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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

During Debate, the GOP Field Contemplates a World of Trouble



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The last Morning Jolt of this holiday week is almost entirely debate coverage; here’s the overview . . .

Happy Thanksgiving Travel Headache Day! The Jolt will resume Monday morning.

The Thanksgiving Week Debate: Who Turned Out to Be the Turkey?

So here’s what I liked about last night’s debate: it was pretty serious. In fact, I think I like the stick-to-one-topic debates (the Bloomberg News economic one, last night’s foreign policy one) more than the grab-bag ones, because it seems to give us a slightly more detailed discussion. Having said that, a lot of candidates have perfected the way to handle questions in debates like these, or to at least sound like they know what they’re talking about.

“I’m glad you raised that, Wolf. [X] is a serious issue and represents one of the key foreign policy challenges of time. A lot of people don’t realize that [Memorized Talking Point Number One], or that [Memorized Talking Point Number Two],  or even that [Memorized Talking Point Number Three]. This is an issue that calls for the utmost serious thinking and real leadership, which is something that President Obama has repeatedly failed to provide. Rest assured that as our president, I would not accept this incoherent mush of a policy but make sure that [key American foreign-policy goal] is enacted.”

Left unsaid in the above pleasant blather is any sense of how that key American foreign-policy goal would get enacted.

Still the GOP field managed to garner praise from an unlikely source: The New York Times’s Nate Silver concludes, “I’m not grading on a curve. Honestly think Republican candidates have been pretty sharp tonight. Only Cain really off his game.”

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: “This is a good and serious debate, about complicated issues. For all the criticism of politicians, this is a good event.”

Former Bush-Cheney campaign ad man and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos: “Who on this stage can you see debating Obama? Romney, Gingrich, Huntsman and, on outside rail, Bachmann.” Then he meanly snarks, “Could Perry debate Obama? Fear he would be pulling on door marked ‘push’ trying to get to stage.”

University of Virginia professor and human quote machine Larry Sabato: “PROF’S FINAL GRADES: Newt & Paul B+, Mitt & Hunts B, Bach B-, Perry & Santorum C, Cain D. Based on performance not positions.”

Ramesh suspected that some candidates had established their reputations and based their campaign themes on other issues, and were a little uneasy focusing beyond our borders for two hours: “You get the impression these candidates just love getting the debate off foreign policy.”

Todd Herman observed that the GOP is at a disadvantage on some of these issues: “It’s so easy to be a Democrat in debates. Should we secure the border? Nope.”

While border security was discussed pretty thoroughly, a related topic never came up. As my buddy Cam put it, “And another debate ends without a single Fast and Furious question. Thanks for nothing, Blitz.”

Josh Trevino also saw a glaring omission: “Biggest foreign-policy crisis we face right now? The Eurozone collapse. Mentions at this evening’s debate? Zero.”


Tags: Debates , Jon Huntsman , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Ron Paul


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