Reactions to the CNN-South Carolina Debate

Last night, the final four Republican Presidential candidates met in South Carolina before the South Carolina primaries on Saturday.  CNN made the decision to kick off the debate by addressing the newest smear on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.  Newt took it as an attack, and I can see that being the case…but it more seemed to me as CNN giving Newt the chance to clear the air and move on.  (I have minimal faith in CNN to be fair, but it did come across from John King just clearing the air and giving Newt a chance to respond).  Either way, I want to give kudos to Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Ron Paul for refusing to engage in that attack.  Senator Santorum spoke about Christian forgiveness and how we are all fallen people, Mitt Romney refused to discuss it, and Ron Paul talked about Media Bias.  Kudos to all three of those men for living within the boundaries of both Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment and good taste.  Furthermore, CNN did not do what it’s other counterparts in the Drive-By Media has done in debates…they were actually pretty fair and balanced. 
Now, let’s take the time to play a game of Buy, Hold, Sell and Sell All:
Newt Gingrich – Buy (Hold):   

Newt started off talking about why he was going on the attack against Mittens.  He did just an ok job at first explaining why he was making those attacks.  I didn’t like that Newt at first seemed like he was admitting to playing spoiler and not trying to win the nomination.
And then Newt turned back into Newt.  When he said regarding the length one can receive unemployment benefits, Newt said (accurately) that 99 weeks is an associate degree.  I also loved when Newt explained conservatism thusly: “Saying to someone I’ll help you IF you’re willing to help yourself is good, and we think unconditional efforts by the best Food Stamp President in American history to maximize dependency is terrible for the future of this country.”  Bingo.  That’s the Newt Gingrich I endorsed!  Conservatism is not about telling people they can starve, but it’s also not about just giving people benefits forever.  Welfare and unemployment are meant to be an insurance…a just in case situation. 
I have car insurance.  I pay my premiums hoping that I’ll never have to use it again.  I’ve had to use that insurance a few years ago when I was in a bad accident, including receiving short-term disability coverage when I was out of work.  (This insurance was private insurance that I paid for, not government insurance, by the way.)  However, as soon as I was able I went looking for a new job because I was physically unable to perform the job I had at the time.  I went to work as soon as I could.  I didn’t milk it for every penny so I could not work.
Another place where Newt nailed it was this: “I’d like to see us reduce government to meet the revenue and not raise revenue to meet the government.  He also had a great point to Juan Williams’ attack on Speaker Gingrich’s point on letting kids work to help clean their schools.  His story that his daughter worked cleaning their church at 13 and was pleased to do that job and learn that when you work you get paid.  It’s a great point. 
When I was younger I was taught that work pays.  As I child I created a few “businesses” making crafts and things which I sold and even enlisted neighborhood kids to help me sell those items, splitting the sale with them. Many times my father gave me the opportunity to work for a few hours with him at his office sorting papers and other odd jobs in exchange for some money.  My mother once paid me to clean the living room carpet rather than paying a professional.  I was a babysitter for a while as well.  When I was 14 my father gave me a job for 5 hours per week doing data entry for his company.  When I was 16 I got a part-time job and have worked ever since. 
Jobs are good for kids.  They have to be responsibly regulated.  When we talk about kids doing janitorial work at their school, that should mean things like sweeping and mopping, not doing maintenance on the boiler.  But it’s a good policy.
Best Newt moment of the night: “I know among the politically correct you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable,” to Juan Williams.
This debate was exactly what I meant when I said that the debates could give Speaker Gingrich a boost.  Let’s see if it pans out, but I do believe you could see Newt win South Carolina and reinvigorate his campaign, especially if he has this strong of a debate on Thursday night.
When asked what the highest tax rate people should be asked to pay Newt said: A 15% Flat Tax.*
First of all, Newt hit the cover off the ball with his response to the “open marriage” accusations from his ex-wife.  The reality is exes can say false things because divorce can be a painful thing.  But he answered it perfectly. He shut down this so fast it should give the Drive-By Media whiplash.  The Media will try their best to pin this story, but it simply is a distraction and Newt is going to give the Drive-Bys the kind of smackdown they deserve and that most conservatives fail to give.  He got a standing ovation from the live audience for his response.  It was absolutely the best response to such attacks I have seen in now 19 years and nine national elections of paying close attention. 
Beyond that, Newt had another very good debate.  His moments were excellent.  He really showed himself to be the Newt that I endorsed three weeks ago.  I would love to see him debate Obama, and I believe he will mop the floor with the Bamster in 2012 if he’s our nominee.  Don’t buy into the “unelectable” line, friends.  The same type of pundits said Reagan was unelectable.  Conservatism wins, and Newt will win if he’s the nominee. 
Ron Paul - Sold (Sold):        
Let’s be honest with ourselves as to why Congressman Paul is in this race. He wants to get his policies onto the eventual Republican platform.  Provided he realizes that his foreign policy doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in July of being part of the GOP platform, I would LOVE to have Congressman Paul’s policies in our ticket.  I want Ron Paul’s economic policies to become part of the platform.  Make no mistake about it: The Tea Party has pushed the GOP to the right, and people like Ron Paul deserve a share of the credit for that.
In the debate, however, Ron Paul did his usual out of touch with the GOP foreign policy statements.  Again, this is why he won’t be the nominee.  The audience booed him in many places, then others cheered his desire to end wars.  It’s a great example of the Ron Paul phenomenon: 75% of the room boo his foreign policies, 25% cheer.
When asked what the highest tax rate people should be asked to pay Congressman Paul said: We should have the lowest tax we’ve ever had and up until 1913 it was 0%, what’s so bad about that? (Note: This would require reinstituting widespread tariffs, but hey, sounds good to me!)
Hey…Ron Paul was at this debate!  I kid, but Congressman Paul was somewhat to the side of the three way battles that happened between Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, and sometimes he contributed some really great points.  Like his statement about the cost of a Made in China product vs. a Made in America product.  (I’ve noted before that a Made in America iPod, for example, would cost over $1000, and that’s for a 2 GB one.)  It was an excellent metaphor for the Paul campaign.  He’s here to promote ideas.  I think Congressman Paul knows that he’s not going to be the nominee, but he’s in this to rack up as many delegates as he can to force his ideas onto the platform, and provided they are the economic policies I want Ron Paul ideas on the platform. 

Side note: I never realized Dr. Paul practiced medicine as an OBG/YN…in my mind’s eye I saw him as a family practice doctor…and honestly (and yes, I know this is silly, I don’t hold any credence to this thought)…it’s just a weird thought to wrap my head around. 

Mitt Romney– Buy (Buy):   
I want to go on record as saying I do not buy into the attacks on Bain Capital being levied against Mitt and I think they are bad for the country.  I think it was good that Speaker Gingrich retracted and instructed his Super PAC to back down from this attack. 
Mitt was under fire tonight.  He did a pretty decent job responding to the attacks.  I find it interesting that Mitt was absent in a lot of places in the debate.  He was steady and strong, and as I’ve said before I can live with Mitt, but I want better.  I do think Mitt had a weak debate.  I do not believe he scored as many points as he could have.  Mitt was Presidential in the debate.  His best moment was when he talked about the difference between himself and President Obama (and also Ron Paul) in foreign policy.
When asked what the highest tax rate people should be asked to pay Mitt said:  I’d like to get it down to 25%.
Mitt kicked off this debate talking about capitalism.  He reminded me again why, if I can’t have my preferred candidate, I can live with Mittens. He did an excellent job of articulating the difference between conservatism and what President Obama believes.  We believe that it’s good to take risk with money and make a profit.  We believe it’s good for those who take risks to make a profit, because that profit goes into purchasing goods and services and often gets reinvested into that company and that means jobs either way.  Capitalism and investment are good things.  Business is what create jobs, not government. 
Mitt said something last night that I’ve been waiting for him to say: “I’m not going to apologize for being successful.”  Amen!  Mitt should not apologize for succeeding.  He is a man who has worked hard, taken risks, and succeeded, and he should be proud of it.
Rick Santorum - Hold (Buy):
Senator Santorum was steady tonight.  He had a couple good moments, but he was otherwise kind of tepid.  I do love that Senator Santorum stands up for marriage and for strengthening the American family.  His statement from the Brookings Institute Study that people who do 3 things have a 98% chance to avoid poverty: Those things are 1 – Work 2 - Graduate from High School 3 – Get married before you have children.  Aside from the fact that “people who work are less likely to be in poverty” is a DUH statement, it’s a great point.  The traditional path for life is one that leads people to be functioning, self-sufficient members of society. 
I’m coming back to my belief that Santorum is more likely to be Vice President than President.  (Again, if the Vice Presidential nominee comes out of the field of candidates, I believe it’ll be either Senator Santorum or Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann).  But I don’t think he gained any points tonight.
When asked what the highest tax rate people should be asked to pay Santorum said: My plan has two rates, 10% and 28% which was the highest rate under Ronald Reagan.
Santorum gave Mittens a smack on Romneycare and really nailed it.  He also went after Newt on the topic.  I felt the punch landed with Mittens and hit the gloves on Newt. (For those of you from Palm Beach County, FL, in boxing when a boxer blocks an incoming punch from his opponent.  Newt blocked it.)  When Newt responded, I watched the split screen between Newt and Santorum, and Santorum had a look of “oh darn he handled that” when Newt responded. 
Overall, Senator Santorum had a strong debate. He was good.  He came across as strong and solid, and believe me I would be fine with a President Santorum.  I did like Senator Santorum’s response to the tax release question: “I do my own taxes and I’m not at home.  They’re on my computer.  When I get home you’ll get them.”
I’ve commented that Governor Romney sounds Presidential.  Senator Santorum sounds like a great #2.  He sounds like a Vice President.  I do like the idea of Rick Santorum as Vice President.  He’d be a good strategic move because he can bring in Pennsylvania.  The only better Vice Presidential options I can think of are Michelle Bachmann (who can truly bag the Tea Party vote), Herman Cain (if he’s not so damaged after the baloney smear scandal) and…legitimate shivers of excitement…Senator Marco Rubio.  If I get my wish and Newt Gingrich is the nominee, a Vice Presidential nominee like Santorum would be a good balance.  If Mittens is the guy, we’ll need someone like Bachmann. 
One final note on Senator Santorum.  I realized something last night: Of all the candidates remaining, I do believe I LIKE Rick Santorum as a person the best.  He does seem like a genuinely kind, good hearted Christian man, the type of person who I’d love to have as my next door neighbor.  In a different time (like following a transformational President who got this country going strong again) he’d be a good President. 
Tomorrow is the South Carolina Primary, and last night’s debate made one thing clear…the primary is going to be CLOSE.  My gut says that Newt could win, and will at the very least come in a strong second place.  This race isn’t over, not by a long shot.  There’s a lot to happen.  But at the end of the day I want to say without a doubt that I will take any one of these four men remaining over Barack Obama any day of the week and twice on Sunday (yes, even Ron Paul).  Every one of these candidates would be a far better President than the one we have now. 
Debate Winner: Rick Santorum