Last night I watched the Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa. It was only the second time I watched one of these debates. This was the 12th debate. It was eye-opening in many ways.
Here are my impressions:
1. Newt Gingrich is a powerful debater and speaker and would destroy Obama in any debate. He looked and sounded very presidential. This guy could dispute the law of gravity and make a compelling case for it. He did a good job of explaining his prior involvement in controversial issues. His belief in man-made global warming is of continuing concern to me, but of the bunch, I would give him the highest marks. I like him better than Romney. His credibility with me: up a lot.
2. Mitt Romney is also a good speaker and debater and justified Massachusetts' socialized health care experiment as within the purview of the 10th Amendment, i.e. powers retained by the states. On this he is absolutely correct. Socialized medicine is a bad idea, but if any state wants to enact bad ideas (like this and gay marriage), they have a Constitutional right to do so. (The federal government, he stressed, has no Constitutional right to impose socialized health care on the states. Right again.) Further, the people of Massachusetts wanted socialized medicine by a margin of 3 to 1. Romney had little choice or power to resist the popular will. His credibility with me: up somewhat.
3. Rick Perry wasn't scintillating, but showed none of the mental confusion described for prior debates. He seemed reasonably presidential, but did not excite me with the possibilities. My impression of him: up very slightly, but based only on the fact that he didn't fall on his face.
4. Rick Santorum didn't say much that I remember. He said his venture into politics was inspired by listening to tapes of Newt Gingrich speeches. He would make a good VP pick. His credibility with me is about the same as before the debate: a good guy, but far from convincing that he is ready for the top spot.
5. Ron Paul continues to be the kindly grandfather of the Republican Party; you love him even though you think he's getting a bit senile or going batty in his senior years. He continued to insist that the USA withdraw from the world and stop being "the world's policeman." He is partially right. We had no business in Libya and our "nation building" in Iraq and Afghanistan was a fool's errand. No more of that expensive foolishness. His credibility with me is unchanged, and I still don't want him to be the Republican candidate.
6. Michele Bachmann was a disappointment. She relied on cheap pot-shots, slogans and sound bites to argue that she is the only "consistent conservative" and therefore worthy of the top spot. She made the debate into a struggle for "one upmanship," did not show any real insight into the major issues. Her credibility with me is down.
Based on this one debate, I would say the ticket should be Newt Gingrich/Rick Santorum as the president/vice president ticket for 2012.
And if that doesn't work, vote "anyone but Obama" and you won't go far wrong.