Overall: The debate started out a lot rougher and tougher than in the past. After a little while it settled down and the candidates stopped sniping at each other and focused on the issues. I liked the fact that there were fewer candidates, it gave each candidate more time to speak and make their positions known. The audience wasn’t shy about making its feelings known either, I liked it! Overall, I enjoyed the debate with one exception; that I would have liked to see the questions consistently rotated among the candidates. I think this would help the public better differentiate among the candidates.
On the various issues brought up during the debate I have the following:
Private Equity: The attacks on private equity and Bain Capital are a looser’s position in my book. Bain Capital has one of the best reputations in the private equity industry. These attacks are the acts of a desperate person, grasping at short term straws. They are ultimately going to hurt the person making the attacks. I think they have already hurt Jon Huntsman. My thoughts are that one of the factors in Jon Huntsman’s decision to withdraw from the Presidential race was the blowback resulting from his criticism of Mitt Romney’s private equity involvement and private equity in general. In my opinion its politically a suicidal position to take.
Unemployment Benefits: Rick and Newt made good points that 99 weeks is too long. Newt scored well when he contrasted all the Republicans with President Obama; calling Obama the Food Stamps President.
Dodd-Frank: All want to repeal. No one likes this law. It supposed to be passed to prevent the next financial crisis. However it was passed before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission finished it hearings and issued its report. It is very hard for me to see how D0dd-Frank can be effective in preventing the next financial crisis when the report on the last financial crisis was not even published when Dodd-Frank was drafted and passed. In my opinion, Dodd-Frank was primarily a “kitchen sink” bill containing everyone’s wish-list of new financial regulation and special interest requst, whether they were relevant, harmful or not.
Economy: Rick Santorum’s targeted tax proposal is unfortunately another example of the government picking winners and loosers. This is wrong. It is not the job of the government to pick winners and losers! The proper role of government is to create conditions that allow all individuals and corporations to compete evenly and fairly. When it comes to taxes this means that the government should set one tax rate and then get out of the way.
Education: Newt doesn’t like No Child Left Behind. Favors dramatically cutting the Department of Education, and turning power over to local school boards. This was the last question of the night. If my memory is correct, all the candidates favor cutting the Department of Education and returning education regulatory authority back to the states. When one looks at the United States’ ranking compared to other countries in terms of quality of education, it is hard to see how the Department of Education is doing its job.
Gun Control: Mitt Romney said that his gun control in Massachusetts had the support of the pro gun and control lobbies. Rick Santorum supported trigger locks and background checks. He said that both proposals where supported by the NRA. Ron Paul claims to be in favor of legislation that would roll back State gun control legislation.
Foreign Policy: Ron Paul scored poorly on this topic. He is a quasi pacifist and isolationist. Newt did very well. Mitt Romney put on a strong display of strength. Rick Perry pointed out that cutting off foreign aid as a means of influencing foreign policy.
Housing Market: Rick Perry would cut taxes to make housing more affordable.
Income Tax Records: All seemed to support the public release of personal tax records.
National Security: With the exception of Ron Paul, all favor a strong defense as the best course of action for national defense.
Social Security: Mitt Romney would strengthen the existing system. Newt scored big points by referencing the Galveston, Texas and Chilean system. He really knew this subject well. His mention of the Principal Group in Des Moines helping administer the Chilean system was great. It is a good starting point on being able to get the facts on this system out to the public. Also, his comments about the estimates by the Social Security Actuary estimating 90-95% of younger people opting into the system, and the building up of an asset that they own where extremely good. He also referenced Martin Feldstein of Harvard for estimating that this system would reduce wealth inequality in America by over 50% over the next generation. WOW ! Newt said his proposal was on his website for all to review. Well during a commercial break I found it, here is Newt Gingrich’s proposal for Entitlement Reform.
Rick Santorum was against personal accounts in social security. This is a deal killer for me. We all know the present system for social security needs massive reform. We need to reform social security and put it off limits from the politicians once and for all.
Tax Rates, What is the Highest Tax Rate You Would Have? Rick Perry Flat Tax, Mitt Romney 25%, Newt Gingrich 15%, Ron Paul 0%, Rick Santrorum 28%
Super PAC Attack Ads: The candidates all criticized while claiming no control. Newt and Romney had a confrontational moment late in the debate over the falsehoods in these attack ads. Both said falsehoods should be removed, and both admitted that they are not legally allowed to attempt to influence the Super PACs. On the subject of the attack ads and documentary attacking Bain Capital. Newt said that the group responsible for the ads had submitted a list of questions to the Romney campaign so it could be corrected. Used this as an opportunity to attack the current campaign finance laws that warp the system. These attack ads and the Super PACs that sponsor them are the result of the McCain Feinngold campaign finance legislation.
On the individual candidates I have the following:
Rick Perry: Did not like his attacks on private equity and tax info. Thought he performed well in the rest of the debate. Solid comments on foreign policy. Showed marked improvement in his debating skills. Very good debate performance. Wants a Balanced Budget Amendment and to reduce the time Congress is in session. Unfortunately Mr. Perry did not get a lot of questions or screen time. Something I think is a mistake. He is the governor of the state of Texas, which economically is one of the largest economies in the world. Based upon resume and qualifications this is a very big accomplishment and should make him one of the top 3 contenders in the race.
Mitt Romney: Another solid performance. Defended his record at Bain Capital very well. Solid comments on foreign policy. Think he continues to be the man to beat. Barring some surprise this week in the South Carolina primary, he will be the Republican nominee.
Newt Gingrich: He was at his best when he was contrasting the Republican field and himself against Obama. This is what put him on the top earlier this year. This is what he needs to continue to do.
Ron Paul: Continues to push his libertarian message. This is what I think really attracts his supporters. I continue to believe his appeal is to the anti-government crowd. I continue to dislike his stance favoring the legalization of drugs and opposing the War on Drugs. For me, this alone is enough to disqualify Ron Paul in my book. Foreign Policy was his weakest spot.
Rick Santorum: Performed well. Had a very good command of the facts. Strong performance on foreign policy. However his stance on Social Security and Taxes is a deal killer for me with this guy. Granted he would still be a better President than Obama, but in my opinion he is the least qualified of the remaining candidates.
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