COMMENTARY | St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., was the site of the second GOP presidential debate Monday. The group of seven Republicans included South Carolina debate veterans Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Michelle Bachmann, who declared her official candidacy at the debate, according to the Associated Press, joined them. South Carolina participant and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson was missing, having failed to reach at least 2 percent support in two national or New Hampshire polls in March or April, reports Union Leader.
Among the common themes were dark suits, white shirts, and vigorously attacking the economic record of President Obama. I thought it was a livelier debate than South Carolina, and the questions regarding Coke vs. Pepsi, deep dish vs. thin crust, Idol vs. DWTS, etc. were a nice touch to lighten the mood and give some insight to the candidates’ personalities. That said, I had three takeaways that really stuck with me when it was over.
The Passion of Ron Paul
Regardless of what you think of his views, and some may find them extreme, Ron Paul is a man who is committed to his beliefs. Early on, he made some solid points on reinvigorating manufacturing in the United States. Among them were what amounted to a tax holiday to repatriate foreign profits to rebuild the manufacturing base here at home.
He also gave an impassioned answer on not only bringing the troops home from Afghanistan, but also home from Iraq. Getting out of the Libya conflict, along with the missile and drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, were also high on his list of priorities. Always a critic of the Fed and Keynesian economic theory, Paul may be too detailed and smart for the rest of us when it comes to economics. The congressman definitely wore his libertarian, non-interventionist colors proudly.
Since he’s the front-runner in the polls and a former presidential candidate in 2008, the race is his to lose at this point. I only saw one major gaffe, referring to the Afghan Army as the Taliban Army, but he corrected himself quickly. I was surprised that all the candidates were following Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment of not attacking a fellow Republican; no one went after Romney on universal health care in Massachusetts, especially since Pawlenty had been campaigning against “Obamaneycare” recently.
Romney was smooth, articulate, and seemingly unflappable. No one did any damage to him, but, as stated above, most of the attacks were on President Obama; the candidates were more than gracious to each other. This will be an ominous sign for Obama if GOP candidates continue to refrain from attacking each other and save all their ammunition for him
Don’t Underestimate Michelle Bachmann
A Tea Party favorite, and likely the most conservative of the seven, Bachmann turned in an error-free debate. She was graceful and quick witted, especially when the candidates were asked to pick one fellow candidate to serve in their administration; based on earlier questions, she declared she would hold and “American Idol”-type competition.
The only woman in the race thus far, Bachmann appeals to conservatives and evangelicals and is definitely helped by Sarah Palin not being in the race. I don’t see Palin entering the race, but she will definitely be shaping it from the outside. Bachmann seized openings, was very enthusiastic with her answers, and exuded the confidence that some of her rivals lacked. The buzz created by filing the official papers for her candidacy will also drive web searches and help people learn more about her.