Fox News hosted yet another GOP Primary debate on Thursday night and the entire field was there…well, besides Gary Johnson, but is he in “the field” these days, really? From the top the thing that interested me the most was that this debate seemed to be set up as the “are you conservative enough” debate. I liked that. I like to think the tea party has played a big role in making this election about conservatism more than any other in recent years.
Every question asked seemed to be tinged with the inquiry “Are you conservative enough?” It was obvious Gingrich and Romney were the two candidates under the most pressure to answer that question with authority. Gingrich spent a large amount of his time invoking Reagan and defending himself against the “lobbyist” label. Not surprisingly, Gingrich did his best to remind voters that he basically forced Clinton to sign welfare reform in the nineties…and also he is the smartest candidate ever in the history of Presidential primaries. In case you didn’t know. But in all seriousness, Newt is the smartest guy in the room and it always shows. Newt’s issue on Thursday wasn’t could he convince voters he’s smart, but could he convince voters he is a true conservative. The jury is still out on whether he did that or not, but now that he has attained “front-runner” status, Gingrich is seeing an increase in attacks on his conservative credentials. I think he maintained in this debate. He did not do anything to worry his supporters but I don’t think he made many new fans either. As with the debate last Saturday night, Americans will need to decide if they are satisfied with a Debater-in-Chief, or do they want more when it comes to a Gingrich candidacy.
Ron Paul started out very strong. As always, he is masterful in his understanding of domestic economics. It’s the spending, stupid! Ron Paul was on fire Thursday night until it came to the foreign policy segment. Then Ron Paul said something about warfare vs. welfare in Washington and how Iran would be totally willing to play nice if we weren’t so bossy and suddenly you could hear crickets chirping. Even Paulbots seemed slightly subdued by his answers. Perhaps they knew that even with so much support for his ideas behind him, Paul always manages to sound like a kook to the general audience when he starts talking foreign policy. I’m sure he lost no support at all. Paul supporters are nothing if not loyal (read rabid). However, with surging Iowa numbers in recent days, Thursday’s debate was a great opportunity for him to seize the lead. This performance was not his best, and will most likely not contribute to an Iowa lead. If anything, Paul proved that all Obama would have to do in a general election is bring up Iran and foreign policy and that would be the end of a viable Paul candidacy.
Santorum and Bachmann were definitely the most solid in terms of conservative principals on the debate stage. Santorum gets Iran. It’s a shame the MSM (and many on our side of the media spectrum as well) has labeled him as the “social conservative”. I believe that label keeps people from really hearing his valid and dire warnings about the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Rick Santorum gets Iran. Whether we vote for this man for President or not, that is something that more Americans need to be paying attention to.
Bachmann was also very solid. In her home state of Iowa she seemed comfortable, relaxed and she looked fantastic. Did you know that Bachmann is 55?! I’ll have what she’s having! Bachmann doesn’t garner much mainstream favor with her Midwest accent and her Evangelical brand of Christianity, but the woman knows her facts and she is smart. If voters are looking for a true conservative, she’s one to look at.
Even Perry did well Thursday, looking much more comfortable and even applying a little good natured self-deprecation. Perry has many other qualities to recommend him to the position of POTUS besides his debating skills. In our desperation to find a formidable debate opponent to Obama I hope we don’t overlook other important qualities for a good GOP candidate.
Should I mention Huntsman? Ok, fine. Jon Huntsman was there. He talked. He said stuff. He talked some more. I wish he would stop doing that.
As the debate season rolls on and Republican voters duke it out for their favorite candidates, the process becomes more and more frustrating. People are beginning to express election fatigue already, and are frankly nervous about selecting the right opponent to Obama. That’s understandable. I share those nerves. However, Thursday’s debate should be heartening to conservatives. Oh, the battle still rages, but when the underlying question of a national primary debate is “Who can prove they are the most conservative candidate?”, that is a win for conservatism in general.