Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mitt Romney and the Republican Debates

It’s probably a sign of some deep-seated psychological problem, but I really love election seasons. I particularly enjoy the debate stage, when you get to see the oddest assortment of political bedfellows duking it out for a party’s nomination.  Since there’s not going to be a democratic debate-fest to enjoy, I’m getting a kick out of the GOP’s.  Most of these characters will ultimately recede back to the world of irrelevance from which they sprang, but its fun to see  them groping for their spot in the sunshine.

This year’s republican debates have been highly entertaining. The sudden rise and subsequent declines of Bachman, Perry and Paul; the constant struggle of the party to find someone - anyone!? - to run against Mitt Romney; the current, nearly inexplicable, boomlet around Herman Cain - all have been fascinating to watch.

Mostly I’ve been impressed with Romney. I certainly don’t agree with all that he espouses (I find his China-bashing to be a xenophobic embarrassment, for example), but he’s sure come a long way since the last time around, and, to my mind, he has come across as a grownup among children in these debates.

Last night was a perfect example. The debate organizers decided to dedicate one section of the debate to letting the candidates ask questions of each other.  Predictably, most of them tried to tee off on Romney, asking him questions designed to show his flip-flopping nature or his lack of conservative bona fides.  But he’s gotten so good at this game, all they did was give him a platform to speak forcefully about his positions. For nearly forty minutes the stage was pretty much Romney’s - in each case he quickly dismissed the insinuation of his rival’s question, then spoke confidently about his plans, proposals and/or visions. Again, agree with him or not, it was an impressive performance.

And when it was his turn?  He didn’t give the stage to Perry or Cain or anyone perceived to have a chance to unseat him as front-runner. He asked a positively-phrased question of Michelle Bachman, setting her up to lay out her conservative principals in a way that would appeal not to Romney’s backers, but to Perry’s. It was, I thought, quite a brilliant strategy.

It certainly seems likely that Romney will secure the Republican nomination, and that will bring a fascinating year of electioneering. Having been raised Mormon myself, I don’t have any qualms about Romney’s religion, but I’ve been surprised at opinions expressed by some of my acquaintances, who feel his Mormonism will be a crippling handicap for him. It will be interesting to see.

1 comment:

  1. As a relative outsider to American politics (I'm from New Zealand) I find the whole fiasco quite entertaining. In my opinion Perry and Bachmann are outright dangerous, Paul would want to cripple the government and Romney would increase the wealth disparity. It was highly amusing to see them all laying into each other though, but I hope none of them ever gets a chance to be President, for the entire western world's sake.