Ponderings on the Debate

I watched the entire two hours of the Republican presidential debate last night. I’m not going to try to analyze the performance of everyone on the stage; I don’t want to write a book this morning, just a blog post. So here are the highlights—the things that stood out to me.

I want to like Rick Perry. I welcomed him to the race and hoped he would be “the man.” After last night, my estimation of him plunged. He was tentative, inarticulate most of the time, and stiff. The image that kept going through my mind was how Obama would wipe the floor with him in any general election debate. The only time he came across as articulate was when he was defending the indefensible—subsidizing college tuition for illegal immigrants. All I could think was, “Is this to be the Republican standard-bearer?” It was not a comforting thought.

In his back-and-forth dialogue with Romney, he clearly came out worse. That’s disturbing, simply because Romney is no one to count on as a consistent conservative with a message. What we need is someone who will challenge the status quo in areas such as the tax code and Social Security. Romney, as evidenced again last night, is Mr. Status Quo on issues like those. He is smooth and soothing, which would wear well in a general election, but if elected, then what? We would be no closer to making the kinds of changes that are essential for the future of the country. He would also pull the GOP more to the center, imitating the GOP of the 1950s and 1960s—half-Democrats.

Newt Gingrich, as always, shines in these formats, but my opinion of him as presidential candidate hasn’t altered. No chance. Michele Bachmann, I’m afraid, has reached her zenith and is now on a downward trajectory. She did nothing last night to change that trajectory.

The strongest voices for traditional Christian morality on the stage were Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. Yet Cain added something Santorum lacked, which was a specific plan for economic recovery. He also received the warmest applause, not only from the audience but from his colleagues, when he spoke about how he would be dead now if Obamacare had been in place during his cancer treatments. He was inspiring and dead-on in his evaluation of what Obamacare will “accomplish.” What made it even more effective, of course, was the personal angle.

I make these comments before having read what other pundits thought about last night. I will ponder their ponderings throughout the day. I will remain open to modifying my views, but what I have offered is a combination of first impressions and a lifetime of political analysis. Take it for whatever you think it’s worth.