Thoughts on the GOP South Carolina Debate
Jan 18, 2012

Thoughts on the GOP South Carolina Debate

Despite the GOP nomination contest being all but over, there is still some entertainment value to the sports team contests that are the seemingly never ending debates. What follows is a few miscellaneous thoughts on the most recent South Carolina debate.

Attacking Romney's Bain Record:
Following a couple weeks of attacks by almost all of the other participants on Romney's past 'Vulture Capitalism', as Perry puts it, this was unsurprisingly a major topic in the debates. I have previously expressed, that I believe Romney's record at Bain Capital - which involved enormous profits at this Wall Street firm, often at the back of breaking up companies and laying off large amounts of people -  had a good chance of seriously hurting him. Certainly, the news media and pundits have been almost uniformly of that opinion. After this debate, I am not quite so sure.

In fact, throughout the debate I think he responded close to perfectly and just objectively won almost every exchange on the topic. Every specific example was deftly thrown back with a reasonable sounding (regardless of its veracity) reason such as problems with China, or opening a corresponding plant in a non union state and offering these jobs to the workers at the union plant he closed. The problem is that in his defense of it, he gets to quickly dismiss the specific allegation and then turn to lofty aspiring tones about all the virtues of capitalism and free enterprise and repeat all the claims of jobs created through his actions. All of these things are winners for Romney, things he would like to talk about anyways.

Part of the problem is just who the people attacking him are. Namely, these are Republicans who ostensibly support exactly this kinds of now holds barred, zero regulation capitalism. They can't exactly articulate a cogent attack on it without being blatantly hypocritical and upsetting their base. I believe that Obama will be more capable of launching an attack on his record the way many left wing pundits are doing now, one that really talks about the damages things like this cause. It fits into that Wall Street elite vs the 99% framing that Obama can play into very well. Nonetheless, we should probably slightly dial down our expectations for how damaging this could be to Romney.

Negative Attack Ads: 
The moderators repeatedly challenged the issue of negative attack ads. As clearly devastating as these are (take Gingrich's decimation in Iowa at the hands of Romney's SuperPAC, for instance), it also looks so bad when they are called out to defend them. And they were, repeatedly. Part of the reason the attack on Romney failed to gain any traction in this debate was that people like Gingrich had to spent most of their talking time defending the actual idea of attacking other candidates.

May I indulge my slightly more conspiratorial side? As soon as the Bain attacks started coming out, there has been a pretty strong reaction against attack ads with calls from the RNC chair to cool it down. This is logical, because they don't want a seriously dangerous attack placed on their own candidates hurting them for when they have to face Obama. I don't know exactly what was going on at FOX, but they seemed to be pushing this same agenda what with all their questions and comments implying how bad and dangerous negative attack ads are.

Apparently Mitt Romney is not reading my blog about the tiresome SuperPAC charade since he participated fully in the charade here. On the issue of egregious errors being made on the part of his SuperPAC against Gingrich, Romney went into a surprisingly lengthy attempt to separate himself from his SuperPAC pretending that there was absolutely no correlation between the two, that he was in no way responsible for it, that any errors it made had nothing to do with him, and that he would call on SuperPACs in general to fix their errors. Of course, as any casual observer can see, there is an enormously close correspondence between the candidates and their respective SuperPACs, and only the thinnest veil of separation between them. It was a disingenuous response on an issue that it is crucial the public does not misunderstand. 

Ron Paul's Defense Spending:
I have written previously that while progressives and Ron Paul may, at times, overlap in their desired policies when it comes to foreign affairs, they often do so for very different reasons. Ron Paul's answer on domestic defense spending quite illustrates this. When asked a question regarding the potential cost to South Carolina of cutting defense spending since South Carolina has many military bases, Ron Paul responded that the questioner must not understand his position. Ron Paul elaborated at some length that he wants to cut foreign   military spending, that he wants to bring troops home, and that this would probably result in more bases on home soil.

While we would probably agree about the pointlessness of having troops at the Okinawa base in Japan, I certainly don't want more bases on domestic soil. I don't want the troops coming home and just hanging around in the US. I believe there should be dramatic cuts in the size of the military entirely. Specifically overseas, but I would be more than happy to cut bases in South Carolina and across the country. There is certainly effectively zero military defense reason to have them there. The main reason for a large network of domestic bases is to be able to maintain the infrastructure to be able to conduct all these foreign wars, things like training the troops and housing them when they are not out of the country. If you cut the military overseas, the natural consequences is cuts domestically as well and we should not shy away from this.

Rick Perry:
Many were surprised when Perry didn't drop out after New Hampshire. He is polling absolutely abysmally right across the country, was pushed into the 1% category in New Hampshire, and doesn't appear to have the tiniest shred of momentum. Why then did he not drop out with Huntsman? Perry is not a candidate like Ron Paul who is there largely to be able to build a movement around his constitutional libertarianism ideology.

The reason, such as it is, is that he has an enormous war chest of unspent money. This contest has been incredibly volatile with most candidates in it experiencing big rises and crashes. I am sure he acknowledges that currently he has nothing going right for him. But if the contest proves to be volatile one more time and somehow it is Perry who gets a second bump up in the polls, this time he can unleash the war chest and actually capitalize on that bump the way Santorum or Huntsman could not. It isn't even a terrible strategy, it is just that this is a very tall hill to be able to climb to beat Romney at this point. 

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

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Elipsis said...

The Grinch is now favored to win SC. That kind of a narrative could even make him competitive in Florida. Eww.

Stay tuned...

bazie said...

So apparantly I was worng twice in this post.

First I thought Romney held the Bain attacks off pretty well, only for Newt to surge right after this debate.

Secondly, in talking about Perry hanging on because of his war chest, he pulls out of the race the next and cites money issues.

I should give up on this punditry business:D

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