I watched the Republican presidential debate from Iowa last night, but purposely skipped the post-debate analysis. I did not want my thoughts on the outcome influenced by pundits and “experts”, many of whom have an agenda.
No candidate stood out to me. Of course, it did not help that the questions allowed some candidates to participate more than others. The FOX News panel posed a question to each presidential hopeful on each subject, but the questions were different (and sometimes antagonistic), making it difficult at times to compare details in the candidates’ often similar views.
Some individual statements did stand out:
Michele Bachmann said that when we allow government to mandate that we buy a product, we give government the power to set the price of that product.
Herman Cain mentioned the importance of securing US borders, as did the others, but he also emphasized our need to enforce existing immigration laws.
Newt Gingrich was the only one who did not use his closing statement to say why he would be the best Republican nominee. He encouraged Americans to contact Congress and tell them to return to Washington and work on our budget problems.
Jon Huntsman brought up China to highlight his experience as an ambassador there, but made the excellent point that since the US is so closely tied to China (which holds most of the US debt), we must seek to better understand the Chinese.
Ron Paul said that federal regulations on health care put a wedge between patients and doctors. He favors individual health savings plans over Obamacare.
Tim Pawlenty attacked most of the others, but especially Congresswoman Bachmann. He said that while she claims to have fought for or against many important issues, her position has not prevailed on any of them. His assertion that results matter is worth considering. President Obama had passion but no record of Senate accomplishment in 2008, and we see a lack of results in many areas over the past two years.
Mitt Romney gave a good explanation of the value of his and Cain’s business experience. He said that while not all the businesses in which they have invested have succeeded, those experiences taught them what did or did not work and how to create jobs.
Romney spent more time than the others discussing the rights of the 50 states (under the Tenth Amendment) to handle many things, including his heath care plan in Massachusetts. So he was questioned when he said the definition of marriage should be a federal issue. He deftly explained that marriage is a status that goes with a person wherever the live, that conflicting state laws on marriage imperil the status of any children and cause legal difficulties concerning divorce. (If you legally marry in one state, but move to another that does not recognize that marriage, can you dissolve the marriage in the second state?)
Rick Santorum criticized the others for claiming Tenth Amendment rights for the states over some issues but acquiescing to the federal government on others. His view is that US law is based on moral law and it is not acceptable for either the states or the federal government to change the law on some issues (e.g. gay marriage).
On the issues:
Iran – Everyone but Ron Paul said Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Paul said sanctions on Iran (or any nation) are an embarrassment to the US which otherwise advocates free trade. He said he would not stop Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Herman Cain thinks if we maximize oil development in the US, we’ll become a major player in the global oil market and dilute Iran’s influence. Rick Santorum pointed out twice that he authored the 2005 legislation that put sanctions on Iran.
Economy/national debt – Cain would lower corporate tax rates to 25%, Santorum to 0%. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said a Congressional Super Committee to find more spending cuts is “dumb” and the process too secretive, that all the existing Congressional committees should be tasked to find cuts in their areas. Jon Huntsman thinks over-regulation stifles the growth of businesses; he specifically cited Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Ex-governors Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney touted their records of tax cutting while in office.
I saw many similarities between these eight potential Republican nominees; Ron Paul’s views differed the most. Some were more articulate, some more passionate. But you may not want to get too attached to any of them unless you live in Iowa or New Hampshire. After the Ames Straw Poll tomorrow, and the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary early next year, many of those who debated last night will have withdrawn from the race. For each one on the stage, the debate was an important moment. But for voters, this is just one brief rest stop on the long 15-month road to the 2012 presidential election.