I have a confession to make. I was really bored by Tuesday’s Republican debate. I know, its shocking. Somebody found a primary debate boring? Quel horreur! It is my job to comment on such things and I watched it eagerly, but as I was writing my traditional recap I realized that I just wasn’t that excited about what I had seen. It’s not that the candidates weren’t interesting or capable. Actually all of them seemed more prepared then they have been in the past. There were no major gaffes or senior moments. The topic of national security is certainly engaging enough as debates go, but still that wasn’t enough to raise my excitement level. Everyone did just fine.
Herman Cain is doing his homework, as always. It’s one of the things I really appreciate about him as a candidate. He is obviously weak on foreign policy and security issues. Of course he is; he’s a business man. He does not have the advantage of being privy to the tidbits of information and exchanges that result from working inside government. Cain has to develop his foreign policy and domestic security stances just like the rest of us – by studying and employing old-fashioned common sense. It puts him at a disadvantage, no doubt; but Cain has proven he is up to the challenge and he always seems to go into every debate knowing more than he did the last time. Cain is what it looks like when a regular, average Joe runs for President. Some people don’t like that, but I think its kind of neat.
This was the first debate that didn’t turn into the Mitt Romney show. In fact, Romney probably got less camera time on Tuesday night than he has in any debate so far this year. It was refreshing. That being said, he (predictably) made the best use of every second. He was confident and assured in his answers. Romney said nothing out of line or out of order or out of Romney. Even his hair was on board.
Maybe that is my problem with this debate. It was predictable. Everyone performed according to their character descriptions in the GOP Primary Field Handbook. Cain was weak but adequate in his depth of knowledge on the subject. Ron Paul gave his typical RonPaul-y answers about minding our own business as a nation and if we would just be nice to the terrorists they would stop hating us and leave us alone in peace. Predictably there were more than a few Ron Paul fans in the audience. Santorum stayed true to form: feisty, with a touch of whine but bolstered by his strong conservative stance on social and security issues alike. Jon Huntsman was…there. His daughters graced CNN with an appearance on the debate pre-show. They were way more interesting than their father and they seemed like lovely young ladies. I didn’t care for their lipstick, though. The shade of red made me suspicious. Rick Perry was just fine, but I always feel like I’m holding my breath when he speaks. He seems like a nice man and I hate to see him struggle up there, which he does all too often. But Tuesday he was fine.
Perhaps the only two people who really interested me in this debate were Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann. This was Newt’s first debate as a “front-runner” and it remained to be seen how his platform/performance would change in light of that. It didn’t really change at all which is a good thing, I suppose. Newt was simply Newt, the smartest (if not crankiest) guy in the room. Newt knows his stuff…and Newt does not like gotcha questions. For the most part I believe Wolf Blitzer behaved accordingly.
If anyone “won” that debate it was Michele Bachmann. Bachmann has a seat on the House Intelligence Committee and she is obviously privy to some very sensitive information. She knows what she is talking about and when Bachmann speaks on foreign policy, security and Obamacare she sounds more competent than any of her compatriots on the stage. In fact, it infuriates me to hear people refer to her as an idot, a la Sarah Palin. I don’t know how you can listen to her speak of the nuances of foreign aid and intelligence and conclude that she is dumb. You may not care for her social stances or her tea party label, but the woman is wickedly smart and deserves respect for that. I really feel we need a woman like Bachmann in the House for as long as possible, but if she were our President, I have no doubt she would fight for this country every day she was in office.
In the end, the predictability was my problem. No one came out with anything new or different. Everyone pretty much held the line on the stances they have developed throughout this process. There were no surprises; besides a couple of small differences on withdrawing troops and securing the border the candidates pretty much in line with each other and the Republican outlook on such issues. Except Ron Paul, of course…but there’s an “except Ron Paul” implied in every line I write about these debates. I know, ultimately it is a good thing that there were no fireworks. Its important for the people to see the candidates lay out their positions logically as much as possible. Its good that they were predictable because it helps us feel confident about how they will behave in the general elections. But it makes for boring television sometimes. I admit, debate fatigue is setting in. There are at least four more debates to go. I think I’m going to need a bigger box of wine.