Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some Off The Cuff Reactions To Last Night's Debate And The GOP Field

Bearing in mind it's very early days yet and anything can happen, here are a few of my impressions of last night's debate and the way the current race for the nomination is shaking out.

I fully expected Rick Perry to be a target yesterday. He's the current front runner, he's come up fairly rapidly and Michele Bachmann in particular needed to try to slap him around in order to keep from fading into the ozone.

Perry for the most part handled it reasonably well, although both Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann got in some good shots at his expense.I particularly liked his response to Michele Bachmann's exaggerated attempt to underline the $5,000 campaign contribution Perry got from the maker of the Gardisil vaccine, Merck: ""I raised 30 million dollars [in campaign funds]. Merck donated $5,000. If you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, then I'm offended."

The problem with the Gardisil issue for Perry as far as I'm concerned is not the money, it's the fact that his ex-chief of staff who worked for Merck was obviously was able to influence the governor to do something at odds with his previous record, which is strongly parental choice and anti big government. I'm surprised Perry hasn't sidelined the issue by simply saying he was wrong, it was poorly handled and emphasizing that it was a departure from his previous record. Like Mitt Romney on the Massachusetts health care debacle, he says something like that but then tries to justify it.

One thing that did surprise me is that the issue of illegal immigration and border control didn't come up before last night. Perry signed off on what amounts to a modified version of the DREAM Act in Texas, granting in-state tuition rates to certain illegal immigrants working toward citizenship.

"That is the American way," Perry said, although he was quick to add that he doesn't support the DREAM Act President Obama is currently enforcing by executive order. "That's amnesty. What we did in Texas was a state's right issue. Regardless of what the sound of their last name is, [we are saying] that we believe in you. We're going to allow you to be contributing members and not be a drag on our state."

Bachmann replied: "The American way is not to give taxpayer-subsidized benefits to people who have broken our laws."

Romney piled on as well. "Of course we don't give in-state tuition credits to people who've come here illegally."

One thing I badly want to hear that hasn't surfaced much yet is foreign policy. Americans are rightly concerned about the state of the economy after three years of gross and incompetent mismanagement, but I'm convinced that we're going to be facing some major foreign policy challenges in the near future. And it would be nice to hear more from the candidates on these matters.

So, where do the Republicans stand, now that the official campaign season has begun?

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney remain the front runners, with Romney supported by a chunk of the GOP establishment and Perry by the more conservative wing of the party. Michele Bachmann lost a lot of her following once Perry got in the race, if anything she's continued to slide and unfortunately for her she's made enough questionable statements at this point where she's essentially out of the running. It's an open question whether she or the other marginal candidates will be able to keep going until the Iowa primary in February.

Governor Sarah Palin still remains a factor, and it's by no means too late for her to get in if she decides to. Perry's conservative and Tea Party support is fluid, simply because the alternative is Mitt Romney.If Governor Palin decides to run, she will pick up virtually all of the supporters of Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum as well as a chunk of Rick Perry's. It may be that staying out and letting the other candidates spend money, beat each other up and flame out could end up being the wisest strategy out there, and I speculated that she might do exactly that a while ago.

I'm going to go on record to say that barring something crazy happening like a national disaster that rallies people behind a sitting president or a major scandal involving the GOP nominee, Romney, Perry or Palin could each defeat Barack Obama handily.

There's no such thing as a perfect candidate, or even a perfect president. What's important is for the electorate to make a hiring decision based on whom could best do the job and gets the closest to upholding some very basic principles.

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