The gloves will come off

Look for congeniality to fade as GOP candidates define themselves

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There was no shortage of civility at Monday evening's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire.

Don't get used to it.

The GOP's seven declared aspirants to take on President Obama in 2012 weren't quite ready to turn on one another to better define their platforms. Instead, they took turns enumerating what most informed voters already know: The president is corkscrewing America's economy into the ground, and it won't improve unless more business-friendly policies invigorate the private sector.

But by the time the next debate rolls around, look for the candidates to be more aggressive toward one another. Voters will need to know which person is the greater social conservative, or the stronger fiscal hawk, or the tougher enforcer on immigration -- and to show those strengths, candidates will have to exploit the chinks in the others' armor.

While viewers got clear glimpses of candidates' positions on many issues, the evening lacked vivid contrast. Even calling Monday's event a "debate" is a bit of a stretch. It was more of an extended question-and-answer session in which candidates could respond to one another.

Even when moderator John King of CNN prodded candidates to cross swords, they wouldn't take the bait -- most conspicuously when King tried to coax former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to expand on the pejorative "Obamneycare" that Pawlenty coined over the weekend as a dig at the state health-care plan Mitt Romney enacted while governor of Massachusetts.

There were flashes of passion among all the candidates, and minor breakout moments as each participant trod familiar ideological ground -- such as former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania on abortion, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas on the role of government, and Pawlenty on economic growth.

Who were the biggest winners in Monday's political roundtable? Romney and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Both exhibited the most polish and poise, and had the biggest takeaway benefits. The night's congenial atmosphere allowed Romney, the slight front-runner coming in, to leave the debate unscathed. And Bachmann strengthened her position by officially announcing her candidacy.

The loser of the night? King's vapid "this or that" icebreakers -- little either-or questions designed to soften and humanize the candidates.

Instead, they came off as merely fatuous time-wasters. A typical out-of-work American sitting at home eating his last can of tuna doesn't particularly care whether former House Speaker Newt Gingrich prefers TV shows Dancing with the Stars or American Idol .

It's still too early to designate a single Republican front-runner. The candidate who achieves that distinction will be the one who best defines a positive image in the eyes of both social and fiscal conservatives, and who hammers the issues that resonate the strongest with average struggling Americans.

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Brad Owens
Brad Owens 06/16/11 - 03:52 am
Did you see any President up

Did you see any President up there on stage? That is the problem, the GOP cannot seem to send someone up with the "Dubya" presidential groove.

Santorum; Reichwing on social issues only important to only the Reichwingers. No chance outside the primaries.

Romney; Boring and fake, Probably the most Republican Republican in the race in a "Rockerfella" mold.

Bachmann; Palin ruined it for her, too far right, and a Yankee (trouble in Southern states (ask her about her support of the 2nd Ammendment)

Cain; Too far right and has shallow/hollow issues. Using the novelty of a being a black ultra-conservative to jocky for a Cabinet position

Paul: Viewed as a bit of a kook, mostly thanks to his own party. A Libertarian Jimmy Carter, a good man who would be a complete failure as President

Gingrich; No fire and folks have a negative view (although he really is probably the best in this crew as far as intelligence and capability inside the giverment)

Pawlenty; He has no star power at all, just boring and typical. Nothing sets him apart from the pack.

I would say out of all those folks I would vote for Paul or Newt, but even then, against Obama? You mean to tell me this is the best the Grand Old Pervets can muster? I guess Cain is an option, but he will never make it to Super Tuesday. At least he would be interesting.


Riverman1 06/16/11 - 04:47 am
Brad describes them well, but

Brad describes them well, but I disagree about Romney and Pawlenty. They both came across as calm leaders which is a good base to build from. They have no negatives to overcome as the others have. The public knows them more now. The first step.

Bachman did well, too, but she is an imitation of Sarah Palin and that only leaves people wanting the real deal Evander Holyfield.

The key is voters are simply looking for an alternative to Obama. The states he has to win appear to be moving away from him. He has made mistakes in the domestic and international arenas that have even the liberals scratching their heads. Pre-1947 Israeli borders with a contiguous Palestinian state anyone?

Even Obama is now dropping hints that he may be a one term president.

A quote from The Jewish Week: "Thank God that we have a strong prime minister of Israel who is ready to stand up to the disaster that we have to deal with in your Obama. Wake up, America."

We will heed their advice on this, I believe.

southernguy08 06/16/11 - 07:33 am
Americans vote their

Americans vote their pocketbook. And, just as the Dems used it in 2004, Republicans will use it, successfully, in 2012, the term, "Its the economy, stupid." Polls show a huge dissatisfaction with this incompetent president. If it keeps on, and most economists says it probably will, the GOP could nominate Mickey Mouse and beat Obama.

faithson 06/16/11 - 12:11 pm
better be careful of the

better be careful of the 'tea' cup you drink from. All things equal, the democrats have a very effective 'machine' out there. If all the repub's can come up with is 'kick the bum out' and the new repub governor's keep putting it to the 'proletariat', Obama has a great chance of getting his second term. for me, Gingrich so far has the best 'aptitude' for the job. His problem is he has to wait for his wife to finish her hair. For better or for worse, there are quite a few more democrat voters than republican voters... fire up the dem's with the evil's of the repub's, it's going to be a race, don't let the simple minded idea that just because your team is better, their going to win... coached a few championship teams, we were better, but we didn't bring home the trophy!

allhans 06/16/11 - 05:36 pm
faithson......"For better or

faithson......"For better or for worse, there are quite a few more democrat voters than republican voters."
As of Jun 10, 2011, Republican 39%, Democrat 40% . Quite a few more, yep!
Republicans are more likely to vote than Democrats, and Republicans are more fired up. Democrats must have the black and latino vote plus some Republican votes to win. We will see.

seenitB4 06/17/11 - 10:15 am

VERY BORING SHOW! I'm still waiting for the power players,,,,,where are they........surely we have some live wire candidates out there.......maybe an ex-gov. .......Rudy should give it another try.

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