Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sparks Fly in Iowa - By Rick Moran

Posted by Rick Moran Bio ↓ on Aug 12th, 2011

All eight declared GOP presidential candidates appeared on stage at Iowa State University in a lively debate that featured genuine differences of opinion as well as some heavy criticism of Barack Obama. The candidates debated less than 48 hours before what is being touted as the first major test in the campaign: a straw poll in Ames where the candidates’ organizational strength will be measured by how many of their supporters they can bring in to participate.
The debate was also noteworthy for who didn’t participate. The expected announcement of Texas Governor Rick Perry on Saturday in South Carolina of his intention to enter the race threatens to alter the dynamics of an already fluid contest, while sucking some of the media oxygen away from the important straw poll in Ames.
The straw poll will feature six candidates — Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep.Thaddeus McCotter. The history of the straw poll suggests that it won’t have much of an impact on who wins the Iowa Caucuses next January. But there is the potential for some surprises that might make or break a candidate or two. A bad showing for some of the second tier candidates would impact their credibility and their ability to raise money. It is likely that at least one and perhaps more of the declared candidates will drop out by the end of the weekend.
The debate, sponsored by Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and the Iowa Republican Party, saw sparks fly early and often. Candidates directed most of their fire at President Obama, but Mitt Romney came in for his share of criticism and the two Minnesotans, Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, had several testy exchanges with Pawlenty criticizing Bachmann for what he termed her lack of a record while Bachmann charged that Pawlenty supported some of the policies of President Obama.
Pawlenty started the spat by accusing Bachmann of standing by in Congress while health care reform and other Obama proposals were enacted into law. “[H]er record of accomplishments and results is nonexistent,” said Pawlenty.

Bachmann shot back, listing issues to which Pawlenty appeared to agree with Obama. She said that Pawlenty “implemented cap and trade,” that he supported an “unconstitutional” individual mandate, and that he once said that “the era of small government is over.” The two combatants glared at each other as the exchange continued in that vein for several minutes.
Pawlenty must feel that he needs to open some daylight between himself and Bachmann, but his manner of doing so was perhaps too harsh. For her part, Bachmann more than held her own but seemed a little taken aback by the directness of Pawlenty’s assault. Both candidates righted themselves almost immediately and performed well for the rest of the debate.
Indeed, there appeared to be no clear winner for the evening. Mitt Romney made no major gaffes and seemed content to lurk in the background as the second tier candidates battered each other. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum criticized Rep. Bachmann for not going to Iowa to campaign against three state judges who ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage, and almost everyone criticized Ron Paul for his curious stance on Iran.
Paul is expected to do well in the straw poll on Saturday, given the passionate support he receives around the country and his impressive ability to raise money on the Internet. But his stated belief that Iran should have nuclear weapons if it wants them no doubt reminded voters that many of the Texas congressman’s views are not in the mainstream of the party and indeed, are “fringe” positions.
Santorum and Herman Cain performed well but did not get to distinguish themselves as they appeared to be shorted in air time by the panel of journalists asking the questions. Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman got plenty of questions directed his way, but his compatibility with much of the Republican Party is suspect. His answers showed him to be even less conservative than Mitt Romney, and he failed to adequately defend his positions on amnesty and gay marriage.

Huntsman, Romney, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have opted out of participating in the Ames Straw Poll, each for pretty much the same reason: they don’t have a chance of winning in Ames and will not compete very well in the caucuses next January. Gingrich has drawn a line in the sand in South Carolina, while Romney and Huntsman are pointing to the New Hampshire primary for their supreme early efforts.
Gingrich may have done himself the most good in the debate, considering the moribund state of his campaign. His answers were crisp and he spoke eloquently to the issues. His criticisms of Obama were targeted and deadly — the kind of barbs that are both thoughtful and effective. But Gingrich has an uphill battle ahead of him in the coming weeks and months, although he made clear he is up for the fight.
But it is the Pawlenty-Bachmann dynamic that is perhaps the most interesting element of this weekend’s Iowa activities. Both are fighting to be recognized as the logical alternative to Mitt Romney. Both are seeking to use their ties to Iowa — Bachmann was born in the state and Pawlenty was governor of next door neighbor Minnesota — as part of their argument to voters in that state to support them. Both are looking to be seen as legitimate national candidates. To do all of that, both must meet or exceed expectations.
Anything less than a victory in the straw poll for Bachmann will be seen as a disappointment. She showed a strong second to Romney in a June statewide poll, finishing with 22% to the former Massachusetts governor’s 23%. Pawlenty came in with a paltry 6%, but has spent heavily to bring his supporters to Ames for the straw poll. A poor finish – 3rd or 4th – could very well doom his candidacy.
And hovering over the stage during the debate was the specter of Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose plan to announce his candidacy on Saturday is likely to draw some of the attention away from the Ames straw poll. Perry would enter the race with instant credibility. A recent nationwide poll showed 17% of Republicans supporting Perry as their first choice for president, trailing Mitt Romney by just 2% and nearly doubling the 7% of Rep. Bachmann, who finished behind Ron Paul, Rudy Guiliani, and Newt Gingrich.
There is little doubt that Governor Perry would make a formidable candidate. Aside from being an experienced campaigner with a gift for inspiring audiences and an ability to raise large sums of money, Perry boasts an enviable record of achievement as Texas governor. The state has a booming economy, creating 45% of the jobs in the United States since the recession supposedly ended in 2009. He is rock solid with religious and social conservatives, and a strong believer in the 10th Amendment.
Perry has drawn fire for his decision to announce his intentions on Saturday, the day of the Ames straw poll. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called Perry’s decision, a “tactical blunder,” adding, “If you have a candidate who says, ‘You know what, I’m not gonna be there, I’m gonna be over in South Carolina, trying to pull as much attention as possible away from your big event’ – I’ll tell you, the people of Iowa are gracious, loving, kind people, and they’re not gonna take kindly to someone, in essence, dissing their big event.”
Confirming that sentiment, influential Iowa Rep. Steve King accused Perry of treating Iowans like “country bumpkins,” telling The Hill, “His effort is to diminish the straw poll and if you diminish the straw poll you diminish the Iowa caucus.”
Although Perry will not be on the ballot in Ames, there is a write-in effortunderway on his behalf that is something of a wild card. Perry has declined to have anything to do with the write-in effort, and yet several surrogates of his are talking it up and robo-calls touting Perry are blanketing the state. Expectations for Perry in Ames are non-existent so any kind of a showing where he finishes ahead of declared candidates will be a shocker and may result in those candidates cashing in and withdrawing from the race.
Another potential wild card is the planned arrival on Friday of Sarah Palin’s “One Nation” bus tour at the Iowa State Fair. Though she is not on the ballot in Ames, her presence is always fraught with political subtext. Palin is good friends with Rep. Bachmann and has spoken well of Rick Santorum. It is not likely that she will endorse either candidate, or announce her own intentions, but her presence always energizes the rank and file — a potent reminder to the press, other GOP candidates, and President Obama that she must be taken seriously as a national figure.
As political theater, the debate might have been considered a “good show.” It remains to be seen if any of the performances by the candidates will be rewarded on Saturday by a good showing at the Ames straw poll.

About Rick Moran

This is a good analysis of the Iowa Debate.  However, I would like to contribute a few of my own thoughts:

1. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was the first who brought up the foolishness of a special committee to review the Debt crisis come September!  He came across "angry" according to many pundits due to the fact that he admonished Fox News for asking questions that had nothing to do with the issues confronting America and the poor leadership of Obama's administration..  (It did appear to those watching the debate that some of the questions were needless and an attempt to either embarrass or get a rise out of the candidates, like the one asked Bachmann about her earlier comment made about her faith and being "submissive" to her husband.  Senator Bachmann's response was "submissive" meant respect and yes, she does respect her husband.  (This was a foolish question!)

2.  Some of the candidates were not given a "fair and balanced" air time, as mentioned in this article.  Why?  Because the media has already determined who the "front runner" is - Romney.  I resent that as much as the candidates do, because picking and choosing who will win before the candidates have had an opportunity to speak before America is unfair.  They made that mistake in the last elections by presenting Obama as the "winner" two years before the elections - I had hoped they would not attempt to do this again!

3. Governor Tim Pawlenty had the best knowledge of the Middle East and Israel; and that is not mentioned by anyone analyzing the debate.  However, due to his "testy" exchanges with Bachmann, most believe he is already out of this race and has no chance of winning.  Sad that someone is judged by one debate.  

4.  For those who claim Romney the "winner" - I have my doubts.  He was asked where in the Constitution was it permissible for the government to mandate every single American to purchase healthcare insurance and he stumbled over his response to that question.  He was actually quite upset that anyone would refer to his implementation of mandatory healthcare in Massachusetts, as Governor of Massachusetts.  Many refer to Obamacare as "Romney Care".  Romney is running as a Conservative, but his previous record is like a recipe - one dash of liberalism with a pinch of conservatism added for good measure.  Healthcare is Romney's extra baggage and it could play a huge part in his losing to another candidate.

5.  Late yesterday Palin stated that anyone had until September to join in the race - so stay tuned, until September, to learn whether or not she plans to throw her hat into this race for president.

6.  Who has the most money and who is supported by the Media?  That, unfortunately, appears to be the only way one wins an election - no matter what the American citizens think.  There should be a "cap" on how much money each candidate spends during a campaign - perhaps then, campaigns would be equally matched for the candidates.  The Media likes to back the "winner" but they should not be allowed to determine the "winner" BEFORE elections.

7.  Ron Paul is a danger to America.  He does not see anything wrong with Iran obtaining nuclear capabilities or even nuclear weapons!  He says "America should mind its own business".  Can you imagine what would happen to the USA (and the world)  if this guy ever stepped foot inside the White House?!

8.   America's foreign policies play a huge part in determining America's economy.  Without a candidate who understands the dangers we face from our enemies and terrorism, America will never be secure in its freedoms here at home - we're all sitting ducks, waiting for the next Islamic attack - may the right candidate come forth who will put America's interests first and foremost, without a continuation of apologies for this great nation.