to be Republicans in reality do not want a true free market and want the government to provide a corporate safety net to compensate them for horrible business decisions.
All of the current or former governors–Pawlenty, Romney, and Huntsman–sounded like they were running for governor of the United States instead of president. Herman Cain flubbed a few questions but his candor, sincerity, and rock-solid devotion to liberty is impressive.
I guess I have seen too many of these forums that are not really “debates” over forty years. The Fox moderator started out by asking the candidates to set aside their talking points but the panel did not follow their own advice and fell back on old habits of gotcha and trivial questions.