If the Republican debate strategy in South Carolina and Florida was to appeal to America’s penchant for reality television and get them off substantive issues surrounding education, crime, alternative energy, Iran, China, North Korea, the EU, drugs, global warming, et al, they have succeeded — but the front-running candidates took a chainsaw to the Republican platform in the process.
In the Florida debates, Romney eviscerated Newt Gingrich for his lobbying practice by calling him an “influence peddler,” for his consulting record over troubled Freddie Mac, and how Gingrich resigned as speaker of the house in disgrace over an ethics controversy.
Santorum attacked — as much as an Evangelical can — Romney for Romneycare as the basis for Obamacare and turned on Gingrich for supporting an individual mandate for 20 years up until last year and calling the individual mandate the centerpiece of Obamacare. Santorum then went on to ask both Romney and Gingrich “If you believe in capitalism that much, then why did you support the bailout of Wall Street?"
In the South Carolina debates, Texas Governor Rick Perry admonished Romney for not releasing his tax returns, saying that “As Republicans we cannot fire our nominee in September. [. . .] We need to know now.”
Gingrich took aim at Romney over Bain Capital by citing how the equity firm may have damaged Georgetown Steel, a South Carolina company, and Romney countered Gingrich’s attack by saying that capitalism and free enterprise work and that it seemed strange having to explain how, on a Republican stage, equity and capitalism work.
Although all the candidates oppose SOPA, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has championed efforts to kill the bill, made it clear that Republicans have been on the wrong side of the [free speech] issue.
Never mind that frontrunners Romney and Gingrich were factually wrong on a number of points: Romney on the size of the Navy, on Gingrich resigning in disgrace, on Obama having no plans for NASA, on Obamacare increasing deficits; and Gingrich on the number of balanced budgets the U.S. had when he was speaker. But then the truth usually takes a backseat to appearances and no one really notices for all the fun. And, it seems, no one really notices the outsider, the Libertarian Paul, who has been marginalized by both the media and the Republican leadership.
Paul may be the only candidate of substance and one who deserves respect for refusing to engage in petty sniping, and we may never hear what he has to offer outside, or through, the frenzy of his youthful base.
The Republican Party is nervous over Gingrich’s win in South Carolina because they feel, should he win the candidacy, he will negatively influence Republicans in congressional races. Some House Republicans are calling on Republican voters to stop supporting Gingrich. This leaves Romney as the Republican-anointed front man and a dubious one at that given he has lost two out of three primaries. Romney’s only strength as the Republican front runner is that Gingrich and Santorum can’t seem to exploit his weaknesses because, after all, they are tangential to solid GOP planks: supreme capitalism, wealth, less taxes for the rich, the 1%.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the future health of America because that has not been discussed — but then that’s not the purpose of these debates. Their goal is to appease and entertain for media ratings, and whoever comes out on top to face Obama will woefully repeat Robert Redford’s line in the move, The Candidate: “Now what do we do?”
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