Sunday, December 11, 2011

Final GOP Debate Reaction

I admit to watching the debate. Entertaining at points and mostly vacuous, I thought.

I have a few quick thoughts right now:

1. Diane Sawyer was insufferable as a debate moderator. She droned on and on at times as if she were the expert professor letting her minion students have a shot at demonstrating their nascent, but still developing knowledge.

2. The comments about Israel by some of the candidates I found to be both surprising and unsettling. To me, the thrust of these comments was to give Israel and Netanyahu a kind of patriotic loyalty that sometimes seemed to be more passionately expressed and held than even their patriotic loyalty to the United States. It is clear that these candidates have more loyalty to Netanyahu than to even their own President. And, frankly, there's nothing Obama has done to warrant such derisiveness. Obama has often and unambiguously expressed his unwavering commitment to and support for Israel and Israeli democracy. And contextualizing this support in a broader and more pragmatic Middle East policy is not selling out Israel at all. It's articulating a foreign policy aligned with broader U.S. interests that are distinct from more narrow Israeli national interests.

3. Newt Gingrich is petulant, pompous, and mean. Maybe some on the conservative right wing will love him for it; but I predict, should he be the GOP nominee, that it will turn a lot of independents off in the general election campaign. It will also mobilize Democratic turnout much more than a Romney candidacy would. I think he is just unelectable.

4. The only person who can measure up to Obama is Romney in terms of electability. And I'm pretty convinced that Romney won't get the nomination. Conservatives just don't like him. And his jaw-dropping $10,000 bet offer with Perry was not only tone deaf to the economic hardships of these times, but also generally unseemly. Heck, even Perry was a bit dumbstruck at this moment.

5. Michele Bachmann was so desperate to stay in the hunt that her earnestness just came across as too much of desperation.

6. And watch out for Ron Paul! He could be an underdog upset winner in Iowa.


Eric said...

Sort of a shame that one of the most watched Republican debates was also one of the worst in terms of substance and in terms of having poor moderators.

I tend to agree with you on Newt, or at least I'll say if the choice is between him and Romney, Romney is the more electable choice of the two. They are about equal in terms of ideology, both very moderate, but the main difference is that Romney has been moving to the right for years while Gingrich has been moving left. I think either one of them has a good shot at beating Obama though, at least unless he finds a way to significantly increase his popularity with the American people.

I loved Romney's $10,000 bet (which Perry would have lost), but it was a pretty bad idea from a PR standpoint.

I have sent my check to Ron Paul's campaign and am now almost completely unenthused and disinterested in the Primary race. Newt will probably take it, or maybe Romney will stage a come back, either way we won't be getting a President with the vision, ideology, or character necessary to get America back on her feet. Mostly I guess I'm glad neither Bachman or Perry are in serious contention.

Bah humbug.

Huck said...

Romney's bet was a horrible PR move, especially if he ends up against Obama in the general election. But I don't think Romney has a shot at the GOP nomination.

I disagree with you about either Gingrich or Romney having a shot against Obama. Only Romney stacks up well against Obama. If Newt's the nominee, you can bet his petulance will turn off independents and will turn out the liberal base.

Most Democrats can stomach Romney to a point. But I don't know of any Democrats who can stand Gingrich. And I also know of plenty conservatives who can't stand Gingrich. There's something about Gingrich that just rubs wrong in a visceral way, regardless of ideology. Maybe some conservatives who like "bomb-throwing" grinches find Newt's style attractive. But plenty just don't.

This was the GOP's election to lose; and they've done just that.

Eric said...

Just remember, John Kerry was arguably as horrible a choice in 2004 as Newt or Romney are in 2012, and he came within 34 electoral points of defeating Bush, who was considerably more popular at the time than Obama is right now (I know that is hard to believe, it is for me too, but it is objectively true).

Like most modern elections, 2012 is going to come down to who wins Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Any Republican candidate has a good shot at winning Florida, and the fate of Obamacare could significantly increase those odds. Obama is polling under 50% in Ohio which means the state is up for grabs. Romney would certainly have a better shot than Newt at winning there, but Newt is an excellent strategist with no ideological core and after the Primary he will turn into a moderate faster than you can say "illegal immigrant". I think Pennsylvania is probably out of the GOP's reach, but if Newt can flip Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio then all the other states can vote the same as 2008 and the Republicans walk away with the White House. That is not too far a stretch.

It's also worth noting that if it comes down to a very close race, census based electoral map changes favor the Republicans in 2012... Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio have all lost electoral votes, while Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Texas have all made gains (with Texas actually gaining 4 votes).

If you are already counting the GOP out, I think you are being way too optimistic.

However, I will say this: Either Newt or Romney could spur a libertarian minded third party candidate, and if any of those catch even a tiny bit of momentum, then the election belongs to Obama.

Eric said...

Here is some more insightful reading:

Republicans have been making gains in these swing states, as Democrats have been diminishing in numbers. There is also a growing number of Independents, but we can assume most of those are dispossessed Democrats. The least enthused voters in these swing states are the ones who voted for Obama last time and have been hit hardest by the economy since then.

And what is Obama's campaign manager's response to these numbers? "It's not what we're seeing on the ground."

Sounds like denial to me.

Huck said...

Bush, who was considerably more popular at the time than Obama is right now

Eric - We do have to take the context into account here. And when you do that, what is striking is the degree of popularity of Obama in the midst of such a poor economic climate. Bush II had the advantage in 2004 of a pretty vibrant economy and the remnants still of a wartime patriotism. So, perhaps the comparison with Bush II is not the best one. Maybe a better one would be with Bush I than with Bush II. Similar situation: Bush I was up for re-election for a second term in a period of economic slowdown that was considerably much milder than the one that has plagued the entire Obama administration. And Obama fares consistently better in terms of public approval than Bush II.

In fact, Obama's approval ratings have been pretty steady in the low-to-mid 40% range, even at this point in his Presidency, compared to Bush I's approval ratings towards the end of his second term with the US economy in the toilet.

Check out this website for good comparisons between Presidential approval ratings:

It is amazing that in this economy Obama's approval ratings are where they are. In my mind, that bodes ill for the GOP because it shows a core support for Obama even under the direst of circumstances that no other President could claim.

I am counting the GOP out because the GOP simply seems incapable of mounting a credible candidate to win what should be a decisive victory.

Eric said...

Couldn't get your link to work.

I'm not sure I agree that the 1994 election is a good comparison, but I'll agree with you that the circumstances are different (as they are in every election). Still, Obama is an unpopular president who isn't likely to pick up any new states from 2008 and could easily lose Florida and North Carolina to Newt or Romney, which will make it a close race.

Eric said...


Here is an interesting site to play around on and get a good perspective of the electoral picture in 2012:

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