Another debate has come and gone with corresponding poll numbers sure to follow. Let's jump in. Mitt Romney is seeing his presidential nomination slip away to Newt Gingrich while conservatives are getting a last ditch effort by Perry and Bachmann to not kiss the next five years away to Barack Obama.
At this rate, Newt could be right -- the race could come down to "Newt" vs. the "anti-Newt."
All three conservatives on stage (Governor Perry, Representative Bachmann and Senator Santorum) had great nights. But Perry is the guy who has hit his stride, is our voice, possesses the war chest and has built the infrastructure to bring home the W. Let's jump in.
Last night Romney failed to stop the hemorrhaging from his formerly inevitable nomination. Mitt Romney isn't as strong of a debater when he is facing worthy opponents. With both Newt and Perry on their game -- Mitt ran into some trouble. Governor Perry asked Mitt why he suggested an individual mandate might be the best healthcare option for other states to adopt in his book, No Apologies. Mr. Romney strangely replied by proposing a $10,000 bet to Governor Perry that the book was being misquoted. Romney was being slightly misquoted, but the principal is true. Romney suggested that a mandate was right for other states and then slyly took it out of the later version of his book. Perry nailed Romney on it. Romney's solution to problems is allowing the free hand of the market to provide healthcare options, but that free hand must also be holding a government stick so that Uncle Sam may threaten to punish citizens if they don't buy into his "free market" mandate.
The most frightening portion of the exchange occurred when Romney asked Perry to bet him $10,000.00. Seriously? Mr. Romney: do you have that much money to throw around or is this simply a sign of how irresponsible you are with money? Come on. Romney flippantly joked about an amount of money that may not be much to him but that is the equivalent of three months salary to the voters he is talking to. We can't blame him, Romney is a country club republican who cannot possibly comprehend what it is like to not have money. He has never not been apart of a family that didn't have a million dollars in the bank. That is fine, but we have an election coming up and he isn't inspiring hope that he "feels our pain." President Obama was paying off school loans as recently as 2004. With a populist sentiment sweeping the nation, how does Romney expect to beat Obama with that kind of talk? Romney is supposed to be the disciplined candidate, yet every time he is challenged he shoots off his mouth irresponsibly.
Mitt also looked weak when indicating that he would call Benjamin Netanyahu to ask what he needed to say. If you are POTUS, you don't need to ask anyone anything before conducting an interview. Here is what Mitt should have said, "Newt made a true statement that was irresponsible." That is it. But Mitt has never been a guy to make political decisions based on his conservative instinct of right-vs-wrong. Mitt is a guy that relies on focus groups and consultants to form his opinions so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he won't talk openly about the Israel-Palestine problem.
All in all, Romney was less disciplined than Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann combined last night. Raise the campaign alert level to Red, because Mitt is in danger.
Newt Gingrich survived last night's debate, he can't really be praised much beyond that. No one knocked him out of his frontrunner status, but Newt has a number of unfavorable views and character flaws that he is going to have to run from to win this Caucus with social conservatives on January 3.
Newt lied about his support for government mandates last night. He tried to argue that the idea of a mandate was only an answer to Hillarycare in 1994. The truth is that the threat of Hillarycare subsided in the mid-90's. Yet Newt spent the next decade advocating a mandate. Now he wants Iowans to believe differently.
But in a June 2007 op-ed in the Des Moines Register, Mr. Gingrich wrote, "Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance, particularly when they can afford it, and expect others to pay for their care when they need it." An "individual mandate," he added, should be applied "when the larger health-care system has been fundamentally changed." This wasn't in response to Hillary, this was Newt all the way pushing big government mandates. There are a half dozen quotes from Newt supporting a mandate since Romney signed Romneycare in Massachusetts.
Last night, Newt implored Iowans to understand that at one point a mandate was what was necessary to defend against Hillarycare. That is the problem.
Conservatism can't be defined by Hillary Clinton. It is proactive not reactionary. If Newt was the ideas guy he claims to be, he would've been proactive in finding ways to lower healthcare costs. As it happened, Newt followed. Newt took action reactively at first, in response to the Clintons and then spent the last decade advocating a government mandate, proactively. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding on what it means to be a conservative.
Boiled down, modern conservatism stands for the inherent good of decreased government power and increased personal liberty. Newt Gingrich cannot tell us what was so difficult to understand about this concept. Will there be future problems that a President Gingrich might think only increased government can solve?
On the merits, Newt failed last night. But no one landed a blow on him and thus he lives to fight another day.
Michele Bachmann came out surprisingly strong and fiery, but we already knew she was passionate, what we didn't know and still don't know, is whether she is ready to lead. Last night, Bachmann failed to demonstrate that she could pass anything. We know she can repeal the last three years, but she can move the ball forward on offense? We know Bachmann is a hero to the tea party but can she work with Democrats on anything. There is no one I would trust in their first 100 days of office more than a President Bachmann. No conservative can doubt she would overturn Dodd/Frank, Obamacare, EPA regs, etc. But what happens after that? We raise taxes nominally on poor people under the Bachmann tax plan? What for? We implement the "Win, Win, Win" plan? I don't even know what that is. Bachmann talked more about Herman Cain's stupid tax plan than she promoted her own.
If Representative Bachmann, can serve a successful term as Governor or Senator of Minnesota first, she should be our nominee, but where is her ability to appeal to independents, or work with Democrats? She is certainly more disciplined than ever, Bachmann has proven that she should be in an important leadership role in the House, but unfortunately, she hasn't proven that she is the able to win this nomination. Her tax plan is uninspiring and no one even knows what Win, win, win even means.
Rick Perry walks away with the biggest gains last night. He is on the rise in Iowa while barnstorming the state and spending like crazy. A 6 or 7 point boost will create the momentum he needs. Last night could give him a couple of points. Most of the debate, Perry wasn't talking to the country, he was talking to Iowans. The Governor of Texas reminded Iowa Christians that he was the family man of one wife in the race that has also been consistently conservative. The Governor also gave credit to Representative Ron Paul for calling out the Federal Reserve for stealing wealth and creating and manipulating economic bubbles. Make no mistake, this was a call to soft supporters of Paul in Iowa, that there is someone that hears them. For the first time, some Paul supporters may be able to peel off and go to another candidate.
Perry took it to Romney over the Massachusetts healthcare mandate. He sounded strong and presidential. While Romney threw out the juvenile, "well you were for mandating that young girls get vaccinated," Perry didn't get sidetracked. He stayed on message. In the next 25 days, no one is going to care whether Perry signed off on an executive order he never should've signed on. He has apologized and it never went into effect. On the other hand, Massachusetts continues to bare the costs of Romneycare.
This may have been Romney's worst debate thus far and Gingrich did himself no favors either. If anything, Bachmann's comments on Newt-Romney will be remembered by Iowa voters.
The debate is now over, most of the country will have to seek out a cable news channel for republican presidential coverage. Not so for Iowans. Iowa is in the midst of being inundated with advertisements from the Perry and Paul machines showcasing Newt Gingrich's conservative heresy's over the years. If Gingrich can successfully play defense, he may eek it out long enough to win the primary before torpedoing the party in the General, but if we're fortunate the Perry comeback will continue and we can run the jobs Governor against the anti-jobs President.