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Tonight conservatives and Republicans across the country found themselves in unfamiliar territory… MSNBC, the network host for The Reagan Library-No Obama Speeches-Lets Use Rick Perry as a Pinata-Republican Candidate Debate.  This was the first debate that would include the Texas Governor on the firing line. At the beginning it seemed as if the moderators were trying to make the debate, a war between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. In fact it seemed as if they weren’t going to let any of the other six candidates come out and play. But then they switched tactics and made the rest of the evening a game of lets beat up the Texas governor. On many occasions candidates were not asked to express their opinion, but to comment on Perry’s.  If one didn’t know better they might suspect the NBC news staff was intent on bringing down Perry, or at least trying to give Obama ammo if Perry ends up with the nomination.

Who Won?  It depends,….once again Mitt Romney looked very Presidential. In most case he said the right things, the question is can you believe the guy. Romney did seem like a unifier something that will appeal to independents, but to get to the independents he needs to get the nomination and to be honest Romney is just not popular with his own party because of the lack of belief that he means what he says.

Romney did however have a  great comeback to Perry in one of the early exchanges, on the issue of who’s state created more jobs:

“Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” Perry quipped, in a stinging reference to the former Massachusetts governor who lost the presidential election to George H.W. Bush.

Romney immediately shot back that “George Bush and his predecessors created jobs at a faster rate than you did.”

Later in the debate Huntsman topped them both reminding both Governors that it was his State, Utah that led the country in creating jobs.
Romney didn’t win tonight, but he really didn’t have to, for his campaign it was just important that he didn’t lose.
While Romney looked presidential, Rick Perry looked “straight out of central casting” presidential.  He looks like a take-no-crap-from-anybody type who follows the old Teddy Roosevelt advice “Speak Softly but Carry a Big Stick.” Perry was set up to fail by the moderators and handled himself admirably. 
Perry’s appeal is that he is direct and says what he thinks, but he has to learn to explain himself better; he is right Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, but he needs to explain why. Tell people what a Ponzi scheme is and explain why it is a valid comparison. He also should bone up on some of the other theories about what causes climate change, Solar Activity, ocean currents, etc. Its the same thing as his Ponzi scheme line, he is 100% right but needs to explain himself better.
Newt was, well Newt. Just like the Fox debate he went after the moderators and the media, at one point saying , “I’m frankly not interested in your efforts to get Republicans fighting each other.”  He continued with all Republicans should “defeat efforts by the news media” to spark an internal struggle when the real objective is to defeat Obama in 2012. He was right, it was a good point but it seemed like deja vu all over again. We heard that act in the last debate.

Michele Bachmann had another bad debate.  More than any of the other candidates,  she seemed as if she was just repeating talking points.  At one point she said one of her jobs as nominee is to elect 13 more Republican senators. To my ears that line sounded like she was trying to work for ACORN. I understand the power of positive thinking, but there is a thin line between positive thinking and flinging too much bull-crap.  Today Michele was a bit to heavy on the Bull-Crap.

If I had a dollar every time Herman Cain said 9-9-9 my bank account would be approaching seven figures.  Its not that his plan is bad, but he uses it as the answer to every question, whether appropriate or not. Besides, doesn’t 9-9-9 seem like one of those long distance services that used to be popular like “dial 1-10-10?”
Ron Paul was scarier than usual, we’re  talking about “frothing from the mouth” crazy.  The way he jumped from point to point made it almost seem that the guy was losing his hold on reality. And Ron, if you are going to shrink government to your desired levels you do have to answer the question what would you replace it with. 

 If there is a “Mr Cellophane”  in this campaign there it is Rick Santorum. While I don’t agree with all of his positions, he handled himself very well when asked a question, but he wasn’t asked many.  Santorum’s answer to the Catholic-poverty question was really heartfelt and the GOP should heed his approach on the reasons the welfare system needed to be changed.

“There is no one in the 12 years I was in the United State Senate who did more to work on poverty than Rick Santorum,” Santorum said. He then went on to discuss his work on the welfare reform bill in the 1990s. “We didn’t pass it to cut money, we didn’t pass it to punish anybody, we changed the welfare system because it was punishing people…it was creating a culture of dependency and we went out and talked to the American public and said trust us to end this federal entitlement, put a work requirement in place, put a time limit on welfare…and we will transform it from a dependency system to a transitional system.”

 And finally we have the former Governor of Utah, Doctor Huntsman and Mr. Hyde. Jon Huntsman is so right on so many issues and extremely wrong on so many others. His economic program is excellent, but his refusal to acknowledge that the global warming consensus is non existent is very problematic. Especially when he gives the media (and the Democrats campaign lines about rejecting science). Its not a rejection of science it is a scientific disagreement.

In the end tonight’s debate served to clarify the GOP picture for the next five months till people begin to actually vote in primaries.  It is a contest between Perry and Romney, the once promising Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann continue their march backwards.  Santorum and Huntsman have their moments but gain no traction. Newt has good ideas and zingers, but the fact is people just don’t like him, and Dr Ron Paul is still a couple of french fries away from a happy meal.

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