Sunday, December 11, 2011

Iowa Debate Saturday Night Style on ABC

A debate on a Saturday night, so close to the holidays? Yes, it happened at Drake University in Iowa with six Republican candidates running for President. While some were grousing beforehand about watching yet another GOP debate, those who didn't watch missed the best one yet.

For a political debate, it got raucous. Zingers were zinged and candidates butted in out of turn and a bet was even tossed in, too. The polite veneer was removed. Moderators Diane Sawyer and George Stephanapolus were clearly enjoying grilling Republicans in a snotty and condescending manner.

Time is slipping away. The Iowa Caucuses are just a matter of days at this point. Newt Gingrich is the surprise front runner and Mitt Romney is looking for a path back to the top slot. The Rick Perry campaign is desperate for their man to be given a second look. Ron Paul has a strong organization of his loyal supporters in Iowa. Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann are strong social conservatives which plays well in the Iowa primary match up.

Gingrich, the latest front runner, was the guy with the target on his back. He threw the first jab.

"The only reason you weren't a career politician is because you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994", said Newt to Romney as he claimed he wasn't a career politician.

During a dust up over the individual mandate in health care reform between Governor Perry and Mitt Romney, Perry was challenged on his stance that Romney had been supportive of it. "$10,000 bet?" Countered Romney. "I'm not in the betting business". And, with that, the answer most talked about began to hit social media and commentators on television. Romney went on to compare Perry's Gardisil vaccine mandate to the fray.

This bet silliness brings focus to Romney as the stereotypical wealthy Republican out of touch with the little people. It was a gaffe that Romney will now have to overcome. The DNC and anti-Romney people are all over it and relishing the barbs tossed his way. It is a bit of a game now on Twitter - jumping on how Obama has wasted $10,000 increments in money vs Romney's challenge to Perry in the heat of a debate.

Two areas of questioning never brought up before in political primary debates - marriage fidelity and personal financial struggles - were introduced, clearly to attack Gingrich and Romney. Both did well in answering the gotcha questioning by two biased journalists. Think about that - George Stephanapoulis, ultimate Clinton insider, asking about marital fidelity.

Both Newt and Romney handled the questions well. Newt better than Mitt, though. Romney doesn't have a natural gift for snark and it comes off a little forced when he introduces it into an answer. Newt has no problem with it.

Newt was able to put to rest any martial infidelity questioning by being frank and honest. He said he asked God for forgiveness. He said he made mistakes. Romney said he grew up wealthy but his father didn't and that his mother instilled frugality into his life.

Governor Perry put in his two cents about marital fidelity - if a man is not faithful to his wife he will not be to his business partner, either, he said. He clearly is playing to the social conservative voters in the Iowa Caucuses. Santorum and Bachmann did, too, but they always try to out-social conservative everyone else. Santorum did get out a good point about fighting economically tough times with in-tact families and coming together to support each other.

All in all, it was far from boring and quite interesting at times. The next GOP debate is Thursday on Fox News Channel.

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