Over the years, I have come to loathe U.S. Presidential debates.
I've viewed (double entendre intended) them as one of the rare curses of my profession. I've watched because I know clients will ask me what I thought about the candidates' performances.
On those occasions when I've had a horse in the race, of course, the debates were inherently more interesting, and the stakes more important.
Otherwise, most debates are like police work: long periods of boredom broken periodically by a moment of excitement.
Tonight's Fox News/Washington Examiner sponsored Republican Primary Debate from Ames, Iowa was different. I found it entertaining.
Kudos go to Bret Baier who wins top prize for a superb job as moderator. He has the talent of asking good questions, keeping things mostly on track, without being self-important. He has what some of the candidates lack, that sense of being a fun guy to be with.
So what did I think of the candidates?
Here, 90 minutes after the debate was over, and without having taken any notes to refer to, is what I still remember:
- Governor Pawlenty--mean spirited. Drop out now and save your money.
- Pawlenty--best line of the evening, his promise to go cook dinner or mow the lawn of anyone who could find President Obama's financial plan. Weakened the line by adding he'd only mow up to an acre, so Mitt Romney's place wouldn't qualify. Thanks Tim for letting us know Mitt is wealthy, we'd never have known.
- Mitt--came across presidential, pretty much as I would have expected. But worst answer (at least his) changed the poem at the base of the under-renovation Statue of Liberty. No more "give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." Nope, under Romney it'll be "give us your yearning to achieve, your bright and newly Ph.Deed."
- Rick Santorum--you whoo! I'm over here! Can I play too?
- Santorum--gets award for being able to mention how often he's been in Iowa without ever once referring to any one person he's talked to.
- Professor Gingrich--I've always admired Newt's ability to analyze problems and come up with ideas worth discussing. He attacked "gotcha questions" and won the audience. Debates give him a good forum for his ideas. He's not a formidable contender for president.
- Jon Huntsman--did better than I expected. Handled issue of his support for civil unions, which all others on the stage oppose, credibly. No mention of what he achieved as ambassador to China. Biggest problem will be running on his record while governor of Utah. He did a great job, but Utah is hardly typical of the other 49 (okay, maybe Idaho) 48 states.
- Ron Paul--lov'm or hate'm, ya gotta lov'm. Says what he thinks without having to poll for his positioning.
- Herman Cain--in some ways the most real of them all. He talks process-accurately define the problem, ask the right questions, before extolling a solution. A candidate who can say, "I don't know, but I'll find out." How novel!
- Michele Bachmann--Is this the same lady as the one on the front of Newsweek? Should have responded to Pawlenty's attack without engaging him. Would have kept herself out of the mud and made him look even more mean spirited. I think she should make more (I didn't hear any) reference to her time as a prosecutor.
- Rick Perry--good example of how to be present while being absent. We'll be waiting to see him next time.
All in all, not as fun or mentally engaging as watching The Mentalist, but still a good evening of entertainment.