CNN debate highlights from Jon Stewart

This is going to be a fun political season.

  

Quick observations from the CNN GOP debate

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at the first New Hampshire debate of the 2012 campaign at St. Anselms College in Manchester, New Hampshire June 13, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT)

CNN did a terrible job with this debate. With so many candidates, it would have worked much better with one or two moderators. Instead we had to listen to simplistic questions from the audience, and we rarely got most of the candidates to answer the same question.

I didn’t agree with hardly anything that was said by the candidates, but most of them did fine for the first debate. Tim Pawlenty, however, looked weak as usual when he passed on the opportunity to slam Romney on health care. I just don’t think he has what it takes to survive the primaries.

Mitt Romney did fine, but nobody really challenged him tonight, so we’ll see how he does if Rudy Giuliani enters the race. Giuliani will hammer him. Romney also talked in circles about the auto bailout.

I was surprised by Michele Bachmann. Again, I don’t agree with anything she says, but she was very comfortable onstage and she handled herself well. This is terrible news for Pawlenty who is trying to get some of the evangelical vote, and so it’s also good news for Romney, who would love to have Bachmann draw the evangelical vote from more viable candidates.

Herman Cain was very erratic, so we’ll see if the Tea Party crowd remains impressed with him.

  

The wildly successful auto industry bailout

Chrysler announced today that it is repaying $7.5 billion to the U.S. government years ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, GM has announced it will hire thousands of new workers in the U.S. after a successful IPO.

The bailout of the U.S. auto industry in 2009 by the Obama administration was very unpopular, but it will go down as one of the shrewdest decisions of President Obama. Letting GM and Chrysler go through a bankruptcy liquidation would have killed thousands of jobs and possibly turned the recession into a depression. Thousands of auto suppliers would have been insolvent immediately, thus creating even more job losses.

Most on the right, including presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, opposed bailing out the auto companies. Mitt Romney even penned an op-ed arguing that we should let Detroit go bankrupt. They look like fools now, and the Democrats just released a preview of how this issue will be highlighted in the 2012 campaign, particularly in the Midwest.

  

The Sarah Palin show

Obviously, it’s time to move beyond Sarah Palin, but she keeps inserting herself in the news by agreeing to do all the interviews that she should have done when she was a candidate for high office.

The results have not been impressive. She’s incapable of giving logical answers to most substantive questions, and she throws out more cliches than any politician in recent memory. That’s quite an accomplishment.

I was watching a panel of Republican governors today on C-Span, and it’s striking how impressive governors like Mark Sanford and Tim Pawlenty can be when discussing the future of the GOP. Sarah Palin just doesn’t measure up.

It’s fun watching Republicans argue about the future of their party, but they will not make much progress as long as many in the base remain fixated with Sarah Palin.

  

McCain’s tough VP choice

The Joe Biden pick complicates things for John McCain as he considers his choice for a running mate. Bill Kristol points out some of the drawbacks of selecting Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney.

The two leading G.O.P. prospects have been Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. But with Biden’s foreign policy experience as a contrast, could McCain assure voters that the young Pawlenty is ready to take over, if need be, as commander in chief? Also, Biden is a strong and experienced debater. Pawlenty is unproven. If he is the choice, there will be many anxious Republicans in the run-up to the vice presidential debate in St. Louis on Oct. 2.

Romney might match up better against Biden in debate. But it’s clear that the Obama-Biden campaign is moving aggressively to embrace a traditional Democratic populist economic message. Such a message will have appeal this year — especially, one supposes, against a doubly multimansioned G.O.P. ticket of McCain and Romney.

It’s hard to imagine Pawlenty going up against Biden. Also, Pawlenty made comments last month basically praising Barack Obama’s positive message and arguing that the GOP needs to move away from negative campaigning. Those words will present problems for McCain. Kristol also states the obvious – Romney’s wealth will reinforce the populaist message from the Democrats, and Romney’s history of being involved with companies that laid off thousands of workers won’t help.

Kristol goes on to argue for Joe Lieberman, the ultimate neocon. This would be a gift to the Obama camapign, as there would be a revolt among pro-life conservatives if Lieberman is added to the ticket. McCain has already trashed his image as a “moderate” as he’s embraced his far-right positions on abortion, judges and taxes. Adding Leiberman would confuse that message and undermine all the progress he’s made getting Republicans to come home and support his candidacy. Let’s hope he listens to Kristol.

  

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