When I wrote about June's New Hampshire debate, I wrote that answering the question of what I want in a candidate has two parts: first, the policy part, and second, the competency part. Neither takes precedence over the other in any absolute way, but I defined the competency piece as going "...to overall experience, dedication, integrity, sincerity, thoughtfulness, consistency and respect for all voters, not just the ones that will vote you in, once you are in office."
Last night? During the Iowa debate with eight Repubican candidates? (Review the live-blog of the Iowa GOP debate here, the entire debate video here or the debate's transcript here.) I can honestly say that listening to what they had to say made me feel as though former Utah governor and ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, was the only one who had a clue that being president means making decisions for hundreds of millions of people who didn't pick you.
Every other candidate there made it clear that they have very specific constituencies that exist almost exclusively at the base of their political party and are not people who are political independents or even somewhat removed from the base. (I have no doubt that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will come off like this to me as well, but we can wait until he makes it official tomorrow.)
This observation made it very hard for me to do much more than analyze how the candidates performed as candidates, from a purely campaign advisor, campaign strategist perspective (having had to think this way myself as a candidate in 2009). Maybe that's all anyone would expect, given that I am firmly in the garden-variety left-of-center category of people, with only a couple of exceptions (Israel I am to the right and pro-choice I am more to the progressive end).
But I actually do seek to consider, while watching the GOP candidates: How would I live with, how could I be supportive of someone I didn't vote for once they've ascended to the presidency? Sadly, I think there is a diminishing number of Americans who are voicing the reality that that is what democracy is supposed to produce, for its leaders, but that's another post.
So, as I watched, and you can read in the live-blog, I worked hard to stick with analyzing the performances: how did they respond to the questions, to each other and to the audience. How did the moderators work out? And so on.
Aug. 11, 2011 - Ames, Iowa, USA - Fox News commentator Sean Hannity speaks with guest Michele Bachmann in the post-Republican debate spin room on the campus of Iowa State University.(Credit Image: © Brian Cahn/ZUMAPRESS.com)
My conclusion: There was a heck of a lot of anger emanating from most of the candidates. I don't know, but I don't think anger works so well most of the time. The electorate is angry -- do we really want our leaders to be angry, too? I want my leaders to do something.
So to that end, I found Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul to be the most annoying when it came to the anger factor. I thought Herman Cain worked hard to bring the sarcasm, wit and funny to his responses. I also found him to be one of the most, if not the most, authentic, with Ron Paul coming close in that category. If you are in sync with the message those two candidates are sending, they might be worth your support.
I felt the frothed-up lather created by questions asked of Michele Bachmann about Tim Pawlenty and Tim Pawlenty of Michele Bachmann were good -- in that many people probably wanted them asked. On the other hand, the way those two responded could not have struck me more differently. Overall, I thought that once again, Michele Bachmann has by far the superior message discpline and debate prepping. There's just no other way to say it. She could not be knocked off her game. When she wasn't quite sure what to say, she took her time -- she paused (consider Byron York's question about whether she's submissive to her husband -- you can see the exchange here). Other times, even if we might have perceived her as faultering in getting something right, she stuck with it and was calm, calm, calm. This just was in stark contrast to the others on the stage, and I think in a positive way.
Now, I could argue that former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, continues to hold the lead when it comes to poise and demeanor, and I think in general, he is poised and proper. But we've come to expect that of him, and that's a bit of a negative for him -- he's seen as too polished, maybe even diffident. And since our expectations of Bachmann were low before June, rose and then needed to be maintained, I have to give the edge to her on this count.
Huntsman was also pretty pleasant in terms of how he carried himself and there's no denying that on substance, I find him the most appealing. He also demonstrated far more specific knowledge and positions related to anything happening outside of the U.S. of A. Rick Santorum's "Afghanistanis" just will never leave my memory. Of course, I couldn't help thinking this morning, especially after outlets like The Fix didn't even write Huntsman's name in its winners and losers post -- anywhere, "How will Hunstman survive??" Maybe he won't.
I honestly have no clue who will survive after the Iowa straw poll (Romney and Hunstman won't be there for it and Perry isn't on the list), but as much as people want to either fully embrace or completely cast out Bachmann, she is performing as a candidate who wants to win a presidential primary should. Maybe that's not rogue enough for some, but frankly, I think her consistency in how she has presented herself for the nomination is impressive again in terms of showing that she really wants this and she is willing to do whatever it takes to be and be seen as serious. If she keeps going this way, maybe she will be the next Ronald Reagan.
Other random reflections from me:
I thought the moderators were good though I had no clue who the woman was. I also happen to have a pundit crush on Byron York -- I have always really respected this post of his.
I totally didn't like the Roman colosseum atmosphere of audible reactions.
I love Emily Zanotti.
I was loving Cover It Live until about 10:01pm EST when comments stalled out for about 30 minutes, but will trust them at least one more time since, in the four years I've been using the free online program, it's never failed me before.
And I thank BlogHer for giving space to these topics. We have a lot at stake and have had a lot at stake. Women as voters and as candidates and as political influencers are here to stay and hopefully to gain more and more traction and leadership roles.
Everyone should stretch their inner pundit and spill it: What did you think of the debate?
Three random blog posts on last night's GOP debate:
From Jamie Marie at hahayourefunny: "The GOP debate in Iowa shockingly reveals the candidates are *completely* out of touch with women’s reality..."
From Dani at The Cute Conservative: "Iowa Republican Debate Recap, or the Republican candidates face off and I get to critique/make fun of them"
From Carmen Cox at ABC News Radio's blog: "Michele Bachmann 'Submissive' Wife Idea a Matter of Interpretation"
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