The New Hampshire Republican Debate

I wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the Republican candidates, but I think I have to give the win in the Republican debate to Mike Huckabee primarily for style as opposed to substance. He manages to both carry on the failed policies of George Bush while still claiming, “I’m not running for George Bush’s third term.” He also showed he’s accustomed to beating Mitt Romney, who was the major target of the debate:

ROMNEY: “Don’t mischaracterize my position.”

HUCKABEE: “Which one?”

Naturally they were terrible on foreign policy, with all but Paul supporting the greatest foreign policy blunder in our history. They were also annoying on health care as they misrepresent the Democratic policies as socialized medicine. This is the most absurd coming from Mitt Romney considering how similar the Democratic proposals are to his Massachusetts program. In terms of health care, the Democrats should hope that they run against John McCain. His proposals for health care reimbursement are basically an extension of HMO concepts of capitation. In a battle between fake charges of socialized medicine versus the very real problems of the HMO model which McCain has adopted, many voters who have experienced HMO’s are likely to vote Democratic.

Huckabee might be wrong on the issues, but he does do the best job of the Republicans of sounding sane. Democrats who see him as an easy opponent are making the same mistake that Jimmy Carter did in being excited about Ronald Reagan being the opponent. Democrats are in a much better position this year and will probably beat any Republican in the general election, but Huckabee can put up a good fight if he wins the nomination. Mark Steyn’s column from earlier today sums up Huckabee’s strengths, even if over-estimating his chances of actually winning:

As for Huckabee, the thinking on the right is that the mainstream media are boosting him up because he’s the Republican who’ll be easiest to beat. It’s undoubtedly true that they see him as the designated pushover, but in that they’re wrong. If Iowa’s choice becomes the nation’s, and it’s Huckabee vs. Obama this November, I’d bet on Huck.

As governor, as preacher and even as disc jockey, he’s spent his life in professions that depend on connecting with an audience, and he’s very good at it. His gag on “The Tonight Show” – “People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off” – had a kind of brilliance: True, it is cornball at one level (imagine John Edwards doing it with all his smarmy sanctimoniousness) but it also devastatingly cuts to the core of the difference between him and Mitt Romney. It’s a disc-jockey line: the morning man on the radio is a guy doing a tricky job – he’s a celebrity trying to pass himself off as a regular joe – which is pretty much what the presidential candidate has to do, too. Huckabee’s good at that.

I don’t know whether the Jay Leno shtick was written for him by a professional, but, if so, by the time it came out of his mouth it sounded like him. When Huck’s campaign honcho, Ed Rollins, revealed the other day that he wanted to punch Romney in the teeth, Mitt had a good comeback: “I have just one thing to say to Mr. Rollins,” he began. “Please, don’t touch the hair.” Funny line – but it sounds like a line, like something written by a professional and then put in his mouth.

This is the Huckabee advantage. On stage, he’s quick-witted and thinks on his feet. He’s not paralyzed by consultants and trimmers and triangulators. Put him in a presidential debate, and he’ll have sharper ripostes and funnier throwaways and more plausible self-deprecating quips than anyone on the other side. He’ll be a great campaigner. The problems begin when he stops campaigning and starts governing.

The full transcript of the debate is here.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    Zendo says:

    New Hampshire Debates

    Republicans

    Well it is clear that the republicans, with the exception of congressman Ron Paul, are too far gone and removed from the real needs and concerns of middle class Americans to effectively lead this nation. At least the democrats can agree on a few things like universal healthcare, global change and reformation, and on the important task of removing all American troops from Iraq as quickly and responsibly as possible.

    Only 15 minutes into the Republican New Hampshire debates and Ron Paul, who is the most rational and relevant politician in this debate, is already getting chewed on and rudely interrupted by all the Candidates. All that former Mayor Giuliani and the rest of the republican candidates want do is back Bush on his atrocious foreign policy. Still they talk about a troop surge and 9/11 as if most informed people all over the world don’t already know and understand that 9/11 was an inside job paid for by corrupt politicians. All this proves that you cannot expect an ounce of truth to come out of our mainstream media when it comes to anything republican candidates are saying. The media does a great job at ignoring and concealing the real facts. So don’t be surprised when Bush attacks Iran and don’t be surprised if Bush stages another “terrorist attack” on America so that he may postpone if not cancel the 2008 elections to propagate his sordid agenda in which he only means subvert Americans and take away our independence and our liberal rights.

    Democrats

    I though the democratic New Hampshire debate was very relevant and direct. It was a breath of fresh air to finally hear some of these important issues being clearly addressed. I did feel that senator Hilary Clinton was a bit nasty at times, especially when addressing Barack Obama, however, I think she’s entitled, they all are. You have to be very firm and convicted when addressing your views if you want to be forceful or compelling.

    I only have two complaints about Barack Obama, one being that he signed the patriot act, and if you ask me he did so because he is inexperienced and so he acted on pressure and necessity, not conviction. I understand he was trying to show his concern for homeland security and for the current threat of terrorism. But Hilary Clinton for example, did not sign this act, She stuck to her guns, because she had enough experience and foresight to understand that this was a ludicrous opportunistic act that only means to take away our civil liberties and undermine our right to privacy.

    Another thing that bothered me about Obama is that he said, in the matter of bringing troops back home, that if his military advisors tell him that it might be best for troops to remain in Iraq for an unclear amount of time he would agree, which makes me wonder if he is truly firm and convicted about anything I heard him say tonight. I don’t doubt his passion when he talks about change, he just needs to assert himself a little better.

    But I do feel there is much to be hopeful about. Between Hilary Clinton’s clear intentions to immediately remove all American troops from Iraq, Senator Edward’s expressed concern for political lobbyism and private interest, Governors Richardson’s keen understanding of the need to unite and bring people together, And Barack Obama’s favorable, passionately expressed but not incredibly original ideas I’d say we are in good shape for change.

    This is just my own take on the debate.

  2. 2
    Eric Dondero says:

    I wouldn’t call Democrat proposals “Socialist” either.

    They’re much closer to straight out Communism. Nationalized health care is straight out of chapter 11 in the Marxist Principles Guidebook.

    Get the public dependent on health care, limit their choices, and you’ve got ’em by the balls.

    You’ll really know that we’ve sunken into National Socialism when they’ve sealed off the borders, and restrict Americans from going to Mexico to receive medical treatment. If the Dems win the election, my bet is this will be the first thing that they do.

    You’ll see an immediate end of Snowbirds crossing the border into Mexico to buy drugs or get their teeth fixed for 10 times less, and 20 times less hassle, in Progresso, Mexicali and Nogales.

    That will be the very first sign that we’ve become a truly Fascist State.

  3. 3
    Kyle says:

    To the commenter above, everything you said was invalidated when you wrote: “Still they talk about a troop surge and 9/11 as if most informed people all over the world don’t already know and understand that 9/11 was an inside job paid for by corrupt politicians.”

    You subscribe to 9/11 conspiracy theories and you *hope* that Bush and the evil Republicans really did coordinate the attack, as it would advance your agenda.

    I myself am a conservative Republican and I don’t hate liberals, but I do hate people who insist that thousands died at the hands of our own government in 2001.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Besides, falling back on these ridiculous conspiracy theories create a distraction from criticizing the Bush administration for how it mishandled 9/11 and reacted incorrectly by attacking Iraq as opposed to concentrating on bin Laden and al Qaeda.

    Also disagree with Zendo in writing off Obama’s ideas as “not incredibly original ideas.” Politicians rarely come up with very original ideas during a political campaign. What I find of value in Obama’s ideas is that he does a far better job than Edwards or Clinton of considering views beyond the Democratic orthodoxy in both developing his ideas and in promoting them in a way which becomes more tolerable to all parties.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Eric,

    What planet do you live on? None of the Democratic candidates are advocating “Nationalized health care.”

    “You’ll really know that we’ve sunken into National Socialism when they’ve sealed off the borders, and restrict Americans from going to Mexico to receive medical treatment. If the Dems win the election, my bet is this will be the first thing that they do.”

    Strange that the first thing they would do would be to do something that none of them have ever advocated. Your prediction that the Democrats would stop people from buying drugs there also conflicts with the fact that it has been the Democrats who have been pushing to allow people to buy drugs from Canada over the objections of the Republicans.

  6. 6
    Ryan says:

    Democrats who see him as an easy opponent are making the same mistake that Jimmy Carter did in being excited about Ronald Reagan being the opponent.

    I think I’m guilty of this. I just can’t see this guy as having a legitimate shot at beating Obama. I wonder if I would feel differently if I could remember 1980 (two years before I was born).

    Another thing is, just like in sports, winning is so much sweeter when you beat an arch rival, the hated enemy.

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