Reale Simple

The world is more than what they tell you. Listen up. It's not complex. It's Reale Simple.

Name:

Former USCHO writer, former writer at a Midwestern broadsheet, occassional CHN blogger.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rating the Debating

If you wonder why Fox News is slaughtering the competition in the 24-hour news network ratings war, look no further than last night's Republican debate, and compare it to the "debate" that MSNBC put on a few weeks ago. Instead of Chris Matthews trying to steal the spotlight with "gotcha" questions and Keith Olbermann's snarky comments trying to denigrate the entire field at once, Fox went with a more dignified and classy approach - actual questions meant to evoke thought provoking responses and actually move the campaigns forward. That must be one of the reasons why the Democrats all cancelled en masse when Fox tried to put on a Democrat debate - they knew Fox wasn't going to let them play footsie with each other and see which one could best trash the President and/or the war for 90 minutes. Tough questions are hard to deal with, after all, but most of the Republican field did a decent job of handling them last night.

Last night's big winner had to have been Mike Huckabee. No other candidate was able to hit as many high points as Huckabee did - his one knock was that as Governor of Arkansas, he raised taxes once or twice, but he handled that line of questioning gracefully, and proceded to answer every other question with excellent poise and diction, positioning his conservative credentials very well on basically every topic that came up. He delivered one-liners at the right time - especially the one about how "Congress spends money like John Edwards at a beauty shop" which brought the house down. Any undecided conservative who watched last night's debate has got to have put Huckabee among their top choices - his performance last night was that good, especially considering that such a standout performance took place with nine other men on the stage.

Behind Huckabee, Mitt Romney had a very solid night as well. He is still coming off as very polished, which for some reason is a negative aspect. He clearly prepares very well for debates and anticipates questions exceedingly well, given his detailed response to nearly every question. He had to admit that he was in favor of returning to a ban on assault weapons, and in doing so probably didn't ingratiate himself with those who find the second amendment to be among their most important issues - especially since his claim to otherwise be in full support of the second amendment wasn't well supported. He also tried to explain his successes in creating and implementing a conservative government in perhaps the most blue state in the country, and did a decent job explaining his position on Roe and abortion. Thankfully, Fox didn't make his religion an issue the way Matthews tried to do. Carl Cameron mentioned that he might have a tough sell in South Carolina (where the debate was) because of the high concentration of Southern Baptists, and the Southern Baptist church supposedly classifies Mormonism as a cult. Last I checked, Southern Baptists weren't the biggest fans of Catholics either, but that hasn't stopped Rudy Giuliani from leading the polls there. So hopefully, religion won't be a major concern for any candidate - they all deserve to be judged on more than that.

Giuliani, the candidate that I am currently supporting, did a much better job last night than he did on MSNBC. He framed his position on abortion very well for pro-lifers who would consider voting for him like myself - he's personally opposed to abortion and even if he was rigidly pro-life, you have to start somewhere, and limiting abortion is the place to start. He really shined when he jumped on Ron Paul. Even though it was just Ron Paul and not one of his closest competitors, his decision to butt in really emphasized the leadership he showed in the wake of 9/11. It was also the least rehearsed bit of the night, which also made him stand out as being able to think on his feet and make quick judgment calls.

McCain was off a little bit. I had him as the winner of the MSNBC farce, but considering how utterly ridiculous that whole episode was, it didn't mean much. He came off as a grumpy old man more than as a dynamic leader, and was on the defensive more than a little.

As far as the others are concerned, Tom Tancredo also turned in a good performance, although he really needs the immigration issue to return to the level it was at a year ago in order to make gains. He's done a decent job of making it "his" issue, but he has displayed a bit of weakness on other topics. Duncan Hunter continues to outline his policies very well and underlines his strength in national defense issues, especially his Iraq policies and the fact that his son is in the military and has done a couple of tours in Iraq. Unfortunately he hasn't been able to stand out from the field despite good diction.

Brownback was very milquetoast. His answers were straightforward and boring, and not terribly insightful. You'd forget about them as soon as the camera moved away. But at least he was somewhat coherent, which is more than can be said for Tommy Thompson and Jim Gilmore. Both were horrible and did nothing to make themselves stand out, and actually made themselves look like they are not the right answer. Thompson tended to ramble incoherently, Gilmore tried to paint himself as the party line. Gilmore was even given an opportunity to call out other candidates for not being conservative enough - which has been the main theme of his campaign - and he failed miserably at it. Thompson, meanwhile, tried to lay out plans for Iraq that are beyond the reach of the presidency - i.e., forcing Iraq's government to shape itself in a specific fashion. I can't even remember anything else he talked about, because he was very uninteresting. I get the feeling that he didn't have as much time to talk as a lot of other candidates, but there's probably a good reason for that. He did nothing to warrant it.

Then there's Ron Paul. Now, I have a lot of respect for Ron Paul even though I don't agree with his worldview. It takes guts to hold an isolationist policy in the post-9/11 world. It may even be a preferable foriegn policy stance for a better world. Unfortunately, he acts as though 9/11 didn't change anything, and even had the audacity to claim that we brought 9/11 on ourselves. Kudos to Giuliani for dropping the hammer on him on that one out of turn. He really hurt himself right there, even if his internet nerds are still going to continue to help him win every meaningless unscientific poll out there - including Fox's text-vote after last night's debate.

So here's where I peg the field right now. I include Fred Thompson, because if he gets into things, he's already created enough buzz to be considered near the top.

1st Tier (Contenders)
Giuliani
McCain
Romney

2nd Tier (Nearly Contenders)
Huckabee
(F. Thompson)

3rd Tier (Middle of the Pack)
Hunter
Brownback
Tancredo

4th Tier (Hopeless)
T. Thompson
Paul
Gilmore

The best part is that I could see myself vigorously supporting anyone in the top three tiers if they gained the nomination. I don't completely agree with any of them on everything, but there are many excellent candidates. I get the feeling Giuliani, McCain, and Fred Thompson would already have an advantage over anyone the Democrats put up, and I feel like once the world gets to know Mitt Romney, he'd be able to beat anyone the Democrats put up too. Huckabee would have yet more work to do but he could be competitive.

Fortunately, those guys are the ones most likely to be the nominee - and none are inextricably linked to the unpopular administration while the leading Democrats other than Edwards are very linked to the unpopular Congress.