South Carolina debate wrap

posted at 10:30 am on November 13, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

As it turns out, Ed didn’t get to watch the debate last night, being busy amusing the #OccupyDenver rioters guests, so we missed out on his normal, pithy analysis. I did get the pleasure of watching it, however, and with a few notable sour notes, I’m certainly glad that I did. The short lede here is that even with the aforementioned glitches, this was quite possibly the best debate of the series thus far, with almost all of the candidates exceeding expectations and the moderators (mostly) providing excellent topics for discussion.

Before getting to the contenders, though, it should be noted that the big loser of the night still had to be CBS. It was a good series of topics and Major Garrett did a very competent job in pitching questions, but as Mark Thiessen pointed out, Scott Pelley was out of his league and did a terrible job, and truly embarrassed himself when he tried to challenge Newt Gingrich on matters of the law. But even Pelley’s failures paled in comparison to the Tiffany Network’s baffling decision to schedule a ninety minute debate and then only broadcast the first sixty minutes of it so they could cut away to a re-run of NCIS in many markets. (People out west apparently got to see the entire thing, but the east coast lost the feed and had to go to one of two online feeds to watch, both of which were immediately swamped and delivered a technically unusable webcast.)

Really smart, guys.

As far as the candidates themselves go, as I mentioned earlier, it was largely a terrific performance. I joined in with the usual list of suspects tweeting up a storm, and for once I found myself saying almost entirely positive things and showering compliments on the contenders rather than smashing my head into my keyboard and contracting alcohol poisoning from the Flubbed Answer Drinking Game. (As was the case in too many of the earlier ones.) Here’s a hopefully brief breakdown of how I rated them, in no particular order.

Mitt Romney: I almost get tired of saying this, but Mitt was once again just being Mitt. He’s very good in a standard debate format and he once again avoided any seriously embarrassing gaffes. He went a bit further at one point, giving what I felt was an excellent answer on dealing with China in terms of both trade and military considerations. Another solid, if not terribly exciting showing by Romney, where he might not have managed to suddenly win over the hearts and minds of the conservative base, but he certainly didn’t hurt his cause.

Rick Perry: This was the surprise showing of the night for me. Every time I’m ready to write the Perry campaign off as road kill on the political highway, he turns around and upsets the apple cart. He not only handled his “oops moment” flub from Wednesday with style, but incorporated it into this debate in a way which made him seem funny, grounded and in touch with the voters. He scored huge points early on when discussing foreign aid, proposing a “start with zero” theory, where America would judge each case individually before agreeing to pay the first penny to other countries. A few people took that as a questionable answer, focusing more on the budget, but the moderators brought the subject up in terms of foreign relations, so it was definitely applicable and expertly explained. He had plenty of other zingers, memorable quotes and solid answers. No doubt about it, this was Rick Perry’s best debate of the entire series and he may be on the road to recovery from earlier stumbles.

Herman Cain: To be kind, as we were discussing the debate after it finished, one friend asked me if Cain hadn’t performed better than I had expected. I had to admit that he did, with the caveat that the alternative would have been pretty much impossible. Cain came off better on some answers than I would have expected, but still had a number of questions where he seemed to get that deer in the headlights look and fall back on generalities. He also went to the, “I’ll ask my best advisers, generals, etc.” far too often, causing me to ask, “How many questions can Herman Cain answer by saying he’ll ask somebody else? Why not just ask Newt now, Herman?” All in all, Cain managed to surprise everyone by not entirely shooting himself in the foot, but it was far from a sparkling performance on foreign policy.

Newt Gingrich: For the most part, Newt put on a textbook display of how to dominate a crowded debate setting. Some may feel that he went a bit overboard in attacking the moderators, but that’s his style and the audience ate it up. As usual, Newt was pitch perfect on knowing policy and his answers showed that. Another exceptionally strong showing for Gingrich, and if his star is truly rising as the next “Anti-Romney” he certainly continued to help his cause last night.

Jon Huntsman: Given my own views on foreign policy, it’s obvious that I’d have a bit of a soft spot for Huntsman on this subject, but even given that predisposition, Huntsman raised the bar last night. He unfortunately will never be a sparkling speaker or one who gets the crowd up on their feet, but he was the most educated one on the stage, popping off the names of every player on the international stage like it was second nature to him. Obviously, some of his proposed policies won’t sit well with the conservative base, and I don’t expect everyone to suddenly flock to him after that performance, but he excels on foreign policy and it showed last night.

Michele Bachmann: She got almost no questions, (and we’ll have more later today on precisely why she had a valid complaint on that score) but the ones she did get she handled well. I don’t agree with her on some of these positions, but she was focused and very crisp in her answers. Her experience from her spot on the intelligence committee served her well. She didn’t deliver anything that’s going to launch her out of single digits as far as I could tell, but she handled herself very well last night.

Ron Paul: I have nothing to add to my previous reviews. Paul was Paul, steady, unchanging, on message, and not likely to break into frontrunner status any time soon.

Rick Santorum: Continued whining about not getting enough face time. Took some more extreme positions on foreign policy than the others and was the first to invoke Israel to get a round of applause. Seemed a bit out of his depth on answers about how to deal with the duplicity of Pakistan as they affect our relations with Afghanistan. Other than that, he was mostly a non-entity in this debate.

Conclusions: As I said, one of the best debates yet, even with all the technical problems and the efforts by CBS to shoot themselves in the foot. Lots of good performances and after a night to sleep on it, I still can’t say there is one clear winner. I will award this one as a tie between Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich for the win. Romney stays pretty much where he was. I have no idea what, if anything this does to Cain, (since he’s apparently made of Teflon) but I don’t see how this helped him with anyone who wasn’t already firmly in his camp. The rest of the field didn’t do enough to break out of their current positions.

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I still say the best part about having so many candidates is it gives the Obama reelection team fits trying to concentrate on one candidate. 8 against 1 for as long as possible is good for our side. Besides it dilutes the amount of ink the MSM can devote to beating the eventual nominee.

txmomof6 on November 13, 2011 at 4:49 PM

txmomof6 on November 13, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Thanks for pointing out that nice silver lining.

ray on November 13, 2011 at 5:18 PM

Whatcat: since you continue to ask for replies to the “expert” criticism of Perry’s zero-based foreign aid funding proposal…the problem is merely a matter of semantics, and non-existent in terms of actual financing realities.

US aid to Israel is approximately $3.1 billion annually as of the last fiscal year. Since it is a virtual certainty that they would continue to receive this funding even in a zero-based environment, they should just plan to receive the aid, and simply float a loan to replace it if it doesn’t show up. Heck, they do that with the rest of their budget already…tax receipts for a given year are never exactly known in advance, but spending plans are made at fixed levels anyway.

The Israeli economy is $220 billion, and growing faster than ours. Their debt-to-GDP ratio is only 44%, so they can easily afford to make these contingency plans as a backup “just in case”. They can afford to borrow the money to fund this spending better than we can, in fact.

In other words, a shift to zero-based budgeting should not affect their planning and spending in the slightest.

HTL on November 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM

So Perry would have us have a huge public political battle every year on what countries should get aid and how much? Imagine the yearly violent protests and press coverage of the Occupy Foreign Aid to Israel wackos. It would waste 2-3 months a year and funnel even more money to lobbyist groups to help spin PR. That’s a great proposal, for a democrat.

ray on November 13, 2011 at 5:57 PM

Whatcat: since you continue to ask for replies to the “expert” criticism of Perry’s zero-based foreign aid funding proposal…the problem is merely a matter of semantics, and non-existent in terms of actual financing realities.

US aid to Israel is approximately $3.1 billion annually as of the last fiscal year. Since it is a virtual certainty that they would continue to receive this funding even in a zero-based environment, they should just plan to receive the aid, and simply float a loan to replace it if it doesn’t show up. Heck, they do that with the rest of their budget already…tax receipts for a given year are never exactly known in advance, but spending plans are made at fixed levels anyway.

The Israeli economy is $220 billion, and growing faster than ours. Their debt-to-GDP ratio is only 44%, so they can easily afford to make these contingency plans as a backup “just in case”. They can afford to borrow the money to fund this spending better than we can, in fact.

In other words, a shift to zero-based budgeting should not affect their planning and spending in the slightest.

HTL on November 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM

Clearly it does affect their planning if they have to have “just in case” scenarios drawn up.

If it’s a virtual certainty, why not simply keep it a certainty? What purpose does adding the uncertainty serve?

CrankyTRex on November 13, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Catch your breath bro, Newt will destroy obambi everytime they debate. His message will resound with the people of this country and his message will be understood. Not like obambi’s flowery talk or class warfare.

VegasRick on November 13, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Just like with his “Contract with America”… which he ditched and went Big Government just like the rest of the Progressives. No thanks. Newt is a great idea man… but that’s it. He can’t/won’t deliver on conservative promises.

dominigan on November 13, 2011 at 6:04 PM

Perhaps, at a future event, CBS will shoot themselves in a more critical area, and end our agony.

Another Drew on November 13, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Aside from Cain’s harassment problems, he showed that he is nowhere near Presidential material when it comes to foreign policy. The “I’ll have to ask my advisers” bit could only carry him just so far, and he hit the wall last night.

Bye Herman. I’ll take a large ham & pineapple pizza…

stacman on November 13, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Herman Cain never even talked about advisors in that debate, except for the question in which he was asked about in what conditions he would override them.

I guess you didn’t watch the debate. Perry supporter?

BKennedy on November 13, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Bye Herman. I’ll take a large ham & pineapple pizza…

stacman on November 13, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Sorry kid, Loserville isn’t in their delivery area.

viking01 on November 13, 2011 at 7:15 PM

But he didn’t grow up with a silverspoon in his mouth, right?

BuckeyeSam on November 13, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Maybe. So what?

csdeven on November 13, 2011 at 7:22 PM

Why worry about the extremists in the country, on both the right and left?

Meredith on November 13, 2011 at 3:38 PM

I’ll tell you why: because the socialists on the far left and the corporatists on the far right are destroying this country’s and stealing it’s future from the young.

FloatingRock on November 13, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Sorry kid, Loserville isn’t in their delivery area.

viking01 on November 13, 2011 at 7:15 PM

Neither am I………………..KID.

stacman on November 13, 2011 at 7:42 PM

Herman Cain never even talked about advisors in that debate, except for the question in which he was asked about in what conditions he would override them.

I guess you didn’t watch the debate. Perry supporter?

BKennedy on November 13, 2011 at 6:57 PM

As per Jazz: “He also went to the, “I’ll ask my best advisers, generals, etc.” far too often, causing me to ask, “How many questions can Herman Cain answer by saying he’ll ask somebody else? Why not just ask Newt now, Herman?”

I guess it was you who didn’t watch it. Cain supporter?

stacman on November 13, 2011 at 7:45 PM

Neither am I………………..KID.

stacman on November 13, 2011 at 7:42 PM

Coulda fooled me.

Maybe when you grow up all your high-profile successes will make that wascally Herman Cain’s pale by comparison !

/s

viking01 on November 13, 2011 at 7:50 PM

In other words, a shift to zero-based budgeting should not affect their planning and spending in the slightest.
HTL on November 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM

If that were so, then why has every President – including Obama – signed off on giving such aid to Israel?

whatcat on November 13, 2011 at 9:07 PM

If that were so, then why has every President – including Obama – signed off on giving such aid to Israel?

whatcat on November 13, 2011 at 9:07 PM

Stop with the truth, those are liberal talking points to smear/

You are lost.

Knucklehead on November 13, 2011 at 9:16 PM

I have to disagree with you on this one. We cannot afford to bribe our way into having friends, and I don’t think we need to do so. There are many shared values between us and our traditional (i.e. pre-Obama) friends, who understand and will be grateful to see that we understand, that we cannot keep borrowing money and giving it away in foreign aid. As others have pointed out, we have trillions of dollars to repay before we climb back up to the position of being “broke.” We need to get started on that climb, and Perry’s position on foreign aid makes a lot of sense in this context.

GaltBlvnAtty on November 13, 2011 at 3:31 PM

I also agree to disagree with you. There are legitimate aids to other countries. Unless it is truly our policy now to be an isolationist.

Take note that there are also trade reasons for foreign aid. We use aid to other countries as an incentive to start or keep a trade with our country. Plus, most of our foreign aid are in terms of consultancy services (American experts, they say) while goods and works normally require American products and services.

In short, the 70% of our foreign aid (based on one unbiased report) returns to our economy in different forms. The point being made is this: Foreign aid, if properly used, can be a strategic tool to keep friends and allies with other countries while promoting trade.

We are also quick to accuse foreign aid of our deficits. What about the resources of other countries we have practically exhausted in the last hundred years to support our own excesses?

The point being taken is this: Speaking against foreign aid will haunt our own basic conservative policy of free trade with other countries, i.e., looking for resources cheaper than domestic counterparts. And that’s a given fact under the theory of International Political Economy.

We are not just victims of Foreign Aid. In other dimensions, we are being seen as monsters of resources of other countries.

The same thing may be said of IMF. Of course, there are pitfalls especially if IMF allows political factors in its investment decisions and in calculating risks. That’s IMF’s problems in the case of the current European financial woes.

Foreign aid and trade, good or bad? That’s what I was expecting from these Presidential Clowns. But you know, they are just parroting what have been said in the last 4 years. Nothing substantially new.

Sigh!

TheAlamos on November 13, 2011 at 10:04 PM

I guess it was you who didn’t watch it. Cain supporter?

stacman on November 13, 2011 at 7:45 PM

No I did watch it, and Jazz’s characterization of Cain in the OP is highly negative. He heard what he wanted to hear, and since Cain was asked a question about the comments he’s made about meeting with generals and advisors, etc. that’s what stuck in his mind.

If mentioning it once in a response to a question specifically about it is too much for Jazz’s liking, I guess those are the breaks, but in all the questions ranging from Iran to Pakistan and Afghanistan, he didn’t once use the “sit down with my advisors and generals” line. Had he, I would have taken note of it, since one of my earlier criticisms from months ago is that Cain would have to be more specific and not keep mentioning said experts/generals.

Aside from the question bringing up those previous remarks, he did not.

BKennedy on November 14, 2011 at 12:45 AM

89 Seconds via the most powerful institution in the world respecting the fall of the Dollar.

maverick muse on November 14, 2011 at 1:03 PM

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