The GOP contenders have not had a debate in over three weeks, and tonight’s debate was the last one before Super Tuesday. More than anything, tonight’s debate highlighted that all of the remaining contenders can hold their own. There are no more Bachmann’s or Perry’s in the campaign (which makes watching the debate much less fun I might add).
All can state their economic positions well
All of the candidates made strong economic pitches. Santorum did a good job of showing that he’s not just a social conservative by focusing on the debt. He wasn’t afraid to state that the problem is entitlements (Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security/Food Stamps) and made some strong points that all of them need to be tackled now. He implied that social security will need to be means tested, which is something that would be a step in the right direction. It’s nice to see a candidate that doesn’t seem to be in AARP’s pockets.
Likewise, Romney came out today with a call to cut inidividual income tax rates by 20% but to cut deductions as well. This would be a step in the right direction, as a lot of these deductions are just giveaways to certain industries (such as the mortgage interest deduction). I would like to have heard more about this.
The attacks on each other didn’t land
Predictably, Romney’s opponents attacked him over Romneycare. This is getting a bit old and Romney defended himself well. Likewise, the attacks on Santorum fell flat. Bringing up his support for Arlen Specter and somehow implying that led to Obamacare? Please. Santorum also did a good job at explaining his vote for certain Bush policies we all later regret as saying ‘you have to support the team.’ We all know that’s the truth, and it’s refreshing that he simply owned up to that.
Santorum pivoted away from social issues well
The Republicans, and Santorum especially, are not going to win the general election on social issues. Santorum did a good job stating that he’s not going to have the government take away birth control, but that it is a failure of society that we allow so many births out of wedlock and that the moral decay of our society is an issue.
There is something to be said for having a President simply not do anything about abortion/birth control, etc. but be a leader saying that we should strive to strengthen family values.
Foreign policy debate was good, but potentially scary
The GOP candidates did a good job lambasting Obama for failing to help the Iranian Green Revolution, while inadvertently encouraging the takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood. Where things got a little scary was Iran. With the exception of Paul, the three candidates took a fairly hawkish view on Iran. This smelled a lot like Bush’s stance on Iraq, where he got us in a war due to a threat that was not close to materializing
Overall, I do not think any candidate was particularly helped or hurt by the debate. The intellectual lightweights, Perry and Bachmann, are long gone from the debates and all four candidates can handle themselves on the podium quite well.