Last evening, eight G.O.P. presidential hopefuls took part in the Republican primary debate in Ames Iowa, just ahead of the crucial-for-some Iowa poll. This debate was a decided contrast to the previous one in that the questions asked by the moderators were tough and the candidate tried to better differentiate themselves from their opponents, sometimes by verbally attacking each other. That said, following is my own interpretation and opinions on who I thought were the winners, who were the losers, and how I currently would rank them in my own order of preference for president.
#2 Rick Santorum – Santorum impressed me last night. I have always admired him, particularly his strong pro-life stance, but last night he came across as more energetic and charismatic than the typical vanilla personality he has displayed in the past. Santorum is right on all of the issues, particularly regarding his strong view of supporting states rights while still acknowledging that there are definitely core principles that should be enforced on a federal level for all states. Rick doesn’t have a chance at winning the nomination, as even he admitted that he typically gets scant media coverage, however his performance last night rooted in principle makes him sky-rocket to 2nd place on my list. He would make a good V.P. nomination, especially coming from the crucial swing-state of Pennsylvania.
#3 Herman Cain – Mr. Cain brings something to the debate that has been sorely lacking in the past. He is a non-politician. He is a no-nonsense businessman with a record of success. He rightly points out, especially with economic matters, that we cannot fix the problem until we have identified and are working on the right danged problem. I also am impressed with the fact that he is not afraid to rely on experts that know more than he does on subjects, particularly the generals when it comes to fighting in the Middle East. Instead of BS’ing his way through some answer to make one believe he is a subject matter expert, he tells the truth. That is refreshing and typically very un-politician like. I think we could do far worse in fixing our economic ills than to elect this savvy straight talking businessman to the White House.
#4 Newt Gingrich – When it comes to issues, over-all knowledge, and proper historical context, nobody surpasses Gingrich. His answers impressed me most and proved that he has the specific ideas and fire in the belly to be an excellent president. He stated in the post-debate interview that the House should return to work on Monday and repeal the Dodd-Frank Bill that day, repeal Sarbanes-Oxley on Tuesday, and remove restrictions on energy exploration on Wednesday and then ask the Senate if they are going to remain on vacation until November or come back to work and fix the economy now. Newt would be my first choice for president and would do an excellent job except for one major thing. His personal life and political baggage are a mess and make him unelectable. His poor choices and seeming lack of integrity in his personal life make him a non-starter. Too bad, because things would get done and for the better, if only Gingrich would live by the values he espoused. Nevertheless, Gingrich was the winner of the debate last night.
#5 Mitt Romney – I know it is conventional wisdom that the nomination for president is Mitt’s to lose. I am not a fan of conventional wisdom in this case. I thought Romney did a good job in the debate, looked, sounded, and acted very presidential and for the most part had good answers. Unfortunately, I do not trust him. Romney would even embarrass John Kerry in the flip flopping department, and on core principles (abortion and government health care for instance). This makes Romney look like a slick used-car salesman that will say anything to get the sale. A lot of conservatives aren’t buying his line. Unfortunately, a lot of the establishment is and that is likely why he will end up being our nominee. If Romney holds fast to his latest version of his truth, then things will likely work out fine for our country. If he goes searching for approval in the polls and doing what is politically expedient, then we are hosed with a Romney presidency.
#6 Tim Pawlenty – I was never very fond of Pawlenty right from the start. He strikes me as the consummate smarmy politician. His attacks on Michele Bachmann in the debate last night only solidified my opinion. He criticized Bachmann for not getting results despite her being at the forefront of every major political fight. While Pawlenty is right about her lack of results, his implied solution is that she needs to learn to compromise. Now compromise can be okay if it advances one’s important agenda without sacrificing one’s core values; however, political compromise simply to get “results” of some legislation passed in which to show that you have done “something” is exactly how we end up with horrible legislation like the recent debt-ceiling bill. Pawlenty is more about having something tangible to point towards, rather than standing on certain core principles. Pawlenty didn’t help his cause last night and is hopefully done accordingly.
#7 Jon Huntsman – Huntsman is the former governor of my current home state of Utah. While he did some good things economically for Utah and did create jobs here, he is a big-government Republican of the worst type. His support for TARP and for cap & trade are examples of this. I don’t have a problem with his having served in the Obama administration as ambassador to China. I do have a problem with the fact that he seems to think like Obama in that the answer to all of our problems can usually be taken care of with a government program. Huntsman also did little to help his cause in the debate last night and hopefully can return to relative national obscurity soon. Besides, he sounded as if he was going to cry last night as he repeatedly said how he was “proud to stand on his record”.
#8 Ron Paul – First, I was surprised at the vocal support that Paul received from the crowd last night, and indeed he is doing well in the Iowa polls. Paul is a walking contradiction to me though. He understands the economy and the systemic changes needed to fix it probably better than anybody else. The problem is that his foreign policy is horrible and dangerous. He “understands” why Iran wants nuclear weapons and evidently doesn’t think it is a big deal, despite the fact that their President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly said that he wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. I understand and can appreciate not wanting to get involved in foreign entanglements, but Paul’s call to neo-isolationism in this world of jihadists today is foolish and dangerous to America, not to mention an existential threat to the very existence of our only stable democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel.
Well, there you have it. T. Paine’s analysis of where the candidates stand for the Republican nomination in my own personal opinion. I doubt seriously that this will fall in line with the media’s rankings or thoughts on who won the debate last night, and frankly I could care less. I did come away last night feeling better about some of the top candidates in the field though. I think any of my top four would do a good job as president.
I am irritated that Rick Perry, who is going to run now, decided he didn’t need to jump in the race in time to partake in last night’s debate. Perhaps that is a smart move politically, but it cost him points in my book. It will be interesting to see who is left standing after the group gets whittled down in the next month or two. Hopefully this isn’t merely an exercise of going through the motions because Romney has already been pre-determined to be the nominee. We do not need another moderate politician. We tried that with Dole, Bush, and McCain. None of them were successful overall. The left managed to nominate and get elected the most liberal senator in the nation to the White House. After his incompetence and aloofness towards the handling of vital issues, I think a true conservative candidate is what is needed to repair the mess created by the man-child-in-chief accordingly.