This will not be a political post; regular readers know that I am post-partisan and that I straddle the center whilst hurling bricks at both parties from the inside-out.
That said, I do pay close attention to this stuff and last night I watched the 95th GOP candidates’ debate for the 2012 election. I want to first say that CNBC did a great job, I liked most of the questions asked (even though the candidates answered very few of them) and I think Maria et al did a great job with the follow-ups.
But I am supremely disappointed with the field. I cannot believe that in this moment of national crisis, the best we can do are these six or seven individuals to oppose Obama (who I’m also not a fan of). My quick take on each of the potential GOP nominees below:
Mitt Romney: He is probably the true front-runner and will likely be the guy who takes on Obama next year for the White House. I heard columnist George Will speak in Washington last week and he jokingly referred to Romney’s ability to go back-and-forth as a “wonderful versatility of convictions”. Which made the crowd crack up and is fairly true. I think Mitt is too smart for his own good, he is saying things to get elected knowing that his supporters know he doesn’t truly mean them. The tough talk about starting a trade war with China is just that – talk. He’s too well-versed in business to really govern the way he is running. The problem is, it’s all very transparent. he’s not quite as slick as Bill Clinton but is clearly playing that game.
Ron Paul: Basically, he’s a novelty act. He’s raised a ton of money ($15 million) and is very likable to a certain demo. Also, his economic ideas are finding more and more adherents as the economy plods on under the weight of public debt and liabilities. But then he starts talking about wholesale dismantling of the military and the education department and health care and he scares the shit out of everyone so he really could never be a serious candidate.
Newt Gingrich: Someone last night said that the GOP wishes it could nominate Romney but send Gingrich to debate Obama. I think there’s some truth to that. Gingrich is masterful behind a lectern and obviously has the experience and the chops to do the job. But he is also very polarizing, not nearly as likable for independents as Barack can be, which probably makes him a non-starter in the end. I’d love to see him in a cabinet position though, the guy gets things done.
Jon Huntsman: A lightweight and not really running in real life, just in his own mind. He’s smart, well-traveled and cultured, knows how to administrate – but he’s not a President. Not yet anyway.
Michelle Bachmann: A smart cookie, tough as nails, well-spoken and probably the most principled person on the stage. But not ready for prime-time. Rick Perry stole a lot of her thunder early on and now she can’t quite get it back.
Rick Perry: I won’t even focus on his uber-embarrassing performance last night in which he couldn’t even remember his own plan to close down agencies. Instead, I’ll focus on the fact that he is running just to run, his ideas are stupid and he deserves zero credit for the relatively decent Texas economy and jobs situation (unless you think he took a time machine back and killed a million dinosaurs in the cretaceous period so that Texas could sit atop an ocean of oil). Perry is like Bush but even more dangerous, he’s admitted to going out for jogs with a gun in his waistband.
Herman Cain: Sex stuff aside, he actually performed well at the debate last night. Until he was asked a plain-English question about the stock market and individual investors by Jim Cramer. he knows absolutely nothing about public markets despite his work at the KC Fed and his obvious success in the restaurant business. Kind of strange when you think about it. Cain’s obvious misogyny (he referred to Nancy Pelosi as “Princess Nancy” last night) makes him a non-starter as well. He’s not giving up though so it will be interesting how that plays out.
I’ve been told I missed Rick Santorum. Sorry, here’s my take on him – Santorum is a wonderful combination of unintelligent, scarily fundamentalist and personally off-putting. That said, he was great as Billy Rosewood in Beverly Hills Cop 2. I have no idea why they keep inviting him to these debates, it’s almost cruel at this point.
Anyway, not a very inspiring field. We’ll see if any of these people grow into the moment and look better as we round the horn this winter.