Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Eighth Republican Primary Debate (NV)

There have now been eight Republican presidential primary debates. The latest was held October 18th in Las Vegas, Nevada. Like the fourth, fifth and seventh debates, the standard eight candidates were invited. Gary Johnson was not invited, and interestingly, Jon Huntsman was invited but declined to participate. The full video is available on YouTube.

Before watching this debate, I had a fairly positive view of Herman Cain, and basically neutral views of the Ricks, Santorum and Perry. I had fairly negative views of Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney, and a very negative view of Ron Paul. I also do not mind one bit that Jon Huntsman skipped this debate, and doubly so for the reason he gave.

Just as I did in the other seven debates, I've summarized and responded to each candidate's positions below, and I've scored each position positive, zero or negative based on my gut reaction to it.  Since these "summaries" can get quite long, you may want to skip to the conclusion at the bottom.

Rick Santorum
  • He has seven children, and his three-year-old daughter had surgery the day of the debate. He tells her he loves her and will be home soon. Although I can be cynical about politicians, this doesn't at all come across as a play for sympathy. It actually comes across as kind of sweet. (+1)
  • He says 84% of Americans would pay higher taxes under 999. He says it should have a personal deduction and a child deduction. I agree it should have a personal deduction, but I've seen some analyses that say it does and others that say it doesn't, so I'm not sure what to believe about that. As for the child deduction, I don't think it's entirely appropriate for a politician with seven children to advocate lower taxes for parents, since that effectively means higher taxes on the rest of us. (0)
  • He repeats his claim from the previous debate that Europe has more income mobility than America does. It was only a half-truth then and it's only a half-truth now. He also continues his love affair with manufacturing. (-1)
  • "You just don't have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing Obamacare." (+1)
  • He interrupts Romney's defense of Romneycare to point out that Romney's story has changed. Santorum is right, but his interruptions use up Romney's time, and then Santorum says he's out of time. Santorum just comes across as petty in this exchange. (-1)
  • When it's his turn to speak, he says Romneycare has "blown a hole" in Massachusetts' budget by expanding insurance without controlling costs, and Obamacare will do the same for the nation's budget. (+1)
  • "The basic building block of a society is not an individual. It's the family." (-1)
  • How would he solve the ongoing problems in the housing market? First, he'd rather beat up Romney, Perry and Cain for supporting TARP, to which Perry says, "Wrong," and Cain says, "Not all of it." He complains that people's houses have gone down in value and that "we need to let the market work." He doesn't seem to get the irony that when a bubble bursts, prices will go down, and that the only way to prevent prices from going down is to not let the market work. (-1)
  • Should voters pay attention to a candidate's religion? "They should pay attention to the candidate's values." Religion can shape those values, and he says it's legitimate to pay attention to how a candidate's religion would affect the decisions they make in office, but which religion is the right one is not a legitimate topic for a campaign. (+1)
  • He would not negotiate with terrorists, and he would "absolutely not cut one penny out of military spending." (-1)
  • On negotiating with terrorists for hostages, Ron Paul asks if everyone on the stage would condemn Reagan for negotiating with Iran. Santorum rightly points out that Iran was (and is) a sovereign nation, and we negotiated with them just like we did with the Soviet Union. (+1)
  • According to a recent Pew poll, less than 50% of Americans can name even one Republican primary candidate. That's just sad. He says he can beat Obama because he can bring in the Pennsylvania vote, neglecting to mention his 41-59% loss to a Democrat in 2006, which is the reason he's now "former Senator Santorum." (-1)

Ron Paul
  • He is the "champion of liberty" and the only candidate who has offered a balanced budget. (+1)
  • He says 999 is "dangerous" because it raises revenues and is regressive. Which is an interesting criticism because in the seventh debate Cain got flak for 999 lowering revenues. He also likes that a lot of people aren't paying taxes now, and he would eliminate the income tax and replace it with nothing. (-1)
  • Is there any part of Obamacare that he would keep? No, because it just creates more government when we need less. He rambles for a bit, but for the most part makes a good point. (+1)
  • How would we attract the Latino vote? He doesn't want a border fence, but he thinks it's a mistake to put people in groups. "We need to see everybody as an individual." He also thinks there's a lot of discrimination against minorities in the courts. (0)
  • "Rights don't come in bunches... Each individual has a right to life and liberty." And then he starts talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan and how we need to put the military on the Mexican border. I swear, if Ron Paul's answers were all truncated to ten seconds or less, it'd be a lot easier to support the man. (0)
  • Yucca Mountain is a states' rights issue, and the other 49 states don't have the right to put their nuclear waste in Nevada. (0)
  • When Cain says OWS should protest the White House instead of Wall Street, Paul says he'd protest the White House, Wall Street and the Federal Reserve. He says Cain "has blamed the victims" and launches into a rant that could've come from a pure-blooded Occupier. (-1)
  • He criticizes Cain for saying TARP was okay, just mismanaged, and says "you shouldn't put that much trust in the government." Then he complains that nobody in the government, in Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, has gone to jail for the bubble or recession, and that's why OWS is protesting Wall Street. Wait, what? (0)
  • He wants to cut defense spending by 15%, and he says national security "would be enhanced," because a lot of our defense spending doesn't actually help with our defense. Once again, cut him off after the first ten seconds or so and I'd support him. But then he starts talking about the "worldwide" debt bubble, the man in the moon (seriously), and how the United States is an empire and we're gonna collapse just like the Soviet Union. (-1)
  • "We have enough weapons to blow up the world 20, 25 times." Really? I wonder exactly how much weaponry is required to "blow up the world" once. Still, he makes a good point that we need to cut defense spending too. He even gets Santorum to nod in agreement, although I'm not sure Santorum knows what he's nodding about. (0)
  • Foreign aid is unconstitutional, including aid to Israel. (-1)
  • On negotiating with terrorists for hostages, he asks if everyone on the stage would condemn Reagan for negotiating with Iran. Santorum rightly points out that Iran was (and is) a sovereign nation, and we negotiated with them just like we did with the Soviet Union. (-1 to Paul)

Herman Cain
  • He is a businessman, and has been for 42 years. He's also been married for 43 years, and he "solves problems for a living." (+1)
  • He wants critics of 999 to "read our analysis" on his website. He says 999 is a jobs plan, is revenue neutral and does not raise taxes on the poor. The current tax code is "a ten-million-word mess" and 999 is "simple and fair." (+1) 
  • He says 999 is not a VAT. He also alludes to "opportunity zones" but doesn't say what those are. (0)
  • Talking about state sales taxes and 999 is comparing apples to oranges, although he's not clear about what he means by that. He also says 999 replaces five invisible taxes with one visible tax. (+1)
  • None of the other candidates understand 999, and he says it's not a VAT, but he doesn't say why. He repeats the claim that 999 replaces hidden taxes with a single visible tax. (0)
  • Romney gets him to repeat "apples and oranges" four times in about 30 seconds. He says people will pay the state sales tax "no matter what." Cain is not always the best at explaining what he actually means. He's right on this, that the state sales taxes are set by the states, independently from the federal government, so whatever the state rates are, they'll stay the same under the current tax code, under 999 or under any other federal tax reform. But he struggles to say it directly. He keeps repeating his "apples and oranges" metaphor and leaves it to the viewer to connect the dots. (0)
  • Is there any part of Obamacare that he would keep? No, and he would replace it with something like HR 3400, which he says allows association health plans, loser-pays laws and for insurance to be sold across state lines. I think association health plans and tort reform won't have very significant effects, but allowing insurance to be sold across state lines would be a very good thing. (+1)
  • "We should secure the border for real," which he believes includes building a fence, using technology and having "boots on the ground." He doesn't say whether the fence would cover the entire Mexican border. He also repeats his other three points from his old four-point plan on immigration: promote the existing path to citizenship, enforce existing immigration laws, and give more power to the states. (-1)
  • Does he support birthright citizenship? He doesn't want to answer that question, he'd rather answer Newt's question, and give basically the same answer as Newt. (-1)
  • He repeats what he said in the last debate that he supported "the concept of TARP" but not the implementation. I would still like to know what on earth that means. (-1)
  • He stands by his "blame yourself" statement on OWS, and gets some of the loudest and longest applause of the night. He says OWS should be protesting the White House, not Wall Street. (+1)
  • He asks what the OWS protesters want from Wall Street, "to come downstairs and write them a check?" We need to get to "the source of the problem," which is the White House. (+1)
  • Would he trade everyone in Guantanamo Bay to release an American held hostage by al Qaida? He says he wouldn't negotiate with terrorists, but he doesn't criticize Netanyahu for making a similar trade. He also says he'd have to consider all the details of that particular case, which makes it sound like he would negotiate with terrorists. Anderson Cooper tries to press him on that and Cain tries to draw a distinction between negotiating with terrorists in general vs not negotiating with terrorists who are part of al Qaida. Open mouth, insert foot. (-1)
  • He believes in "peace through strength and clarity." He wants to clarify who our friends and enemies are, then stop giving foreign aid to our enemies. (+1)
  • He says Romney's career has been "very distinguished," but that Romney has "Wall Street" business experience, while he has "Main Street" business experience. (0)

Mitt Romney
  • He was a businessman for 25 years. His use of the past tense compared to Cain's use of the present tense is interesting. He also "had the fun of" being the governor of Massachusetts and running the Salt Lake City Olympics. (0)
  • He basically makes the same point as Perry about 999 and sales taxes, but he does it by questioning Cain directly. He actually gets Cain a little flustered, which makes Mitt look good. (+1)
  • He wants to cut taxes on employers and the middle class, which is good. He also manages to use the word "chutzpah," which should happen more in debates. But then he says he wants "to get trade, opening up new markets for America," which sounds like a mercantilist sentiment (free trade has to go both ways). And he tops it off by saying he wants "to get our energy resources-- and they're all over the world, all over this country, used for us." Ignoring that our energy resources are "all over the world," if our energy resources are now being used for others, how is that not opening up new markets for America? Is he for trade or against it? (-1)
  • Perry is "absolutely right" on energy. "We're an energy-rich nation that's acting like an energy-poor nation." But he says the American economy is broader than energy, and our economic policy has to reflect that. (+1)
  • Pressed by Santorum, he says in the last campaign, he believed Romneycare was good for Massachusetts but wrong for the nation. He then gets into a spat with Santorum, where Santorum says he's changing the facts, and removed from his book the claim that Romneycare would be good for the whole country. Unfortunately for Romney, Santorum is right. (-1)
  • Massachusites like Romneycare (which he calls "my plan") by a 3-1 margin. Then he tries to paint it as the conservative alternative by saying, "a lot of people were expecting government to pay their way. And we said, you know what? If people have the capacity to care for themselves and pay their own way, they should." If this is what he really believes, then why does he claim to be against Obamacare? (-2)
  • He got the idea for the individual mandate from Newt Gingrich. When Newt says that's wrong, he broadens the claim to Newt "and the Heritage Foundation," which Newt accepts, as though that's any better. (0)
  • Perry says that Romney hired illegal immigrants, and the two of them get into a match of who can talk over the other the most. As soon as Romney gets to speak, he hammers Perry for his record on illegal immigration in Texas. He gets pretty flustered while they're talking over each other, but as soon as he gets his time, he simply rips Perry to shreds. (+1)  
  • When Perry says Romney had illegals working on his property, Romney counters that he hired a company that had hired illegal immigrants; when he found out about the illegals, he told the company, "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals." He's right to point out that an individual homeowner who hires a contractor should not be held responsible for knowing the immigration status of everyone that contractor hires. But the line, "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake," plays perfectly into the image of Romney as someone who lets his campaign determine his positions, not the other way around. (-1)
  • "I think every single person here loves legal immigration." He wants a fence and he wants to turn off the "magnets" like employers that hire illegals and states that give tuition breaks to illegals. And in case it wasn't clear that his last point was a swipe at Perry, he says Texas' illegal immigration is up 60% while California and Florida have seen no increase. (0)
  • He's against Yucca Mountain, and somehow thinks it's a "free market" solution to tax electricity use in the other 49 states to create a transfer to the one state that builds a nuclear waste facility. (-1)
  • He doesn't address Santorum's criticism that he supported TARP, but does say he wants to "let markets work" and not prevent foreclosures. (+1)
  • Asked about OWS, he dodges the question, but has a pretty good answer bashing Obama, saying he's "out there campaigning. Why isn't he governing?" (+1)
  • Jeffress' specific comments about Mormonism don't bother him because he's "heard worse," but what did bother him was Jeffress' idea that we should elect people on the basis of what their religion is or where they go to church. He's right; that idea is just a form of identity politics no different than that practiced by the Democrats. (+1)
  • Defense spending somehow counts as foreign aid, which means the foreign aid budget should go to the Department of Defense. If his premise is right though, shouldn't that be the other way around? Then he says China should pay for our foreign aid, despite the fact that China remains in the bottom half of countries by per capita income. Looking at per capita income, this would quite literally be a case of someone earning $1,000 a week saying he doesn't want to pay for something, so the guy who earns $150 a week should have to pay for it instead. Now it's entirely appropriate to question whether we should be funding government-to-government foreign aid in the first place, but to say that China should be paying our foreign aid instead is just wacky. (-1 for being confusing and wacky, and another -1 for playing up anti-China fears)
  • He would cut discretionary spending back to its 2008 level (which is great, although the real spending increases of the past couple years have been in mandatory spending as I understand it), cut federal employment by 10% through attrition (meaning it's only going to happen very slowly), link public sector compensation to private sector wages (which is a good idea but very difficult to do in practice-- what private sector job is equivalent to financial regulators? or military officers? or social workers?). He would also grow Medicaid at 1-2% per year (meaning probably lower than inflation, and definitely lower than population growth plus inflation), and he repeats his promise to repeal Obamacare. (0)
  • He can beat Obama because he has "spent his life in the private sector." That is his "distinguishing feature." Considering the introductions, if private sector experience will be the reason he beats Obama, wouldn't Cain be the better choice, with 17 years more private sector experience? (0)
  • He got Massachusetts down to 4.7% unemployment. He doesn't mention that when Massachusetts was at 4.7%, from October to December 2006, the national unemployment rate fluctuated between 4.4% and 4.5%. Although it did fall during his term, for the most part it was right in line with the national rate. (-1)
  • Romney says 40% of the jobs in Texas went to illegal immigrants, which Rick Perry says is not true. Politifact rated it half-true, given that it was the higher of two measures from the study, which itself has been heavily questioned on methodological grounds. (0)
  • He says that in the four years that he and Perry were both governors, Massachusett's unemployment rate was lower than Texas'. That's true for most of the four years, except for the last several months. Interestingly, Texas' unemployment rate first fell below Massachusett's in exactly the same period Mitt brags about for reaching 4.7%. In those months, Texas' rate falls from 4.7% to 4.5%. Where Romney saw a total 1.3% decline from peak to leaving office, Perry saw a 2.4% decline over the same period and a 2.6% decline from peak to trough. (0)
  • He says he's been a CEO four times-- for a startup financial company, a mainstream consulting firm, the Salt Lake City Olympics and the state of Massachusetts. I'm not sure how much the last two count as being a "CEO," and I don't think being CEO of a financial company and a consulting firm will go very far to convince people his experience isn't "Wall-Street-oriented" like Cain says. (0)

Rick Perry
  • He's "an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience," and he touts his record in Texas. (0)
  • New Hampshire doesn't have a sales tax, and they don't want a 9% national sales tax. Nevada already has an "eight-plus" percent sales tax, and they don't want another 9%. I think Cain is mostly right on this issue. (0)
  • The "9" we need to focus on is not 999 or Romney's 59-point plan, but the 9% unemployment we currently face. He says we have "300 years of resources right under our feet" but the Obama administration is preventing us from accessing it. By allowing energy exploration, he says we can create 1.2 million jobs and achieve energy independence. (+1)
  • Asked to address the high rate of uninsured children in Texas, Perry shifts to illegal immigration. He says the illegals are "coming here because there is a magnet. And the magnet is called jobs." Really? What happened to focusing on our 9% unemployment? (-1)
  • The governor who is for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants says it is "the height of hypocrisy" for Romney to have hired illegal immigrants, yet claim to be against illegal immigration. Total self-awareness fail. (-1)
  • When Romney says he never hired an illegal immigrant, Perry says he had illegals working on his property. This is very different from the truth, which is that Romney hired a company that had hired illegal immigrants; when Romney found out about the illegals, he told the company not to have them work on his property; when he found out that they were still sending illegals to his property, he fired the company. Perry could've made a much stronger case against Romney if he had just gotten the story right the first time. (-1)
  • Is it possible to build a fence across the entire Mexican border? "Sure," but it will take 10-15 years and $30 billion. It's great to hear someone bring up the cost of a border fence. But then he repeats his plan from previous debates to fly Predator drones over the border, and he says, "That is the way to shut that border down." (-1)
  • Building a border fence can be done, but it will a long time to do it, and there are better ways to secure the border. Perry says he's spent $400 million of Texas' tax money securing the border with Texas Rangers, and he doesn't want someone in Congress (Bachmann) telling him how to handle the border. (-1)
  • He agrees with Romney that people who hire illegals are "magnets," then turns to Romney and says, "You are number one on that list, sir." What I find most fascinating is that this actually gets boos from the audience. If this debate was Perry's last chance to regain his lost standing, he blew it. (0)
  • Does he support birthright citizenship? Like Cain, he doesn't want to answer that question. He'd rather talk about energy policy. (-1)
  • Pressed on the issue of birthright citizenship, he says he does not support repealing the 14th Amendment (the one that establishes birthright citizenship). (+1)
  • On Yucca Mountain, he agrees with Romney and Paul. He starts to say something good about France regarding nuclear power, then suddenly remembers that he's at a Republican debate, and mid-thought switches to talking about the Tenth Amendment. (-1)
  • Criticized by Santorum for writing a letter supporting TARP, he says the letter actually supported tax cuts and regulatory reform, not the bailout. Here's the actual letter; it's certainly vague enough that it could be taken either way. Of course, writing a letter to Congressional leaders that's so vague it can be taken to mean whatever you want it to mean is not exactly a positive for Perry. (0)
  • "I can no more remove my faith than I can that I'm the son of a tenant farmer." Apparently Perry has never heard of anyone who converted from one belief to another. Then he stumbles around awkwardly for awhile. (-1)
  • We need to have a "real debate" about foreign aid and a "real discussion" about defunding the UN. I don't think defunding it is necessary, but it absolutely needs reform. (0)
  • Under Romney, Massachusetts was 47th in job creation, and Texas created more jobs in the past two months than Massachusetts did in Romney's entire term as governor. (+1 for the first point, -1 for not taking population size into account in the second point)
  • When Mitt Romney says 40% of the jobs in Texas went to illegal immigrants, Perry says that's not true. Politifact rated it half-true, given that it was the higher of two measures from the study, which itself has been heavily questioned on methodological grounds. (0)

Newt Gingrich
  • He bashes Obama for not liking Vegas or something, and wants to "replace class warfare with cooperation." (0)
  • He actually compliments Cain for proposing "a specific, very big idea" and for getting the candidates to talk about "something that matters." He says 999 is more complicated when you look at it closer, although it's not clear whether that's a criticism or supporting the compliment that it's a "specific" big idea. He does criticize it by saying big ideas like 999 will take years to implement, and we need something that will work "very fast." (+1)
  • There's a difference between solving health care problems from the top-down vs from the bottom-up. He says it's not fair to call Romneycare the same as Obamacare, but fundamentally it is a top-down, "big government, bureaucratic, high-cost" reform. (+1)
  • Mitt says they got the idea for the individual mandate from Newt. Newt says that's not true, that they got it from the Heritage Foundation. Pressed by Romney, Newt admits that he did support the individual mandate as an alternative to Hillarycare, and accepts the statement that Mitt got the idea for the individual mandate from Newt "and the Heritage Foundation." (-2)
  • "Anybody who understands America has to be proud of our record as the country which has been the most open in history to legal immigration." He says most Latinos in the US were actually born in the US and are not immigrants, and they want the same things everyone else wants-- a job, health insurance, education and safety. (+1)
  • The Yucca Mountain issue "has to be looked at scientifically," and "Yucca Mountain certainly was picked by the scientific community as one of the safest places in the United States" for storing nuclear waste. I have to say, it takes some balls to support a Yucca Mountain storage facility in front of a Nevada crowd, especially one that has not hesitated to loudly boo other candidates. (+1)
  • Asked about the role of religion in politics, Gingrich says, "How can I trust you with power if you don't pray?" He clarifies that "Who you pray to, how you pray, how you come close to God is between you and God," which is really bizarre when it's approached on it's face. Newt would apparently rule out atheists, agnostics and apostates, but would be just fine with Satanists or believers in Apophis. This is just the same old it-doesn't-matter-what-you-believe-as-long-as-you-believe BS. (-2)
  • He compares the Supercommittee's mandatory cuts after failure as "we'll all have to shoot ourselves in the head," which is "stupid," and whatever compromise they reach to avoid that will be "really dumb," "semi-stupid," and "merely cut off our right leg." He also says cutting defense spending would be "suicidally stupid." Gee Newt, tell us how you really feel. He completely rejects the idea that "historically illiterate politicians who have no sophistication" should get to determine what the defense budget is, and he decries "the bankruptcy of the current elite in this country." While he's not entirely wrong, defense spending is one of the largest pieces of the federal budget, and we're not going to balance the budget without cutting defense somehow. But more to the point, listening to Newt give this answer, I just can't avoid the feeling that he's just bitter that he's not in what he calls "the current elite." I think he looks at people like Obama and his advisers, and Dubya and his advisers, and says, "I'm smarter than all of them. I should have their jobs." His problem isn't with the elite in general, it's with the "current elite," meaning the elite that doesn't include him. And even if I agree with some of the policy points he makes, I just can't support the man overall. (-2)
  • He goes to bat in defense of Reagan over Iran. Which is probably necessary for someone at a Republican debate to do just for appearance's sake, but nothing Gingrich says has any implication for current policies. (0)
  • He plugs his website and says he'd beat Obama by making him have Lincoln-Douglas-style debates and focusing on substance. (0)

Michele Bachmann
  • With Huntsman not in this debate, Bachmann is free to claim the title of lame joke frontrunner, which she does, saying that she hopes what happens in Vegas tonight doesn't stay in Vegas. (0)
  • Asked to criticize 999, she complies. She says the 9% sales tax could someday be raised to 90% by liberals, and that 999 contains a hidden VAT. These are two big arguments against 999, and she brings them out right away. (+1)
  • "Absolutely every American should pay something" in taxes, apparently walking back her point from the sixth debate that you should get to keep "every dollar that you earn." She wants to "completely abolish the tax code" and "flatten the tax," although it's not clear whether she wants an actual flat tax or simply a flatter tax. She also says we need to repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, and plugs her website. You can count on Bachmann to be 100% against whatever's in front of her, no matter what she's said in the past. (-1)
  • "Even the Obama administration chose to reject part of Obamacare" by getting rid of the CLASS Act. (+1)
  • She won't just build one fence, she'll build TWO fences along the entire Mexican border, with a no man's land "area of security neutrality" in between. Take that Rick "shut that border down" Perry! She also wants English to be the "official language of government." (-2)
  • Does she support birthright citizenship? Apparently not, because she thinks "anchor babies" are a magnet, and despite birthright citizenship being in the 14th Amendment, she thinks we can get rid of it "legislatively." (-1 for being against birthright citizenship and another -1 for being willing to trash the Constitution when it suits her)
  • Does the federal government have a role in preventing foreclosures? She talks about how she's a mom, and she doesn't want moms in America to lose their "nests." She doesn't come right out and say it, but it sounds like she does want the federal government to prevent foreclosures. (-1)
  • Asked whether she supports cutting defense spending, she has a long speech about how important foreign policy is and how no one respects the US anymore and how "the number one issue in the world" is Iran getting a nuke (which, she says, "makes all of us much danger" and no, that's not a typo). Asked again what that means for defense spending, she says sure, cutting defense "is on the table," but not by $500 billion. I get the impression she's trying to answer the question both ways, and she does not do well. This is also the answer that was trending on Twitter afterwards, where she said, "He put us in Libya, he is now putting us in Africa." (-2)
  • She wants to continue giving aid to Israel, but wants to be "reimbursed" by Iraq and Libya. Treaty of Versailles, anyone? (-1)
  • She says releasing "the prisoners at Guantanamo in exchange for a hostage" would be "na├»ve." (+1)
  • When Cooper announces that the debate is over, she calls out, "No no no no!" and then when she's given a chance to speak, says only "the cake is baked," Obama will be a one-term President, and she's the most different from him, but doesn't say why. That couldn't wait for the post-debate interviews? (-1)

Conclusion
Jon Huntsman's only option right now is to win New Hampshire, and he doesn't really stand a chance to do that either. He hopes to curry extra-special New Hampshirite favor by taking a stand against Nevada's primary schedule. Without going into specifics, I think that's stupid. The whole system where a handful of states vote before everybody else is stupid, and Huntsman is stupid for supporting it. (Sorry, maybe I've been watching too many Gingrich videos...)

Speaking of stupid, this "Western issues" debate was nothing of the sort. There was 999, health care, the Mexican border, OWS... There was discussion of home foreclosures which was justified as a Nevada issue, and of course Yucca Mountain. But I suppose in the primary system I disparaged in the previous paragraph, the only "Western issues" that matter are Nevada issues anyway.

Summing up the points, Bachmann is clearly at the bottom with -7, closely followed by Perry at -6. Paul and Romney tied at -3, with Gingrich slightly ahead at -2 and Santorum slightly further ahead at -1. Herman Cain easily took the lead with +3.

In this debate, I finally figured out Ron Paul, and why so many people support him. Research on this theory is pending, but I believe the Paulites simply have very short attention spans. If you take most of Paul's answers from tonight's debate and truncate them to ten seconds or so, he actually sounds like a really good candidate. It's always later in his answers when he starts to ramble and inevitably makes some ridiculous claim or three. If he refused to speak for more than 10-15 seconds at a time, he might have a shot at the nomination.

I have to give Newt Gingrich credit for supporting Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but Newt in this debate had some really awful moments. His statements on the individual mandate, on prayer and belief and on "the current elite" were all just too much. Bachmann similarly had several crazy statements that landed her on the bottom. It was especially bizarre to see someone who has so tightly wrapped themselves in the cloak of the Constitution be so willing to throw it out the window when it came to birthright citizenship. She actually said we could get rid of the 14th Amendment "legislatively." Rick Santorum, on the other hand, was pretty balanced. He had his share of hits and misses, but he didn't come across as angry in this debate as he has in others.

Mitt Romney got into a few spats this time that finally cracked that shell of his. He spent most of his time defending Romneycare and attacking the increasingly-irrelevant Rick Perry. Speaking of Perry, many pundits said this might be his last chance to regain his former supporters, but he spent the entire time flailing around in desperation. He managed to crack Romney's shell, but was then immediately shredded to bits by Romney's response.

Herman Cain obviously practices for these debates, and every debate has one or two phrases that he repeats multiple times, apparently from his practices. But he's not very good at improvisation. When his fellow candidates reject his practiced phrases, he doesn't expound on them or explain his point in different terms, he just repeats the phrase. As much as I usually like his policies, I'm not sure what this means.

(Here's some irony for you: It took a solid five minutes at least for me to remember the word improvisation. My brain was convinced I wanted immolation, which admittedly might have made for a more interesting sentence.)

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