John King GOP Debate Recap: No One Pays to Watch the Referee

John King

Last night a larger field than that which previously met in South Carolina last month met to “debate” the political issues of the day, each attempting to position themselves as the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

First, these should not even be called debates, it’s a disservice to the time honored tradition of presidential debates. These are nothing more than glorified press conferences. John King asking flippant questions such as “Coke or Pepsi” added to this perception. A debate is supposed to be an exchange of ideas, thoroughly discussed point-counterpoint so the public can learn the in’s and out’s of how a candidate aligns on an issue in order for them to successfully identify which person they identify with the best. That was not accomplished last night and I doubt a substantive debate will arise with so many candidates.

Second, no one goes to a sporting contest to watch the referee’s. I wish someone had told John King that this night wasn’t about him. He tried interrupting EVERY answer immediately after a candidate began to speak. I realize time is short, but 30 second answers? Someone should have interrupted the moderators who took much longer than 30 seconds to spit out their questions. I know it might seem crass but having a light when time is up is completely appropriate. Personally I’d love to see them scrap this whole format in favor of a series of one on one debates between candidates. Newt Gingrich versus Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann versus Rick Santorum, etc. It will never happen but it would add to higher ratings and a more substantive experience for the viewer. The argument against that might be viewer fatigue, but with the dozen plus debates we had per party in 2007, I don’t think that holds water.

Third, no one candidate emerged from the field. In retrospect I think Tim Pawlenty looked so good in the last debate because there weren’t any other top tier candidates sharing the stage. Rick Santorum, the closest to top tier, performed poorly in that debate. Tim Pawlenty didn’t come across as polished as he did before and I think set him back a bit. Rick Santorum rebounded by strongly proclaiming that as president he would make pro-life issues a top priority of his administration. I can’t remember any serious candidate declaring that and I was really impressed at that gutsy move.

Fourth, Ron Paul didn’t come across as crazy as he did in the last debate, which can only help him. His promise to immediately bring our troops home and his dwelling on his belief the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were a mistake reminded us how weak he is on national security. While he didn’t hurt his chances, he certainly didn’t help himself with mainstream Republicans and Independents. Of course he’s not really running to win so it doesn’t matter to him I’m sure. He uses the presidential platform as a vehicle to illustrate his off the wall politics.

Fifth, I’m still not that impressed with Herman Cain. I know he was the new face last debate and many came away pleasantly surprised. I just don’t see it. He didn’t have a memorable performance and failed to set himself apart from the other candidates. His best answer was on the economy when he outlined cutting taxes and focusing on boosting the private sector. At the end of the night he was just another guy on the stage. The trap question on Muslims was designed to make him look like a nut and Cain didn’t do enough to defend himself. He tried to make the answer about Shariah Law and it was bizarre how he transitioned to that. He was clearly flustered. I imagine he’ll fade the longer the campaign lasts. He may have peaked in the last month.

Sixth, Newt Gingrich didn’t do enough to rebound from his missteps but he might be carving out a niche in this campaign as the attack dog. I thought he did well in his attacks against Barack Obama. He could be the guy who gets the headlines for daring attacks against the President while someone else quietly builds a more credible campaign. Newt Gingrich could deflect some of the bad press away from the eventual nominee. He still has plenty of time to rebound though, and talks of his campaign’s death are premature.

Seventh, if you have to name a winner it was probably Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann. Bachmann probably made the most news of the night by announcing her intentions to run for president. But if you listened she actually said that she is making an announcement to make an announcement about running for president. Just do it already! She was the new face and I think a lot of people that like Sarah Palin will jump on her bandwagon when Palin finally announces she isn’t running for president. Mitt Romney looked presidential, and had a great line about the Bruins being up 4-0. I related well because if I were in that situation I know (and my wife can attest to this) that I would be checking sports scores in between commercials too. But he was solid, wasn’t really challenged that hard on Romneycare, and made some good points about states rights – which was the general theme for most of the debate.

My last thought is if I were Rudy Giuliani I’d show up to one of these debates. You know they’d let him in if he wanted. He’s polling well when included due to name identification. Even if he doesn’t run for president, which I seriously doubt that he will, it would be a good test for him to see how the political sphere reacts and where his potential lies in terms of his future in public service.

But anyway these debates are really just for political nerds like myself. Most of the country isn’t watching, doesn’t care, and didn’t even know a debate took place last night. We have a long way to go before the political process is relevant to the vast majority of Americans. Until that time, thank you for reading. I know you can commiserate with me.

 GOP Debate Recap: No One Pays to Watch the Referee

About the author

Alan Moore wrote 119 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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