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News from the Votemaster

Perry Stumbles Badly in Debate     Permalink

In the Republican debate last night at Oakland University in Michigan, Rick Perry blundered badly. At one point he said that when he is in the White House he will eliminate three government agencies: Education, Commerce, and hmm, uh, let me think, I don't know. Ron Paul, who was next to him, helpfully suggested the "EPA" and Perry immediately agreed. But when the moderator asked Perry if he really meant EPA he said no, he merely wanted to reform it, not eliminate it. But when pressed for the third "agency" (actually, these are cabinet-level departments) he couldn't remember the third one and admitted it. Later it came out that he meant the Energy Department, but the damage was done.

It is often said that the Presidency is the toughest job in the world, (although one could argue that the Presidency of China is tougher because it is a bigger country and the President has total control of it). It is going to be said over and over today that if you can't remember the three departments you passionately want to abolish, how are you ever going to run the Executive Branch, with its myriad of departments, agencies, and other bits of bureaucracy? Perry is simply in over his head and would be crushed in debates with President Obama. Fortunately for him, he won't have to suffer that embarrassment since he isn't going to be the nominee.

Actually, though, it wasn't Perry, but Herman Cain who was supposed to get all the attention due to the allegations of sexual harassment coming at him from four women. Sure enough, the subject came up and he flatly denied doing anything wrong. He was strong and consistent but when two of the women hold a joint press conference later this week, it may also become clear that he was lying through his teeth. Historically in this kind of situation, when it is one man vs. one woman, either one of them could be lying, but when it becomes two against one (or in Tiger Woods' case, an entire harem against one), most people tend to believe the women. Although Cain hasn't sunk much in the polls yet, his goose is cooked.

So who won the debate? As usual, Mitt Romney, simply by standing there, looking presidential, and not making a fool of himself. He has to be the luckiest man on earth. Dozens, if not hundreds of polls have shown month after month that three-quarters of the Republican voters do not want him as their nominee. Yet every challenger who rises up to take the mantle of the Not-Romney implodes due to personal flaws. Donald Trump got lost in Birtherland somewhere. Michele Bachmann is crazy as a loon, Perry can't remember why he wants to be President, and Cain has a Bill-Clinton-type problem (but without the charm that saved Clinton over and over).

So who's left? Santorum has a Google problem and Ron Paul is way out of the mainstream.

Of late there has been a boomlet for Newt Gingrich, but he comes with a lot of baggage. In particular, marrying his high school math teacher seems a bit odd, but is otherwise not a problem. The trouble is that he served divorce papers on her when she was in the hospital with cancer. Anyone can make a mistake after all. But then he got married to wife #2 during which period of marital bliss he led the attack on Bill Clinton for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. The problem here is that while attacking Clinton for cheating on his wife, Gingrich was cheating on wife #2 with a woman who would later become wife #3. Clearly Gingrich loves women and would never harass them, but if he rises to the top after Cain's fall, all this history is going to resurface. People are going to say: "We dumped Cain for WHAT?"

The strangest thing about the whole campaign so far is that there actually is a candidate who is as good as Romney but without the flip-flopping problem that so plagues Romney: Jon Huntsman. He was a successful and popular governor, speaks fluent Chinese, and as ambassador to China is the only one of the Republican candidates with any foreign policy experience at all. But in the polls, he is lucky to register in the single digits so everyone ignores him. His problem is that the modern Republican Party has moved so far to the right that Huntsman, who governed pragmatically--much as Ronald Reagan did--now looks like a far leftist. His sins in the eyes of the Republican electorate are twofold: he worked for Obama as ambassador to China and he doesn't throw raw meat to the base on every issue. He could have deflected the first point by using John McCain's campaign slogan "Country First" saying he was called on to serve his country and he did not shirk his duty. He could try to blunt the second point by saying he can win the votes of the almighty independent voters. And he could certainly hammer Romney on his flip flopping, something Huntsman has never done. But the media, which once had a crush on him, has dropped him like a hot potato.

So every day it looks more and more like Obama vs. Romney in Nov. 2012. Unless the voters of four small quirky states throw sand in the gears of Romney's well-oiled machine.

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