Republicans Come Together to Debate Obama, Talk About Their Kids, Ignore Each Other
Okay, they did talk about other stuff too, but it did seem odd that how many children you have would be used as a qualifier for the nomination of Republican party candidate for president. But unlike the bizarre “Coke vs Pepsi” questions of moderator John King, this one seemed to set the tone for the debate.
In short, the debate (insert air quotes around that word) was about trying to say the right things to get the tea party vote. It was an exercise in attacking the sitting President without even seeming to be aware of the differing opinions of the seven Republicans standing on stage. And the result was as expected – Romney came off looking presidential, Santorum and Paul came off looking irrelevant, Cain came off looking like a backtracking anti-Muslim bigot, and Pawlenty came of looking like a guy who couldn’t figure out how to change his recent attacks against fellow Republicans into somehow being all about Obama.
Which left Michele Bachmann. As already noted in the last two posts, PGH thinks that Bachmann will win the August straw poll in Iowa, and barring any major faux pas, will likely take either #1 or #2 in the caucuses in early 2012. Last night she demonstrated that she knows how to play the media better than Palin while coming off smarter and less incoherent. I know that isn’t a high bar and Bachmann has straddled it before in the past, but last night she managed to be extreme without sounding too crazy. Perfect for the tea party crowd, which is probably licking its chops right now.
In any case Bachmann “pre-announced” her “official announcement” that she was running for president. No shocker there, but the fact that she chose the debate to do it shows her ability to manipulate the media with the best of them. And as PGH accurately predicted yesterday, she also rattled off quite a few sound bites that were red meat to her base – the most extreme tea partiers. Ever happy to toss out meaningless platitudes like “job killing EPA” (which distracts from the fact that EPA was started by a Republican president to help clean up the mess industry had made of our air [visible] and water [on fire]), she went straight to the far right end of the tea party spectrum. And they love it.
Bottom line – Bachmann showed she can do well in the debates, which means she could siphon off the tea party votes from less extremist candidates, which means the potentially electable folks will have to shift even more to the right and say things that the Obama team will easily prove are false. This puts people like Romney, and likely Huntsman, in a position where they will be turning off the very people they need to get elected by pandering to the extremists in the primaries.
This could be an interesting election, from a pundit point of view.