Blogging the January 7th New Hampshire Debate

Tonight I watched the New Hampshire GOP presidential debate. There are actually two debates this weekend before the New Hampshire primary, with this one having aired Saturday night and another Sunday morning. With Mitt Romney way ahead in the polls, time is running out for the other candidates. I was really looking forward to an exciting debate, but I was left disappointed. This was another debate hosted by ABC and moderated by George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer.

The very first topic was on the recently-released jobs report which showed that 200,000 jobs had been added last month. This question was for Romney, and I found it interesting that he flat-out said that this positive news on the economy was not Obama’s doing. I don’t think that a president has a whole lot of control on the economy anyway, but you know that if a Republican was president he’d be taking credit for the numbers. It’s pretty silly for Romney to imply that bad news on the economy is Obama’s fault, but when we’re talking about good news, Obama had nothing to do with it.

It’s certainly interesting to see Romney and Santorum center-stage. In what felt like one of only a handful of attacks on Romney of the night, Santorum hit Romney on his business experience and claimed that what the country needed was a leader, not a manager. It’s an interesting argument, but I don’t see the evidence that Santorum is any more of a leader than Romney. The fact that Romney lead a company certainly seems more relevant than Santorum’s experience in the Senate, and Romney hit back that he was in fact a leader in business, the 2002 Olympics, and of Massachusetts and wasn’t just a manager.

Instead of attacking Romney directly, Gingrich chimes in and mentions an article which chronicles what happened to a company which was bought by Romney’s business, Bain Capital. This must have been part of Newt’s plan of staying positive by effectively outsourcing an attack to the New York Times. I wish he would have just said what he wanted to say. Honestly, all the candidates were afraid to touch Romney tonight. I was hoping for everyone to pile onto frontrunner Romney and make it an interesting night, but they avoided it. The debate ended up being one of the most boring yet. Is everyone just running to be his VP now?

There were a fair number of attacks between the non-Romney candidates. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum had an interesting back-and-forth where Paul attacked Santorum for being a “big-government conservative” and voting for things like No Child Left Behind and raising the debt ceiling. Paul was very confident tonight, and it was one of his best performances yet. Santorum somehow brushed off Paul’s claims and just said that he believes in some government. Next, Perry got into it and attacked Paul for earmarking and then voting against the bill, and attacked Santorum for raising the debt ceiling and supporting a balanced budget amendment. It looks like there really is plenty of hypocrisy to go around on that stage.

The moderators were stirring up most of the trouble this debate. They brought up Paul’s comment of calling Gingrich a chickenhawk for supporting the wars but having never served, and Paul stool by the comment. Paul mentioned that Newt got deferments to avoid serving and became extremely riled-up and passionate when he talked about the young people serving in the military today. Newt denied that he got deferments and said that he couldn’t serve because he had a family, and Paul finished this conversation by saying that he went despite having a wife and kids. Gingrich looked pretty weak after that exchange.

Next the moderators brought up Paul’s racist newsletters published under his name from 20 years ago. Paul didn’t even answer the question of how they got out there without his approval—he went straight to the underlying allegation that he was racist. He sighted that Martin Luther King was a role model of his and that his position in the war on drugs proved that he wasn’t a racist, since he wants to end that “war” and stop the injustice which incarcerates African-Americans disproportionately  more than whites even though the usage rate is the same. I like that Paul got right to the point instead of tiptoeing around the newsletters. Paul has addressed those newsletters so many times in recent interviews that I really don’t think it was necessary for the moderators to go there again.

And finally, the moderators went after Romney and grilled him on whether or not a state could ban contraception. A lot of time was wasted on this question, and I have no idea where it came from and neither did Mitt. He responded by asking the moderators why they’re asking about a hypothetical which no state wants to do in the first place. It was just ridiculous, and Romney essentially referred the question to Ron Paul in a joking manner.

I was really disappointed by this debate. Do the candidates not realize that they need to go after the frontrunner? Romney was left virtually untouched while the other candidates fought amongst themselves. That’s exactly what Romney wants because he stays on top and they continue to divide the non-Romney vote. Mitt has to be pretty happy, but I was letdown by this relatively boring debate and poor performance by the moderators.

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  • riccija  On January 9, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I wonder who picks the moderators. The best moderator by far that I have seen was Huckabee. Diane Sawyer was horrible both of the times. Stephanopoulos was even worse, which is definitely saying something. And who scheduled a debate during a prime time football game. Another reason viewership was down.

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