Initial impressions from GOP debate

Everyone knew this debate could be pretty entertaining with reality TV star Donald Trump in the field, and The Donald didn’t disappoint. There’s no point in rehashing all of his comments. Needless to say this clown show isn’t good for the Republican Party.

Putting the Trump show aside, here are some initial observations:

- I was impressed with the questions from the Fox panel of moderators, and frankly I didn’t expect that. Sure, some of the questions were bizarre, and the Facebook participation didn’t help, but the moderators asked very tough questions, which is what you’re supposed to do. GOP partisans will likely complain, which means Fox actually approached this correctly. Fox also found ways to get real discussions going between candidates who disagreed on some issues.

- Marco Rubio showed off his political talents and should get some favorable coverage, but he also came out against rape and incest exceptions to abortion, which will be a huge problem for him if he ever makes it to the general election. For that reason it was a bad night for him.

- Scott Walker was less impressive, which surprised me. His answers will probably please GOP primary voters, as Walker know how to tick off talking points. But he comes across as a smarmy politician as opposed to the next leader of the free world. I thought he’d be the biggest threat to Democrats, but now I’m less concerned. Also, he went one step further than Rubio by saying he also didn’t agree to an abortion exception for the life of the mother. Seriously!! This could be fatal to his general election campaign.

- John Kasich impressed me. He has a reputation here in Ohio for having a temper and sometimes being a bully, but he focused on optimism, growth and inclusion in his answers. He’s going with a positive message and does a good job of weaving his credentials and accomplishments into his answers. He should start getting more attention after this debate. Still, once people take a hard look at his record in Ohio, they may conclude his economic achievements in Ohio have more to do with President Obama’s policies like the auto bailout.

- Jeb Bush didn’t impress me at all. Is he out of practice? He’ll never has a good answer for the Iraq War.

Republicans vs reality

The Todd Akin fiasco is just another example of how many Republicans, and far right conservatives in general, seem to have a problem with science, facts, math and reality in general. This is what happens when your ideology becomes so entrenched that you start believing your own bullshit. You get elected officials saying that raped women can’t get pregnant, that Obama’s birth certificate is forged or that humans once lived side by side with dinosaurs.

As usual, Bill Maher has no trouble calling out this BS, arguing that the symbol for the Republican Party “shouldn’t be an elephant — it should be a unicorn.” Here’s more from Maher, as he calls out the absurd Ryan budget, which has nothing to do with balancing the budget but everything to do with worshiping conservative dogma:

Paul Ryan is their tough guy on spending but he doesn’t want to touch defense — that’s right, a budget hawk who doesn’t think there’s anything bloated about the Defense Department’s budget. It’s like being a health inspector and finding nothing wrong with the Asian place that has the chicken hanging in the window. This is how low we’ve put the bar for political courage — that you can just write, “I want a pony” in a binder and call it the “Plan For Restoring Vision For the Future of America’s Greatness” or some shit, and then everyone has to refer to you as the serious one in Congress. It reminds me of health care. Republicans are for all the popular things, like covering people with pre-existing conditions, but they’re not for the part where you pay for it, like the mandate. Just like they were for our recent wars, but not for paying for them. For the prescription drug bill, but not for paying for it.

The GOP has courted their lunatic fringe for years, and now Americans are getting a close look of exactly what some of these nuts think.

Lugar loses in Indiana

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-IN, arrives for a vote on the Senate Democrats’ infrastructure bill followed by a vote on a Republican version on Capitol Hill in Washington on November 3, 2011. Neither bill passed cloture. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

I’m not sure what to make of the results in Indiana. Dick Lugar was defeated by a Tea Party candidate who thinks that Republicans are compromising too much in Washington. But how much can we read into this? Lugar was a terrible candidate who faced his first serious challenge in decades, and it showed. He did seem to be completely out of touch as his opponent charged.

All of a sudden, the Democrats have a real opportunity to pick up a seat. Indiana is a conservative state, but will they elect an extremist like Richard Mourdock?

No one likes a liar

Mitt Romney. UPI/Santa Fabio

This is Mitt Romney’s biggest problem.

Projecting moderation while professing extremism is quite a trick, and Romney may perhaps grasp the brass ring. But he makes everyone uneasy. Moderate Republican voters, of whom there may be more than meet the eye, may worry that President Romney will be captive to a GOP Congress beholden to the base. Tea Party types may worry that he’ll shake the Etch-A-Sketch again when dancing to a different piper, the general electorate and/or a divided Congress. No one, in any case, likes a liar, and people across the political spectrum know that Romney lies from sunup to sundown. Democrats know that nothing he says about Obama is true; conservatives know that nothing he says about his past positions and actions is true; and moderates know, or should know, that he’s betrayed them to the base.

Every politician plays the game, but Romney is just shameless.

Romney’s Super PAC goes after Rick Santorum

Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney’s Super PAC is now going after Rick Santorum. Romney’s team has no choice, as Romney’s support is plummeting, yet all the negativity surrounding Romney’s attack ads is taking its toll on Romney as well. He’s a lame candidate, and his only strategy seems to be tearing apart even lamer candidates. His support among independents is tanking, and his “severely conservative” speech is making him a laughing stock with conservatives.

As for Santorum, he’s vulnerable to attack for many reasons. In a general election he’ll have to answer for his extreme positions on social issues, but he’s also the poster child for Republican mistakes during the Bush years when they spent like crazy trying to keep their majority.

Yet even with all these vulnerabilities, the Romney ad comes across as a series of cheap shots. Sure, Santorum voted to increase the debt limit, but everyone was voting that way, including practically all Republicans when Bush was president.

I still have no idea how this is going to play out, but whoever emerges from this savage primary season will be very damaged heading into a general election.

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