The Final 2011 Republican Presidential Debate and Overall Debate Outcomes

–Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.

The Fox debate tonight from Sioux City, Iowa, a substance-filled debate, was excellently moderated, particularly by Chris Wallace and Bret Baier. Megyn Kelly and Neil Cavuto were fine. There was perhaps a larger array of issues than I have seen in a presidential debate.

There is too much to summarize, so let me just give some of the conclusions gleaned from all the debates, as seen by a moderate conservative who likes all of the candidates, believes that all of them, save Ron Paul, would be a better president than Barack Obama, and is charged up by some of the toughness which admittedly can lose general elections.

–Newt Gingrich, who has got my juices going with his outraged incredulity at the Administration’s liberal domestic policy and particularly the plundering of the economy in worship of the environmental idol. Newt’s previous refusal to bow to journalists’ superciliousness also wins me over, but his periodic over-the-top rhetoric along with his general antagonistic political baggage will not win in 2012’s general election.

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–Mitt Romney’s preparation is non pareil, and his ability to articulate wherein he has yielded to liberal Massachusetts’ political correctness seems not unreasonable as he governed the second most leftwing state in the union. His healthcare package cannot be reconciled with conservative values, although it is not as bad as a national package, so he retains a foot in Reaganland — but his psychiatric coverage? Yikes. I support him, per the Reagan Admonition, as the most viable conservative candidate. His and others’ attacks on President Obama’s naiveté and tendencies toward foreign policy appeasement were chilling.

–Ron Paul is brilliant, but his isolationist foreign policy would, I believe, lead either to a nuclear exchange or major military miscalculations by our enemies – all of them.

–Anyone who thinks that Michele Bachmann is a dilettante or limited on public policy understanding like Sarah Palin is simply, without qualification, wrong. She does her homework and is often quite precise in detail, and has limited her over-the-topness for weeks, if not months. She defeated Gingrich straight up regarding his involvement in Government Supported Enterprises.

–Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry continue to be not uninteresting, but no-chance aspirants for the Republican nomination. Rick Perry has come back from his gaffes to be a good participant, but he is out of the race. Since Santorum is the only one who ever brings up the issue of America’s destructive destigmatizing of broken families, I cannot wish he had been absent from these debates, however.

–Even in tonight’s generally excellent exchanges, please never have 30-second limitations for answers, and please, all moderators, reject the impulse to ask why a candidate is not doing better. It is just wasting valuable air time. Thank God there appears to be an end to “Raise your hand if you believe X.”

–Since the last two debates have been so well moderated, let me repeat this refrain: moderators, the debate is not about how clever you are, nor should you be a focus of the debates. If your ego won’t allow you to ask good questions and steer inquiries to the right candidate, don’t moderate the debate. I know: fat chance.

Overall: very valuable debates, and reasonable conservatives – who must vote in primaries, not leaving the field to the radicals – should have a good idea of the most conservative candidate who can win the presidential election in 2012.

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

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