Team Romney goes into tonight’s Republican primary debate with a ridiculously insurmountable double digit lead in the polls. So Team Anti-Romney has one last chance to knock Romney from the thrown before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
Actually there are two chances since there is also a debate Sunday morning, but the timing is such that it’s really one debate split into two parts, presumably to capture both the asocial people with no Saturday night dates and those who don’t go to church on Sunday morning, so we can think of it as a last chance for the Anti-Romney forces to get noticed.
So watch tonight for whether anyone remembers Reagan’s 11th commandment (thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans). Forget that Reagan and everyone else broke that commandment, and a few others, so many times that it became nothing but a meaningless platitude. In any case, more than likely it will be all hands on Romney. After all, the only way anyone stays in the race is to knock Romney down a peg or two or maybe three so that they have a chance for a comeback. You can betcha the Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, Paul and Huntsman camps have been digging sharpened bamboo-spiked tiger traps for Romney all week. I almost expect camouflage face paint (not so much for Paul, as he really wouldn’t carry that look off too well). So expect all the non-Romneys to go for the severe wounding (metaphorically speaking) in New Hampshire, then the (equally metaphorically speaking) kill in South Carolina.
The South Carolina whose Governor has backed Romney.
Anyway, it really doesn’t matter what they say tonight since no one is really listening and the words are political pomposity anyway. What matters is whether Romney comes out of the debates inspiring pundits to think “The Coronation of Napoleon” or “Le Mort de Marat.”
Depending on that result, the tea party will have to decide whether to prostrate themselves in utter hypocrisy to support the nominee, or actually stand for the principles they claim to have.
…the Ames straw poll…and the Republican debate!
Okay, first the debate. On Thursday the “major” Republican candidates will take the stage to not debate at all. The goal of the debate is not to debate but to bash President Obama. After all, this is the Republican party. Given the events of the last week I would expect each and every participant to spend his or her time blaming the tea party downgrade on President Obama…following the script laid out by the tea party lobby. A script so bizarre that it actually had one pundit blaming Obama for starting a recession in 2007 and the collapse of the economy in 2008…before he was even elected.
If there is anything of value to this debate it is in its potential to eliminate Tim Pawlenty from the race. Poor Timmy has been working hard for about three years to get noticed, only to be overshadowed by the sudden candidacy of his fellow Minnesotan, Michele Bachmann. Bachmann is actually expected to win the straw poll (more on that in a second), which would be a kick in the knees to Timmy. But even she might be kicked to the curb if she doesn’t totally blow the field out of the water (er, drought). Since Texas Governor Perry is supposedly ready to jump into the race (or not), Bachmann may be related to the same bin as Tim who.
Oh, Romney will pretty much ignore everyone else and just bash Obama.
One more thing about Pawlenty. He’s put himself between a very large rock and a very hard place with his wimpish retreat in the last debate from his pre-debate puffery. So if Pawlenty decides to ignore the Obama-bashing script and instead takes a few direct shots to the faces of Romney and Bachmann (figuratively, not literally), then the debate could make him a star. Or a goat. If he again wimps out of his “safe behind the Fox desk” criticisms of fellow candidates, then he’s a goner anyway. Frankly, Pawlenty is in a lose-lose situation of his own making.
There are some other people at this debate, but they pretty much don’t matter so I won’t bother going into them. It’s too early to bow out so I’ll have at least one more chance for most of them.
Well, this little diddy went a lot longer than expected (it’s Obama’s fault), so I’ll pick up on the straw poll in the next post.
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.
Tonight is the first (real) Republican debate for the 2012 candidates for the GOP nomination. [There was a previous debate, but given that no one with a chance showed up it doesn’t really count] In any case, tonight New Hampshire will host the first of what could be many Republican debates. And all the big names are there:
– Mitt Romney: Barring a Gingrich-esque meltdown, Romney will win the New Hampshire primary in early 2012. His job tonight is to look and sound like the adult in the room, which really shouldn’t be too much trouble given the rest of the field.
– Tim Pawlenty: Probably the second most adult person in the room, though no one seems to be noticing. Perhaps because he’s trying too hard to be the conservative alternative to Romney, thus eliminating any chance he’ll have of getting moderates. Which is ironic.
– Newt Gingrich: He should make the debate interesting. I actually hope he manages to un-implode his campaign long enough to contribute his flowery rhetoric (which is often contradictory, but always pretty).
– Michele Bachmann: Though technically she hasn’t announced that she is running (ssshhhh, it’s a secret), she should be good for some entertainment. Likely she will say something that will make the lead sound bite on tomorrow’s news. In fact, she’ll probably plan on it. [PGH will explain shortly why Bachmann may very well win the Iowa straw poll in August]
– Rick Santorum: Likely he will work hard to violate the Reagan 11th commandment just to get attention.
– Ron Paul: See “Rand Paul,” only older. Paul has a following and usually says something interesting, if not viable.
– Herman Cain: The former Godfather’s pizza magnate “won” the earlier non-debate, which is both a credit to him and a discredit to the other participants. It will be interesting to see if debate moderator John King will ask Cain to elaborate on his recent anti-Muslim bigotry. That should be fun.
Not participating in person but likely on the mind of several of the participants (especially Mitt Romney) is Jon Huntsman. Huntsman hasn’t formally announced his candidacy yet but unlike Bachmann, who just wants to be seen and heard, Huntsman has chosen not to play his hand until he has to. Huntsman could give Romney a run for his money in the adult department. Ironically, both Romney and Huntsman face the same hurdles to get the Republican nomination – they are both Mormon, both have perfect hair, both are positively associated with the Obama administration, and both appeal to the same type of campaign funders. They could conceivably cancel each other out.
So with the tea party actively working against their most likely nominees, the Republican party has to a choice to make. Do they go more mainstream, or shift so far out to the right wing that they ensure that Obama wins in a landslide next year?
PGH will do a postmortem after the debate.