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News from the Votemaster

Republicans Ignore China, Eurocrisis in Debate on Foreign Affairs     Permalink

The 11th Republican debate last night was supposed to focus on foreign affairs, but hardly a word was said about the two most important topics in foreign affairs at the moment: the crisis with the euro and its possible effect on the U.S. and the inexorable rise of China and its effect on jobs in the U.S. But substance is almost irrelevant in debates. It is all about style and showmanship. Remember how George H.W. Bush's candidacy was sunk in 1992 when he once glanced at his watch for 500 milliseconds during a debate? The pundits pounced on him and said he was too nervous to be President. As if time management is irrelevant to Presidents.

In this light, newly minted front runner wannabee Newt Gingrich did fairly well in the debate. He actually knows more about foreign policy than any of the other candidates, possibly save Jon Huntsman, who nobody seems to take seriously (mostly because he is emphasizing content over style). Gingrich was poised and confident, and gave clear answers to the questions posed by the scholars from the conservative Heritage Foundation. At the other end of the spectrum was Herman Cain, who couldn't even remember the name of the moderator, CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

The candidates were farther apart this time than they usually are. Ron Paul's isolationism stood in contrast to the other candidates' bent for interventionism. They also differed on immigration policy, with Gingrich clearly stating that if an illegal immigrant has been in the U.S. for 25 years, has three kids, two grandkids, has been paying taxes and obeying the law and goes to church, he shouldn't be deported.. While this view is exactly the same as the one espoused by Bush 43 (except that Bush didn't make going to church a requirement for becoming a citizen), it is not popular with the Republican base, which wants to deport all illegals, the sooner the better. That this would be a legal and logistical nightmare (assuming the government could find them all and they didn't all sue the government in federal court) doesn't bother the base. Gingrich did say that recent illegal immigrants who had no ties to the country should be deported immediately. However, unlike some of his opponents, he didn't call for digging a moat around the U.S. and filling it with alligators, probably because he is smart enough to realize that alligators would not do well in the Arizona desert and this would make the animal-rights activists all antsy.

In today's world of zero tolerance for any deviation from the party line, in theory Gingrich should be punished for his sin of not hating all illegal immigrants, but the nonRomney crowd is beginning to realize that potential candidates are getting thin on the ground so maybe they have to go easy on the few that are left. Also, foreign policy--even counting immigration--is not the hottest topic at the moment. Polls in the next week will no doubt shed some light on how well Gingrich did with likely primary voters.

Mitt Romney turned in his usual competent performance. He praised Israel and avoided making any mistakes. That's probably all he needed to do. His strategy in the debates is to look presidential and avoid making any mistakes while waiting for his opponents to self-destruct.

One note about Romney, however, is that news reports say he is gearing up to fight in the Iowa caucuses. It's a big gamble for him. If he manages to eke out a win with 20% of the vote in a seven-person fight, the media will declare him to the be the nominee and the show will be over. On the other hand, if he gets 20% and somebody else gets 21%, the media will say he is toast. If he doesn't compete in Iowa and loses he can shrug it off but if he spends anywhere near the $10 million that he spent in 2007 and can't show results, it will look bad. He actually has a chance there. About 60% of the typical Republican caucusgoers are evangelicals and he is unlikely to get any of their votes, but if he can get a decent majority of the other 40%, that could be enough to win in a badly fragmented field.

Of course, if the evangelicals could settle on a single candidate instead of splitting their votes among five or six candidates, that candidate would win easily. There is some movement in that direction, but supporters of the weaker candidates, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul in particular, are going to protest mightily when their candidates are thrown under the bus. In reality though, the only two viable candidates against the Romney juggernaut are Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, but not everyone wants to hear that.

Romney's Extended Family Could be a Problem     Permalink

While everyone thinks Mitt Romney's family to be picture perfect, it is not quite what it appears, as discussed by a story in Politico. To start with, Romney's sister, Jane Romney, is an outspoken Democrat who would like a role in Romney's campaign, something he is not keen on. She also had a bitter divorce from the nephew of the President of the Mormon Church. One of Romney's brothers, George Romney, has been divorced twice and the timing of his second marriage relative to the birth of the first child in that marriage has upset people. Finally, three of Romney's sons have used in vitro fertilization (which pro-life activists strongly oppose) and one used a surrogate mother. While Gingrich's baggage is well known, these new relevations could put Romney in the awkward position of having to either defend or reject the behavior of his close relatives.

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