Reactions to the New Hampshire Debates

In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to remind those who are unaware that, as the editor of Biblical Conservatism I have publically and officially endorsed Newt Gingrich for President in 2012.  Please remember that all included is my personal opinion and, unlike the Drive-By Media, I do not lie to my consumers and claim that I am somehow clean and unbiased.  I am openly and proudly a conservative and I don’t deny my bias.
Saturday night and Sunday morning, the Republican candidates met for two debates leading up to New Hampshire’s Primary on Tuesday.  There is one fewer candidate than last time we did a round of debate analysis, and I suspect after New Hampshire there will be less again.
George Snuffleupagus…ERRR Stephanopolus….managed to tick me off nearly immediately on Saturday.  No shock, ABC was going to be playing gotcha.  Asking about whether or not a state had the right to ban contraception.  It was a stupid question.  For the record, individual states have the right to ban the sale of products in their borders.  It’s similar to the fact that some counties in America have chosen to ban the sale of alcohol in their borders.  The ABC Debate was arguably the Gotcha debate from the Drive-By Media…
…for about ten hours.  It was then knocked off the block by Sunday’s Meet the Press debate.  I can guarantee George Will won’t attack Barack Obama for his opposition to gay marriage, and he certainly won’t be called out on his far more ridiculous platforms that he professed before being in office. 
So let’s play a round of everyone’s favorite post-debate analysis game: Buy, Hold, Sell, or Sell All.

Newt Gingrich – Hold (Buy):   
First of all, I want to thank Newt for actually saying “Merry Christmas.”  Secondly, I think Newt did a fine job destroying the silly argument that Newt isn’t a “real conservative.” He really hammered on those points and continually showed why he is the best conservative in the race.  Newt answers every question clearly with a frankness that I find refreshing.  Newt was on the crosshairs tonight, which is what happens to the frontrunner.  He did a far better job than Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain before him. Every attack levied at him he handled clearly and openly.  He also knocked it out of the park on the issue of courts.  I loudly cheered at that moment. 
Every time Newt debates it helps him.  Once again, I feel like he did an excellent job of answering every attack clearly without sounding defensive.  He really fended off the attacks and did a great job.  Newt is continuing to prove that he’s a genuine conservative and that he can absolutely effectively communicate conservatism, which means, absolutely, he can beat Obama, regardless of what a poll right now is saying in a head to head matchup with Obama.  Once a national campaign is underway, trust me, Obama will lose, and I believe he will lose huge to Newt if Newt is the nominee.
It’s been a tough few weeks for Newt.  He lost his frontrunner status in the polls and finished a disappointing fourth place in the Iowa Caucuses.  He made a mistake in trying to stay positive instead of responding to Mitt Romney’s attack machine. 

Saturday:  Newt did a good job of going after the attacks on him.  He took it to Ron Paul early on his attacks and I feel he did a fine job of refuting those attacks.  Newt is great in debates.  Unfortunately for Newt, this debate spread out the speech time oddly (why in Heaven’s name did Jon Huntsman get more time than Gingrich, based on their poll numbers, for example).  Yet I do believe he is going to rebound because of these debates. 

Newt stated my personal view on marriage fairly well by saying that we can create another vehicle for homosexual couples to join in some sort of legal union without attempting to forcibly change the definition of marriage to shoehorn in couples that do not fit that definition.  I also cheered when Newt slammed the Drive-By Media for their double standard against Christians and the bigotry against people of faith.

Newt also nailed it on the issue of Iraq and Iran, specifically by saying get rid the Iranian influence and Iraq will be fine.

Sunday: Newt did what he really needed to do by going after Romney and his other competitors.  I felt like he didn’t get his fair share of time from the moderators (big shock coming from NBC), especially given the amount of time they gave Jon Huntsman even though Huntsman has a fraction of Newt’s support nationally. When he did talk, he showed the sort of fight that I believe will cause Newt to rebound.  I hope he does, because I still believe Newt has the strength and the conservative record to be able to install a true, Reagan conservative who will pass a flat tax, a Balanced Budget Amendment and truly make this nation a country that is the Shining City on a Hill. 

Jon Huntsman – Sold (Sold):          
Instead of wasting time on Jon Huntsman, I’ve decided to link to a video from one of my favorite sites, “How it Should Have Ended.”  So here is How Wizard of Oz Should Have Ended for your viewing pleasure.
Huntsman didn’t even bother with Iowa.  He had one Caucus supporter though at least, which Ron Paul drolly noted on Twitter.  He’s thrown all his chips into New Hampshire and I believe he’s headed for a disappointment.  He was called by the Drive-By Media a “serious” candidate before he entered, which is Liberalese for “wimpy moderate we can definitely defeat.”  I also believe it was sad and incorrect that Huntsman was given as much time as he was in Saturday’s debate. 

So again, rather than wasting my time with Jon Huntsman analysis, here’s a favorite stand-up comedy bit of mine, “Noah” by Bill Cosby. 

By the way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Huntsman gone before South Carolina, so this might be your last time hearing me joke about him.  I’m sure that’ll be a comfort to all of Huntsman’s supporter out there.

Ron Paul - Sold (Sold):        
I loved when Paul stated that absolutely anyone on the stage could beat Obama.  He’s right.  I’ve said it over and over: Foghorn Leghorn (R) could beat Obama.  Now for my biggest concern with Paul:  Every time he is asked if he would mount a 3rd party campaign in the likely opportunity that he is not the Republican nominee.  Paul had a good debate, but how I feel (and I believe how most conservatives feel) about Paul hasn’t changed:  He lives in the Real World up the street from me eight months a year on economic policy but moves to his timeshare in Happy Imagination Land four months a year on foreign policy. 
Paul finished third in Iowa, which, as I said last week, is a disappointment for him.  Caucuses will be Paul’s best bet, and if the best he can do is third in a Caucus state he’s simply not going to win the nomination.  His beliefs on foreign policy I believe have lost him any chance, which is too bad because his economic policies are perfect.
Saturday:  Congressman Paul did a lot of sputtering and rambling.  I respect the Congressman but in many places he was scatterbrained.  More importantly, the Congressman’s foreign policy mentality is simply out of line with the conservative base of the Republican Party and that will stop him from being the nominee.  In addition, I would like to make a note about something Congressman Paul has continued to say:  the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were “undeclared” only in technicality.  Both wars were undertook with legal resolutions from Congress.  Whether or not the official document was a “declaration of war” in the most technical facets it is false to say that Congress was denied their proper role in going to war. 
Sunday:  Paul didn’t do as much sputtering but he didn’t come across as positive and someone who can succeed.  As Senator Santorum stated, Congressman Paul has minimal record of actually passing major legislation in his career.  I simply don’t expect Congressman Paul to do better than third or maybe squeak a second place finish or two in one or two states, which means he’s not going to be the nominee.  He’s got his supporters but the rest of us remain wary of him, and even more wary than mainline conservatives are of Mittens…which is saying something. 
Rick Perry – Sell All (Hold):           
Perry’s turned into a competent debater, but I think it’s too late for 2012.  I love his plans, but he’s not ready yet.  I honestly believe that you’re going to see Perry in the Presidential arena again in eight years, and I think he’ll be a much stronger candidate at that time.  The only question is whether or not it will be too late for him, because in eight years young stars like Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal are going to be ready to step into national politics.  The question for Perry is will he be the guy who is finally seasoned enough for the national scene or is he the guy who is now pas this prime?
Perry finished a disappointing fifth in Iowa.  I expect him to stay in the race for a bit because he’s got the money to do it, but barring a miracle I don’t think he’s got a shot. 
Saturday:  The moments when Perry spoke were strong, but he’s off the radar.  I believe he’s got a better chance to be the Republican Presidential nominee NEXT TIME.  Note – NEXT TIME (which by the way will be 2020, because I am very sure we will win the Presidency in 2012).  He said great things but, unless he does very well in South Carolina I don’t think he’s going anywhere. 
Sunday:  Perry showed glimmers of why he just might make a splash in South Carolina and get back into things.  I still don’t think there’s quite enough time but maybe.  And again I do think there’s a good possibility for Perry to be a great candidate in 2020 if he still wants it.  There’s also a possibility that come 2020 Perry’s chance will be gone because the great up and comers like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Nicky Haley will be ready to step onto the nation stage.

Mitt Romney– Buy (Hold):  
Mitt had a moment that I pumped my fist at when he said the private sector, not government is going to solve the problems we have for needing new supplies, new products, etc.  I also loved his comment that Obama’s defense strategy is “pretty please.”  He had a good debate.  He’s steady, but he’s not super-exciting, but he did remind me why I would be willing to get behind him in a general election.
Mitt’s would be a Dwight Eisenhower type President.  He’s a nice guy, he’d be steady and solid and he’d be fairly conservative, but right now we have an opportunity to be better than that.  We can get absolute conservatism, we need to take that opportunity to nominate someone who can fire up the electorate about conservatism, and I don’t think Mitt’s the one to do it.  He’ll win if he’s the nominee (as will Gingrich, as will Bachmann, as will Foghorn Leghorn (R) if they face Obama).  However, I don’t think Romney will be the transformational conservative, like Ronald Reagan.  He’ll be a good nominee, we can have a great nominee.
Saturday: Mitt won the Iowa Caucuses, barely, when he was previously expected to not do well at all.  There’s a lot of consolidation of the Republican vote behind him because we’ve begun to believe the line that Mitt has the best chance to beat Obama.  As I’ve said before, Foghorn Leghorn (R) will beat Barack Obama.  The big test for Mitt is can he get above 30% of the vote. 
On Saturday, Mitt was calm, comfortable in his skin and, dare I say it, Presidential.  That is his strong suit.  Mitt doesn’t have a lot of charisma.  What he does have his a steady, confident leader quality.  I recently made the comparison between Romney and Dwight Eisenhower.  Mitt reminds me of speeches I’ve seen and heard from Ike in the 1950s and what I know about the Eisenhower Administration.  Here’s where I continue to be unsure of Romney:  A guy like Mitt might be the perfect President in a booming economy like the 50s…a nice guy who will be a gentle leader in good times.  We aren’t in good times right now. 
Mitt channeled Newt Gingrich when responding to Snuffleupagus on the whole birth control issue.  It was a stupid question and I was thrilled to see Mitt to tell him to shut up on it.  On marriage, Mitt said something that made me cheer regarding homosexual couples forming long term relationships: “It doesn’t mean you have to call it ‘marriage.’ ”  On a final note, Mitt got passionate (for him) when he got on the topic of what makes America great. 
Ultimately, Mitt showed me why, if I can’t have my preferred candidate, why I find Mitt at least palatable.  Some of my fellow bloggers and fellow Tea Partiers argue this point.  Some think Mitt is no better than Obama.  Romney is infinitely better than Obama.  We have better choices, but Mitt isn’t the worst.
Sunday:  Mitt was back on his heels.  Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum especially were hitting him hard early on.  One thing I’ve noticed about Mitt is that he starts to get frustrated in a manner that’s reminiscent of Lou Pinella arguing against a clearly incorrect call from an umpire.  He didn’t kick dirt, but he gets this look of “I can’t believe you’re bringing THAT up” whenever he’s asked about his questionable conservative record.  Where Mitt gets it right is when he continues to hammer the reality that government is not the solution of the problem. 
Rick Santorum - Buy (Sold):           
Santorum is as exciting as Ben Stein in “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.”  He’s got no chance, and last night he didn’t even try throwing haymakers.
Saturday:  Senator Santorum, welcome to the club of candidates that I was wrong about.  I’d like to introduce you to our other members: Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.  I had written him off.  I still don’t know if Santorum’s success will stick, however, because retail politics don’t work nationally and won’t be possible leading up to days like Super Tuesday. 
I have issues with Santorum’s definition of conservatism.  Or, at the least, I believe Santorum is doing a poor job so far of communicating conservatism.  I do agree with him that there are certain things government should be spending on.  These things include provision for a common defense (which includes both military and police) as well as, on the local level, such public works as roads, water mains, etc.  I do not believe Ron Paul is perfectly accurate when he calls Santorum a “big government” guy.  I think the problem is that Santorum has not yet figured out how to communicate that point.  I think Santorum is also incorrect when he says “I’m not a libertarian, I’m a conservative” because it creates a poor definition of conservatism.  As a general rule the places where genuine libertarians and genuine conservatives differ is social issues and not the issues of what things government should do.  We generally agree with the topics government ought to do. 
Now I confess I need to do my homework on Santorum.  I have considered him a candidate without a prayer.  What I genuinely need to know is if Santorum’s issue is failure to communicate conservatism or failure to be conservative.  I will give him huge credit for calling out Romney when he even mentioned “middle class” because I agree with Senator Santorum: the Republican Party is not about class.  We are about people.  All people.
Sunday: Senator Santorum did a good job of handling the gotcha questions against him and also getting after Mittens.  He’s answered well and the Senator seems comfortable in his skin.  He had great moments and really didn’t have bad moments.  He did still seem a little too safe in his answers.  As I said above, I need to do some research into the Santorum plan, and I feel like I owe both you my regular readers and frankly myself a study on the Santorum plan.  So look for a “Here Comes Rick Santorum” post in the coming week and we can discuss that further.
Debate Winner(s) Saturday:  Mitt Romney
Debate Winner(s) Sunday: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum Honorable Mention: Rick Perry
Here is the point where I have previously told you the race for my personal vote.  However, that race is over, which is good because if I had endorsed Newt without being certain that I was going to vote for him myself, that would show a lack of integrity, don’t you think?
How about you?  Let me know in the comment section, on Twitter (@UpstateMetFan) or on the Biblical Conservatism Fan Page on Facebook!