GOP debate 150x150 Last Nights GOP Presidential Debate: Pawlenty Wins, Paul & Johnson Lose

The First 2011 GOP Debate

Last night, five GOP candidates battling to win the right to oppose President Barack Obama in 2012 met in South Carolina for the first debate of the campaign season. My initial impression was that this debate was way too early and pointless with only one candidate who has officially announced their intentions to run for the presidency (Gary Johnson). However, we learned some interesting things last night.

First, Tim Pawlenty won hands down. I admit that I am not a Pawlenty fan and initially wrote him off as a middle-of-the-road squishy establishment type guy. I still have serious questions about him but he handled himself extraordinarily well. He took some heat for not fully getting into the creationism question but I think that criticism is unwarranted. Who cares about whether a presidential candidate thinks evolution or creationism should be taught or not taught in schools? No one is going to pursue legislation to either effect as president. To even ask such a question is a distraction from real issues like the economy and national security. I think he answered it well then chose to use the rest of his time to get into a previous question about unions. Nice work not wasting camera time on a non-issue.

Of all the candidates Pawlenty was the only one who looked presidential. He clearly is ready for the rigors of the campaign. I was ready to write him off but I may have to watch him more closely through the primaries.

I would then say the second biggest winner would be a tie between Rick Santorum and Herman Cain. I was really surprised to see all the buzz about Cain’s performance, because quite honestly I didn’t really see it. I kept getting distracted by him counting his points on his fingers for every question. He had a snappy line about career politicians and apparently impressed viewers by refusing to outline a plan for Afghanistan and Iraq because he claimed not to have enough information since he isn’t privy to classified documents. That is all well and good but I thought he punted on that question.

Rick Santorum did not turn in a great performance but he did a decent job in his delivery. He seemed rusty from the campaign trail and flustered at times. I admit I’m flustered as to why he’s running in the first place. In his closing remarks he actually tried to make the point that he had the best chance to beat Barack Obama because he has a history of winning elections against Democratic incumbents. Pretty hilarious since he got trounced in 2006 by 18 points. I gave him a tie for second because him and Cain were both equally underwhelming. The other two candidates were so terrible I couldn’t possibly equate the performances of Cain and Santorum with them.

I found myself continually asking myself during the debate “Is Ron Paul even a conservative?” That has to be a legitimate question after he lobbied for legalization of gay marriage and hard drugs (cocaine & heroin), the closing of Gitmo, returning to the gold standard, and surrendering in Iraq and Afghanistan all while delivering it in his patented whiny tone and puppet-like delivery. Paul just looks like a crazed old loon who wandered onto the stage from the streets. Just because you say you believe in the Constitution and Liberty doesn’t mean you have any clue as to what that means. Paul proved that last night.

The same thing regarding conservative stances can be asked about Gary Johnson. I have never seen a candidate actually concede votes before any have been cast. Johnson actually admitted that pro-lifers will not and should not vote for him. He also admitted smoking weed and outlined a bizarre plan to legalize drugs. I’m often marveled when I hear self-proclaimed “libertarian-leaning” Republicans discussing policy. No matter what the subject is, it always gets back to legalizing pot. That really seems to be the only subject they really care about and they truly believe legalization will solve all of our nation’s ills. Johnson looked so lost I wondered if he happened to smoke some funny stuff prior to his God-awful performance.

You can tell FoxNews doesn’t take Johnson seriously. They actually asked him if he had a reality show what would the format be? They should’ve asked him “if you could be any ice cream flavor, what ice cream flavor would you be?” It would have been much more substantive than that inane question.

Of course the real story of the night was concerning who wasn’t there. Much like the buzz surrounding Fred Thompson’s absence the night he announce his run for the presidency on Jay Leno, voters are looking for something more in a candidate. It would be nice to know who the field of candidates is so we can hopefully rally around one candidate. Thompson wasn’t the answer and the grass wasn’t greener on the other side in 2007, maybe things will be different now.

Among this sorry batch of candidates I guess Pawlenty is the best bet. However, that doesn’t bring me much comfort but after a strong performance I’m at least willing to listen.

Debate highlights:

 Last Nights GOP Presidential Debate: Pawlenty Wins, Paul & Johnson Lose

About the author

Alan Moore wrote 127 articles on this blog.

Founder and editor of Moore Common Sense. Former press secretary for a presidential campaign, online communications expert, native Virginian, and all around politico.

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