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Thursday, June 07, 2007

GOP Debate Observations

It is my understanding that some of my fellow Boots On bloggers, being conservative and therefore rather frugal, do not have cable (or satellite) hook up in their homes, and so may not have been able to watch Tuesday's GOP debate from New Hampshire. Here is a link to the video provided at the CNN website (though how long that link will work is unknown).

Some impressions of the proceedings:

All in all, it was very satisfying to see a sensible, adult discussion of serious issues. The contrast with the NH Democrat debate was stark.

Rudy Giuliani: When former associates talk about Rudy, they inevitably refer to his enormous energy and capacity to absorb and understand substantial amounts of information, and this has made a positive impression on me. Some of that was on display in the debate - in a response to McCain's claim that McCain/Kennedy has an ID requirement, Giuliani pointed out that in fact five forms of ID are acceptable under the bill's provisions. My sense was that Giuliani had actually read the immigration bill. That's impressive.

Nevertheless, I thought that Giuliani's overall performance was rather thin, built mostly on soundbites. And I found him to be only an average speaker - there's a halting, staccato quality to his delivery that makes one think he's formulating his answer from scratch, as if he's not quite fully versed in the details of the issue.

I would also say that Rudy seems to lack a unifying theme for his campaign. I really don't have a clear idea what a Giuliani presidency would emphasize, other than national security. And there, he is bested by McCain.

John McCain: I thought McCain did a fine job keeping his temper in check up against the barrage of criticism heaped on McCain/Kennedy. He defended his position with a fairly deft hand, and though he was essentially wrong in his position, he looked presidential in defending it.

McCain particularly shined when addressing national security issues. As McCain responded to an audience questioner who had lost her brother in Iraq, you realized that of the top tier candidates, he was far and away the one with the most credibility on the issue and most capable of connecting with the questioner. It wasn't hard to imagine McCain in the general election campaign going toe to toe with any of the Democrat contenders and making them look foolish.

McCain ended his night with a spirited and lofty call to victory in Iraq and against Islamic terrorists. He forcefully and convincingly staked out a claim as the foremost national security candidate in the race.

Having said all that, McCain is still toast.

Mitt Romney: When it comes to the #1 issue in this campaign, Romney has proven to be mostly unconvincing. He talks the national security game very well, but one of Romney's biggest shortcomings is his somewhat technocratic nature. Every problem can be solved through the application of appropriate management processes, it seems. Unfortunately, such an approach is probably not enough to conduct a successful terror war, a war that at times will call for plain coldbloodedness, a burning desire to kill our enemies when necessary. I just haven't seen that in-the-gut fire from Romney that I think is needed to lead and win this war.

Romney's best moment was his final statement. He alluded to Reagan's three legged stool - strong economy, strong national defense, strong families - and then went on the point out another leg of Reagan's success, his optimism about America's future, particularly its economic future. Romney became very animated about this point, suggesting that this is what truly animates his campaign. What Romney needs, in short, is a shot of emotion injected into his presentation. In temperament, he's perhaps a bit too much like another Massachusetts technocratic governor who ran for president.

If Romney could show the same fire in the belly about whacking terrorists as he shows about selling American products in China, he'd have the whole package.

Romney's optimism, surprisingly, sets him apart from the GOP pack. Every other candidate is crabbing about some failure or another, predicting gloom and doom about our future. Romney stands out by projecting a positive vision of the future. I think that has great appeal - the idea of endless war is terribly demoralizing. A candidate who can foresee the end of strife will have a natural constituency.

The Field: Duncan Hunter and Mike Huckabee were solid. The rest made a fine contribution, but at this point are no longer relevant to the process and should be left out of further debates.


Blogger Frake said...

I find your analysis to be right on … I am too frugal to have cable. Actually, it’s too tempting – I would watch the Sci-Fi channel all the time!

Now, with regards to the debate: first, thanks for providing the link. I have not watched it yet but I have heard a lot of sound bites on talk radio.

Here’s my opinion: Rudy isn’t my first choice but to be fair, I think his answers probably came off as sound bites because the candidates were only given one minute to respond. When the field is finally resolved to just the top three, then I think the answers and the debates will be more interesting.

I agree with you about McCain. He’s right on with national security but I don’t think the base is going to forgive him for campaign finance reform and the latest immigration bill. He is toast.

Every Romney sound bite that I’ve heard makes him come across as well-informed and intelligent. (Maybe I’ve only heard his good sound bites). As a conservative, I can’t find anything in Romney that I disagree with.

Again, thanks your analysis of the latest GOP debate.

6/07/2007 9:37 PM  
Blogger Thrifty Scot said...


You may be right about Giuliani, though I the other candidates don't seem to be hampered by the format.

I heard Giuliani on Sean Hannity's show recently and got the same impression. He know the words to the GOP songbook, but doesn't seem to have a real feel for the tune.

I think Sean's a terrible interviwer, so that's not going to help.

I do think Rudy lacks a theme, and so the points he makes serve no overall purpose - perhaps that's why they sound like mere soundbites.

6/08/2007 10:19 AM  

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