Top performer in the Iowa debate?

posted at 3:25 pm on August 12, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

Along with roughly half the planet, I was tasked with composing an analysis of last night’s debate, which is published today over at Pajamas Media. In it, I do find time to go into the performances by the various candidates and draw some conclusions, but in reality I found one of the most pleasant surprises to be the delivery by Fox News. And I also have to remind myself that the debate we watched on television really has very little to do with tomorrow’s straw poll.

As I prepared to watch the GOP presidential debate in Iowa last night I was filled with a sense of trepidation, not for the performance of the candidates, but for the media. After the “whiner in the Carolinas” earlier this year I had begun to wonder if anyone was still capable of delivering a useful display of the candidates’ bona fides without relying on Tweets, YouTube videos, holographic correspondents, or product placement advertising. By the time it was done, I am pleased to report, at least a modicum of my faith in the broadcast networks had been restored.

Fox delivered an ably constructed package for primary voters around the nation. I will confess that their opening demand to “put aside the talking points” sounded like nothing more than a slogan, but the format and the frequently aggressive — sometimes too aggressive — lineup of questions succeeded in putting the presidential hopefuls through their paces.

Make no mistake: the debate itself was geared for the national audience of primary voters far more than the locals who will vote in the Ames straw poll this weekend. (The appearances by Romney and Huntsman should be adequate proof of that.) As Ed Morrissey pointed out recently, this spectacle comes down to retail politics in its oldest form. There may have been a few Iowans still on the fence who could have been shaken down by something they saw on the stage, but for the most part that’s simply not how the game is played in the Hawkeye State. The eventual winner will be determined by how many babies T-Paw kissed, how frequently mothers with small children were wrangled into Bachmann’s petting zoo, or how heartily Herman Cain managed to laugh when the 378th voter asked him if he could promise to fix the nation’s deficit, “in thirty minutes or less.”

After far too many gimmicky, glitzy smoke and mirrors affairs with fake “candid viewer input” it was nice to see them get back to a more direct, brawling, confrontational test of the contenders. Granted, until the herd gets thinned out significantly, these debates will never be completely satisfying. There’s simply too many people involved to give any one of them enough time to run free as we might like. But Fox managed to squeeze in quite a bit of action.

I’ve no doubt some complaints will remain about the line of questioning. There were more than a few shots fired by the moderators which some folks – including yours truly – might find unfair. These included Bachmann’s “submissive” issue, asking Huntsman if he was sure he shouldn’t be running as a Democrat and some needless jabs at Newt about his dysfunctional campaign. But in truth, the campaign trail is no place for the easily offended and all the candidates will have to be used to running into some sharp elbows.

Plus, the moderators didn’t restrict the candidates to one on one, dry run queries where they just spit their stump speeches back at the panel. The questioners intentionally drove the candidates into direct conflict with each other and loosened up the time limit rules to give them a chance to mix it up. I think that’s a more honest representation of the chops they’ll need to display in the general election.

I thought the whole thing was handled as well as it could have been under the circumstances. What I had originally feared would turn out to be a snoozer wound up drawing more than a little blood and the sparks were flying at a number of points. All in all I was satisfied. We need more events like that and less “video town halls.”

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Palin won. Next question.

leftnomore on August 12, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Did you watch the same debate?

The first half was pretty good, but the last half was God awful and got out of control.

faraway on August 12, 2011 at 3:33 PM

Palin won. Next question.

leftnomore

Are you nuts?!? It was Giuliani by a mile!

honsy on August 12, 2011 at 3:33 PM

Palin and Perry

ConservativePartyNow on August 12, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Anyone who didn’t watch.

portlandon on August 12, 2011 at 3:34 PM

FNC did great. Bachmann and Romney were solid. Santorum had at least one good moment. Newt needed his Pampers changed.

Southernblogger on August 12, 2011 at 3:37 PM

The top performer of the debate was undeniably Newt Gingrich. The “winner” of the debate was Romney as he seemed most presidential and didn’t get hurt much at all.

thphilli on August 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM

The best way to watch these “debates” is to just wait for the highlights.

Some people have said that Romney won because no one attacked him and because the panelists didn’t ask him any substantive questions.

NoNails on August 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Biggest loser was the passive aggressive and very ugly Huckabee.

Schadenfreude on August 12, 2011 at 3:39 PM

It is definitely between Mitt and Perry now. I love MB but she should have killed her husband before getting in.

Southernblogger on August 12, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Yet not a single question about entitlement reform.

Guess it wasn’t as timely as submissiveness.

BacaDog on August 12, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Ron Paul, big winner.

JohnGalt23 on August 12, 2011 at 3:42 PM

I thought Fox did a good job. The only thing I didn’t like was when they purposefully set the candidates against one another. It seemed forced, done because the media has been impatient for attacks and because they wanted better ratings.

If only Palin had been in the debate. Then the moderators could have placed a mud pool in the middle of the stage for Palin and Bachmann to jump into. That would have been just as subtle as what they did last night.

MississippiMom on August 12, 2011 at 3:42 PM

It might have been Fox

Heh.

Jewels on August 12, 2011 at 3:43 PM

But in truth, the campaign trail is no place for the easily offended and all the candidates will have to be used to running into some sharp elbows.

Unless your name is Obama. Then the trail is a rainbow-filled pleasure cruise.

search4truth on August 12, 2011 at 3:44 PM

Anyone who didn’t watch.

portlandon on August 12, 2011 at 3:34 PM

This! I even tried to stomach some preseason football over this yawn-fest.

search4truth on August 12, 2011 at 3:45 PM

They all lost because none of them seemed presidential. I’d going to agree with the sentiment that Palin/Perry won by not being there.

The lowest moment was likely Mitt’s defense of the individual mandate which could be quoted verbatim to defend Obamacare.

jhffmn on August 12, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Personally I think a HotAir/Townhall.com presidential debate would be far more interesting and informative.

meci on August 12, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Just please…no more Youtube debates. Ever.

MadisonConservative on August 12, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Personally I think a HotAir/Townhall.com presidential debate would be far more interesting and informative.

meci on August 12, 2011 at 3:46 PM

me likey

cmsinaz on August 12, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Palin won. Next question.

leftnomore

Are you nuts?!? It was Giuliani by a mile!

honsy on August 12, 2011 at 3:33 PM

No no. Definitely Thaddeus McCotter. He was the most absent of all the candidates.

RBMN on August 12, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Anyone who didn’t watch.

portlandon on August 12, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Here, here

Schadenfreude on August 12, 2011 at 3:59 PM

I think Jazz is smoking dope or something.

That debate was horrible. No amount of posh and flash can make up for lousy Jerry Springer questions.

HondaV65 on August 12, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Ron Paul, big winner.

JohnGalt23 on August 12, 2011 at 3:42 PM

Yeah, nothing screams “I’m presidential” more than looking stupid while getting hung up over an important detail like “how do you get changes like that through a divided congress.”

Of course the strawman he threw out in desperation made for entertaining TV. It was like watching my dad trying to copy/paste a hyperlink. Nothing but confused looks and just throwing anything out there hoping it works.

Pcoop on August 12, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Anyone else wonder if George Lucas was looking at pictures of Ron Paul while coming up with the design for Yoda?

Pcoop on August 12, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Not that it means much but here is my take from the debate…

Mitt: Just another polished politician that is willing to pander to anyone for points. Mitt is clearly the media darling as the panel left him relatively untouched last night.

Newt: Desperately wanted to be the smartest man in the room last night and came off as a smug assclown in doing so. He was really pushing for a big gov’t solution to a big gov’t problem.

Michelle: She had a few “deer in the headlights” moments but when it counted she really did take T-Paw to the woodshed. But right after Brett Baier asked the candidates not to use campaign talking points she came right out with campaign talking points.

T-Paw: He really needs to stop doing the robot when he is talking(just watch him you will see). He always claims that he cut taxes and balanced the budget but what he won’t say and the media didn’t ask is that he raised the “fee’s” on just about everything in Minnesota and instituted new fee’s on a number of activities and services. Fee’s is just a media friendly word for taxes.

Herman: One thing you need to know about Herman is if he doesn’t know the answer to something, which is quite a bit, he will just agree with the questioner. This has gotten him into trouble a number of times.

Huntsman: Just like T-Paw, Huntsman was my governor and all I can say is: Big Government, big government, big government with a sprinkling of nanny state. His rant against the EPA was right on though.

Ron: He was doing fine until the foreign policy portion and then he went right off rails. This is my dilemma with him. I would like to see a rebel like him win but this is a huge sticking point.

Rick: This guy is just plain scary. His stance on Iran withstanding this guy is big time authoritarian and thinks the gov’t should be up in your business all the time. His rant against the 10th amendment was pure crap. No way in hell should this guy get anywhere near any kind of power or authority. Police state constitutional train wreck waiting to happen.

Sammy316 on August 12, 2011 at 4:04 PM

I say Rush Limbaugh.

DaydreamBeliever on August 12, 2011 at 4:07 PM

I must disagree: FOX COVERED THEMSELVES IN SHAME LAST NIGHT.

The event was awful, and the biggest loser was the American public. I hold FOX partly responsible for the debate debacle. No questions on entitlement reform! No question on Social Security fixes! Romney got very little questioning about his late entry into the debate discourse and his “corporations are people” statement! And the focus was on the ever divisive social issue instead of the economy? And Byron York sounded like an elitist Beltway minion with his question to Bachmann about “submission”. If York gets anywhere in earshot of me today, I will teach him about “submission”.

Mutnodjmet on August 12, 2011 at 4:18 PM

My initial reaction was to not like some of the so called “gotcha” questions but as the evening progressed it occurred to me that Fox was doing the candidates a great service.
Who ever comes out of this as the GOP candidate can be assured of being ambushed by the media with rudeness, skepticism, downright anger.
The tone and content of some of the questions last night is just a prelude and should be seen as prepping them to handle much harsher treatment.
in fact if I were training them I would be a huge jerk and do everything I could to anger them.

MikeL10 on August 12, 2011 at 4:30 PM

They all lost because none of them seemed presidential. I’d going to agree with the sentiment that Palin/Perry won by not being there.
The lowest moment was likely Mitt’s defense of the individual mandate which could be quoted verbatim to defend Obamacare.
jhffmn on August 12, 2011 at 3:46 PM

What?! Romney defends Romneycare with the federalism argument. Obama defends Obamacare with the social justice argument. And Palin lost the very second that Romney and Bachmann spoke. Plain cannot compete with either of them. Heck, even Perry beat her!

csdeven on August 12, 2011 at 4:38 PM

FOX did fine the only problem was when the question went to the NUT Paul his fans went nuts and it broke flow.

KBird on August 12, 2011 at 4:41 PM

Yeah, nothing screams “I’m presidential” more than looking stupid while getting hung up over an important detail like “how do you get changes like that through a divided congress.”

Of course the strawman he threw out in desperation made for entertaining TV. It was like watching my dad trying to copy/paste a hyperlink. Nothing but confused looks and just throwing anything out there hoping it works.

Pcoop on August 12, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Yep, Grandpa’s Stockdale moment was his undoing.

slickwillie2001 on August 12, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Fox did manage a quality spectacle. I agree with some above that there should have been more substantive questions on entitlements and other spending — mainly because that’s what I want to hear from candidates on. But Fox gets a solid B+ from me overall.

I don’t think there was a single candidate winner last night. Bachmann, Cain, and Romney, in alphabetical order, showed the best. Other than Cain’s serious handicap — zero political history — they’re the ones I think are still in this, as Perry joins up and people wait to see what Palin will do.

J.E. Dyer on August 12, 2011 at 5:02 PM

Newt was terrific. He knows more
about the subject material than all
the rest combined, and acted like
an adult.

SlimyBill on August 12, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Winner of the debate: Newt Gingrich
Winner overall: Mitt Romney
Diminished stature: Pawlenty, Cain, Bachmann.
He was at the debate?: Huntsman, Santorum
Teetering on the edge of insanity: Paul

p40tiger on August 12, 2011 at 5:42 PM

I agree with Rush: Fox provided entertainment rather than a real debate. Newt would wipe the floor with Obama in a debate. Too bad he will never see the endorsement. The fight with Bachmann and TPaw was entertainment provoked by Fox and scored negatively with me. Romney wasn’t hurt, but he wasn’t helped either. Perry I think is the big surprise either way.

Amendment X on August 12, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Not that it means much but here is my take from the debate…

Mitt: Just another polished politician that is willing to pander to anyone for points. Mitt is clearly the media darling as the panel left him relatively untouched last night.

Newt: Desperately wanted to be the smartest man in the room last night and came off as a smug assclown in doing so. He was really pushing for a big gov’t solution to a big gov’t problem.

Michelle: She had a few “deer in the headlights” moments but when it counted she really did take T-Paw to the woodshed. But right after Brett Baier asked the candidates not to use campaign talking points she came right out with campaign talking points.

T-Paw: He really needs to stop doing the robot when he is talking(just watch him you will see). He always claims that he cut taxes and balanced the budget but what he won’t say and the media didn’t ask is that he raised the “fee’s” on just about everything in Minnesota and instituted new fee’s on a number of activities and services. Fee’s is just a media friendly word for taxes.

Herman: One thing you need to know about Herman is if he doesn’t know the answer to something, which is quite a bit, he will just agree with the questioner. This has gotten him into trouble a number of times.

Huntsman: Just like T-Paw, Huntsman was my governor and all I can say is: Big Government, big government, big government with a sprinkling of nanny state. His rant against the EPA was right on though.

Ron: He was doing fine until the foreign policy portion and then he went right off rails. This is my dilemma with him. I would like to see a rebel like him win but this is a huge sticking point.

Rick: This guy is just plain scary. His stance on Iran withstanding this guy is big time authoritarian and thinks the gov’t should be up in your business all the time. His rant against the 10th amendment was pure crap. No way in hell should this guy get anywhere near any kind of power or authority. Police state constitutional train wreck waiting to happen.

Sammy316 on August 12, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Just curious … am I the only person here who skips posts more than 5 lines long? I long ago learned that brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s an almost-extinct treasure.

cgoode777 on August 12, 2011 at 6:02 PM

Just curious … am I the only person here who skips posts more than 5 lines long? I long ago learned that brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s an almost-extinct treasure.

cgoode777 on August 12, 2011 at 6:02 PM

slickwillie2001 on August 12, 2011 at 6:10 PM

Worst debate performance by questioners ever!!!………………..

“You said…”, “She said…”, “He said…”, “You told…”,

I thought I was listening to a school girl describe the junior high dance.

LifeTrek on August 12, 2011 at 6:50 PM

Just curious … am I the only person here who skips posts more than 5 lines long? I long ago learned that brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s an almost-extinct treasure.

cgoode777 on August 12, 2011 at 6:02 PM

Let mew dumb this down fer ya.
poop
Fart
libtard
yay gop

Sammy316 on August 12, 2011 at 10:30 PM

Any format which makes the panel a part of the program is going to be a lousy debate. The candidates should control the topics, and divide the time evenly amongst themselves.

For the early debates, require only that a candidate have scored above the margin of error in one of the recognized national or two state polls within the 60 days preceding. After NH, make it above 5% in Iowa or NH, after SC & Nevada, in double digits in at least one state on the two last primary dates. Starting with Super Tuesday, you need a 20%+ in at least two contests or 15% of the delegates committed thus far.

Ron Paul is barred for life, and his supporters exiled to Iran.

The current debate structure is pro-Democrat, allowing silly sound bites and running out the clock on tough questions. If the other candidates kept hammering the offender, he couldn’t get away with it. This is another way the legacy media protects Democrats.

Adjoran on August 13, 2011 at 12:24 AM

Just curious … am I the only person here who skips posts more than 5 lines long? I long ago learned that brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s an almost-extinct treasure.

cgoode777 on August 12, 2011 at 6:02 PM

Twitter’s thataway, birdbrain.

Uncle Sams Nephew on August 13, 2011 at 8:15 AM