Cross-posted from Jimmy Zuma’s blog at Tucson Sentinel.
There were clear winners and losers in the latest Republican debate, held at the Reagan Library. But before we score the candidates, it’s worth noting the two über winners. The first was Ronald Reagan. While I remember Reagan as the affable con artist who decided kids were properly fed if their school lunch included ketchup, the candidates invoked him some two dozen times.
The other big winner of the night was the political model known as Anarchy. The elephant now has a circle-A tattooed on his butt. One after another these candidates proved that the Republican Party no longer stands for conservative principles like small government. It now stands for dismantling government altogether.
From ending all regulation (Paul) to ending progressive taxation (Cain) to ending Social Security (Perry) to ending Medicaid (Perry again) this group of candidates is running on a platform of ending a federal role in government. (The party was previously on record for wanting to end Medicare, product safety regulation, the EPA and the Department of Education.)
Rick Perry even talked about “cutting off the head of the snake.” It was an odd analogy. He’s running to be the head, isn’t he? But enough meta-analysis, here’s how the winners and losers stack up.
Biggest winner: Rick Perry
Perry didn’t win the debate. But he did perform well enough to solidify a two person race. He made the biggest gaffe of the night, calling Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme.” But otherwise, he answered every attack credibly, accomplishing what he needed to.
Perry also got the biggest applause of the night, when the moderator noted he’d executed more prisoners than any other governor. Apparently revenge is pretty darn popular in the R-party these days.
Best performer: Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney won the debate. He gave the best performance and was only one of two candidates (with Huntsman) who seemed presidential. He made no major gaffes and successfully answered attacks from Perry—obscuring his record on health care (he used to be for it) and deflecting his record on job creation (he wasn’t very successful at it.) Most notably, he deflected the factual criticism that his private sector experience was as a corporate raider.
The One Trick Pony who got put out to pasture: Michele Bachmann
No better analogy fits Michele Bachmann than the tired, old ride-pony that limps around the same corral all day. Supporters are abandoning her in droves. In the debate none of the other candidates showed any interest in her. Even the moderators didn’t seem to be interested in asking her a question. But every time they did, she’d shout “ObaaaamaaCare!” no matter what the question or what the topic.
At one point, she didn’t speak for twenty-two minutes. It was a pleasant relief.
Running for Vice President: Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich never thought he could be president. For Newt, running for president is a way to pay the bills. Now, he is positioning himself to be someone’s vice president. He doesn’t care who. But neither Romney nor Perry would ever choose him. Running for VP at the debate simply shows that neither would even take his calls.
Best qualified: John Huntsman
If we have to have a Republican as our next president (and it looks like we probably do) John Huntsman is the best of the lot. He’s an old school conservative who eschews signing pledges because “they can limit your ability to govern.” Huntsman is the strongest on governing experience, the deepest on foreign policy and the most compelling on cooperation. He was Obama’s Ambassador to China and a successful governor of Utah. And he respects both science and literacy.
Of this motley lot, Huntsman is the only one who believes in government. But he’s too moderate to win the nomination.
Former Oddball: Ron Paul
Ron Paul gave up his oddball role to accept the position of cranky-drunk uncle. Consider this bit of circular logic. Paul posits that we should get the government out of the business of regulating drugs. He argues the government does a bad job because of influence by drug company lobbyists. So we should let the drug companies regulate themselves. Scratching your head yet? He also spoke out against federal air traffic control.
In the last election Paul suffered from having repulsive supporters. And, well, his girly-shrill voice doesn’t help. Realistically, he could only be president on Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
Current Oddball: Herman Cain
Cain’s major platform is a consumption tax. He’d impose a nine percent sales tax on top of whatever your state now charges. He’d then lower individual and corporate taxes to an alliterative but otherwise nonsensical nine percent as well. He also argues that we should replace Social Security with “the Chilean model.” As the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson noted, “I covered Chile. That model is privatization. He just doesn’t want to use the word.”
Can anyone else imagine the Republican Party taking its cues from Latin America? Cain also doesn’t know he can’t win.
No longer a candidate: Rick Santorum
Like most Americans, I can’t remember a word he said. His campaign is so bereft that he had to do his own spin room.
And there you have it, the Republican candidate pool. Yahoo is also looking for a new CEO these days. I wonder if they will choose someone who doesn’t believe in the internet.
Jimmy Zuma is a longtime advocate for disability rights and a strong voice from the left. Jimmy blogs at Smart v. Stupid and his writing is published in the The Tucson Sentinel, DC Water Cooler, Open Salon and OpEd News.