Thursday, September 8, 2011

Last Night's Debate at the Reagan Library

Here we go again. The Republican presidential candidates squared off last night at the Reagan Library, so once again, I did an analysis of the trending topics on Twitter immediately after the debate ended. (Don't miss my previous posts on the New Hampshire debate and Ames debate.)

The only debate-related topic that was trending nationwide was "Did Ron Paul." Yes, you read that correctly. Unfortunately for Paul, the vast majority of the tweets for that topic were along the lines of "Did Ron Paul really just say that crazy thing?" Many of these tweets centered on Paul's comments that a border fence could also be used to keep Americans in, and that we should save money by taking away the air conditioning units from our troops in Afghanistan. Huh?

Wait... did Ron Paul really say the gov't could use a border fence to trap U.S. citizens? I mean, is that an accurate quote?Thu Sep 08 03:26:20 via TweetDeck

Did Ron Paul really say a fence on our southern border would keep us from fleeing with our capital? Or did I just fall asleep? #ReaganDebateThu Sep 08 05:26:44 via Twitter for Mac

Maybe I missunderstood this but did Ron Paul just say that if we took our soldiers' air conditioning away, they would come home?Thu Sep 08 01:03:45 via Twitter for Android

Anyway, here's your city-by-city trending topics (if a city is not listed, there were no debate-related topics trending there):

Atlanta: Ronald Reagan
Austin: #ReaganDebate, Ron Paul
Baltimore: Ron Paul
Boston: #reagandebate, Social Security
Chicago: Ron Paul
Dallas-Fort Worth: Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Social Security
Denver: Texas
Harrisburg: #reagandebate
Jackson: Rick Perry, Texas
Los Angeles: Brian Williams, Jon Huntsman
Miami: Ron Paul
Minneapolis: #ReaganDebate, Ron Paul
Nashville: Texas
New Haven: Texas
New York City: #REAGANDEBATE, Ronald Reagan, HPV
Philadelphia: Ron Paul, Reagan
Portland: Ron Paul
Raleigh: Reagan
Salt Lake City: #reagandebate
San Diego: #ReaganDebate Texas
San Francisco: #reagandebate
Tampa: Ron Paul
Washington: #REAGANDEBATE, Chilean, Telemundo, HPV, Karl Rove

Again, as I've said before, being a trending topic isn't necessarily the same thing as a positive reaction (see "Did Ron Paul" tweets above). I bet Karl Rove did not expect to be a trending topic, but Perry's zinger of a remark about how he "wasn't responsible for Karl Rove anymore" set the D.C. crowd atwitter...literally! Ha!

Some quick thoughts on how the debate went:

Rick Perry made a splash during his first debate since officially throwing his hat in the ring. The race has started to shape up into a two man race between Perry and Mitt Romney, and that was only reinforced last night. He entered the stage as the front-runner, weathered attacks from all sides, from both the candidates and the MSNBC reporters, and held his own. Was it a flawless performance? No. He was not as polished as I would have preferred and seemed to stumble a few times looking for words, but overall, he was confident in his record as the Governor of Texas, had solid facts ready to back up his arguments, and spoke from a place of sincerity. Personally, I find his candor appealing.

Mitt Romney had some strong answers on a number of topics, and was definitely the most polished last night. His experience from the 2008 race serves him well in these debates. Still, he has dug in on the RomneyCare issue, and that's a hard sell in a Republican primary, especially this year. However, it was his awkward attack on Perry on the Social Security issue that stood out to me. Not one of the Republican plans to reform Social Security (not from any of the presidential candidates or current members of Congress) have included any suggestion that we cut off benefits to seniors who are currently in the system, and it was wrong of Romney to say that Perry wanted to kill Social Security. Just like with the health care issue, Romney seemed to forget he needs to appeal to Republican primary voters right now.

Dang it @MSNBC. NOT ONE Republican plan for #SocialSecurity changes benefits for seniors. Quit it w/the liberal talking points #ReaganDebateThu Sep 08 00:51:15 via UberSocial for BlackBerry

Michele Bachmann desperately needed to distinguish herself last night, but unfortunately for her, that did not happen. She has markedly slipped in the polls since Perry entered the race, and has been unable to stop the downward slide. The debate moderators completely ignored her for the first half hour of the debate, and never gave her much time at all. She did have solid answers when she had a chance to participate, but nothing she said left much of an impression. It has to be frustrating after such strong performances at previous debates and her Ames straw poll win. As Erick Erickson noted:
I don’t know what she can do to resuscitate her campaign...People were more interested on Twitter last night on what was up with her hair. I think she peaked too soon and is going to struggle to get back in the game.
Herman Cain has extensive expertise on the economic issues, and used last night's debate for the national debut of his "9-9-9" plan (he had discussed it at an event in Sanford last weekend). I'm not really sure the plan resonated with listeners though. I'd like to see a Frank Luntz panel on that. Cain hasn't yet been able to break into the top tier of candidates, but you have to respect the smackdown he gave the MSNBC commentators after the debate (hat tip: The Other McCain):

YouTube | Citizens4HermanCain | Herman Cain Takes On Entire MSNBC Roundtable

Newt Gingrich's story for the 2012 election has been "what might have been." He really shines at these debates. Definitely one of the smartest guys on the stage, he has a depth of knowledge and history that he can access with ease. And I have to say I enjoy Gingrich's efforts to keep the debate moderators honest. That's a losing battle, especially with MSNBC, but kudos to him for trying.

Jon Huntsman made headlines this last week with his economic plan, which won loud praise in conservative circles, but then he spun around and sounded like a squishy moderate again last night, drawing comments that he seemed to be running in a primary against Obama. And I'm sorry, but attacking the other Republicans as being "anti-science" on the global warming issue is not going to help him get out of the single-digit polling basement. Overall, Huntsman gave a polished performance, but it won't be a gamechanger. When his controversial consultant John Weaver is enough of a news story to draw a question last night, Huntsman has lost his chance to be taken seriously.

Ron Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee for President. People perk up when he is called because they want to hear what nutty idea he'll say next. Crazy Uncle Paul certainly adds to the entertainment value of the debates, but when he can't even discuss his supposed strong point - domestic economic policy - without sounding like a crank, there's no hope.

Rick Santorum...oh, he's still here? Tim Pawlenty at least had the class to get out when he knew it was over. A large Viking woman has been singing for Santorum for a few months now.

MSNBC showed their belligerently liberal slant throughout the debate (not to mention the after-debate commentary). Voters want to hear the candidates' plans for creating jobs and reducing the debt, but instead, we get Brian Williams spouting Democrat talking points and an obsession with global warming. And I found the way they trotted out Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart (brother of Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart) in the middle of the debate to ask questions about immigration very awkward. They made him stand to ask his questions and then shooed him off the stage. Why not let Diaz-Balart have a seat at the table with Williams and POLITICO's John Harris? Can't a Hispanic journalist handle topics besides immigration? For goodness sakes, I hear the jokes about MSNBC's weird treatment of racial issues but this was ridiculous.

As a final note, one of my favorite parts of the debate was the fact that it was at the Reagan Library and the lovely tribute to President Reagan they played near the end of the debate. And Nancy Reagan is just the sweetest thing ever. It was wonderful to see her greeting the candidates who are seeking to continue her husband's legacy.

Nancy Reagan greeting the candidates in a replica of President Reagan's Oval Office
And I loved her glasses. Seriously, how cute is she?

Here are a few other debate commentaries I found interesting:

Big Journalism | MSNBC Trots Out The Token Hispanic Reporter
Michelle Malkin | Why the Reagan Library GOP debate sucked
Yid With Lid | The No Obama Speech, Lets Use Rick Perry as a Pinata, Republican Candidate Debate at The Reagan Library 
Melissa Clouthier | Information Pollination
RedState | Dan McLaughlin | The First Perry Debate: The Governors Dominate 
RedState | Erick Erickson | The Horserace for September 8, 2011

What did you think about last night's debate?

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