An Excellent Washington Post/Bloomberg News Republican Debate: Romney Wins, But So Do All Republicans and the Country

–Richard E. Vatz

Just a few assorted observations on tonight’s Republican debate in New Hampshire:

1. This was a most enjoyable and informative exchange of views under the generally good stewardship of Charlie Rose and journalists who do not think the debate is about condescending questioners whose primary goal is trying to make the candidates look bad. Pay attention, Brian Williams et al.: a political debate is about the marketplace of political ideas that should not be scuttled by self-serving questioners.

2. One lesson about rhetoric theory: if you are assigned to ask one opponent a question, understand that if you are not permitted a rebuttal, the respondent has all the advantages. Republican hopefuls who were champing at the bit to confront Romney witnessed the disproportionate number of hard questions aimed toward him not landing a punch, since there were no follow-ups to his mini-speeches.

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3. One consensual wisdom point was correct: Rick Perry needed to fight his way back, and he looked as if his heart wasn’t in it. He has no chance to be the Republican nominee for president.

4. Rick Santorum must have some hidden way to put off Pennsylvanians. He was, as always, articulate and telling in his arguments. His bringing up the seminal problem of the vanishing American two-parent family as a major factor of economic distress was critically important, despite its being completely ignored.

5. Huntsman, Bachman, Cain, Gingrich and Paul were all articulate and compelling, but this sentence will soon seem so anachronistic — they simply haven’t a chance. Endorsements historically, as opposed to negative endorsements, have meant little, but Chris Christie’s may have sealed the deal for Gov. Romney

6. The emphases throughout the debate on America’s youth as the unrepresented victims of the economy, the killing of business confidence by President Obama’s hostility to business and support of Obamacare, and his destructive hyper-regulating were utterly convincing. President Obama will be destroyed in a presidential debate, it says here.

This was a tremendous debate, and it is the harbinger of a change in administrations next year.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)

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