Republican debate

As long-time readers can surely guess, I did not watch the Republican debate last night.  Firstly, I watched Next Food Network Star on the DVR with my wife.  Secondly, I still would have watched most anything else.  I don’t need to see these maroons spout their idiocy for 90 minutes (just grow the economy at 5% a year!  Why didn’t Obama just think of that?).  Thirdly, what I think based on watching doesn’t matter.  What the mainstream media et al., thinks is what matters going forward.  And from what I’ve seen there’s a near consensus that Romney and Bachman did well, Pawlenty was weak, and nobody else really mattered.   As John Dickerson mentioned in his nice roundup:

Reagan’s 11th commandment was in effect: These Republicans did not speak ill of each other.

It was all about bashing Obama.  That may be just fine in June, but when these characters are competing in a zero sum game for votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, etc., you can’t just ignore the people you are actually competing against for votes.  That’s when things will really get interesting.  For now, nobody really jumped on Romney for his health care plan.  No way would that be the case in December.  For now, nobody jumped on Bachmann for her myriad lunatic statements (even for a Republican House member).  Again, if she’s a serious threat for votes as we approach the new year, that will change.  Pawlenty was lame, but by all accounts so was Obama’s debate performance at this time four years ago.  So, one really should not make too much out of all of this.  That said, I do think it is notable that Bachmann impressed and Pawlenty didn’t.  A strong Bachmann campaign could strangle Pawlenty’s campaign in its crib and make this a fascinating two-person race between her and Romney.  Not predicting that, just saying it seems a very real possibility at this point.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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