Final Iowa Debate Leaves GOP Contest Unsettled

December 16, 2011 | Comments Off
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The Republican presidential hopefuls gathered again last night for their final debate before the Iowa caucuses. With Newt Gingrich as the current leader of the pack and Mitt Romney airing ads over the past week that aggressively attacked Newt, it looked like there might be some excitement on the rostrum this time.

But Romney appeared content to let the other candidates on stage do the heavy lifting against Gingrich during the debate.

Ron Paul and especially Michelle Bachmann had Gingrich on his heels, attacking him for taking more than $1.5 million from Freddie Mac. Rick Santorum pointed out that there was a “conservative revolt” against Gingrich when he was Speaker of the House.

Bachmann also went after Newt for the position he took as Speaker not to purge pro-choice Republican members of Congress.

Gingrich pointed out in response that he had a near-perfect anti-choice voting record. For the most part, Newt deftly deflected the assaults and tried to appear diplomatic and collegial. He even joked that he did not want to seem “zany” a reference to Romney having called him that earlier in the week.

Romney returned to his aloof, rigid demeanor and avoided challenging the others to high-stake bets. The main strategy, as always, was to attack President Obama and tout their own agendas. Hypocritical responses and dodging of questions were typical.

Romney stressed one of his major campaign themes: that due to his business experience, he has the knowledge that Obama lacks to restore the economy. But his argument lost all credibility when he criticized the President’s bailout of General Motors. Had Obama followed Romney’s sage economic advice, millions more jobs would have been lost and widespread damage would have resulted. Instead, General Motors is slowly but surely rebounding.

Romney also had the gall to blame the loss of middle class wealth on President Obama, when all of the evidence shows that this slide occurred under President Bush’s watch. And yet whenever Obama and the Democrats propose policies to stop the erosion of the middle class, they are accused of being Socialists and are obstructed at every turn by the Republicans.

Rick Perry (and others) solemnly declared that the President simply doesn’t know how to lead and has not accomplished anything in the White House. He conveniently failed to mention that the Republican’s primary strategy from the time President Obama took office was to blatantly oppose everything he tried to accomplish and shamelessly obstruct his efforts to improve the economy, simply to make him a failed president.

And it seems that Perry cannot understand that the tremendous courage and decision-making under pressure that Obama displayed in the killing of Osama Bin Laden was leadership of the highest order. Had anything gone wrong with that mission, we would never have heard the end of it.

There really was not much new or newsworthy that came out of this debate. Gingrich remains on top, though some recent polls suggest that he has plateaued. Establishment Republicans have blistered him over the past several days. But Romney’s standing in the polls never seems to change. He remains stuck in the twenties, with the majority of the party still unwilling to embrace him.

Ron Paul’s numbers in Iowa seem to be on the rise. His anti-war stance makes him anathema to most of the GOP and he has no chance to actually win the nomination. His followers though are passionate and well-organized. He could pull an upset in Iowa and slow down Newt’s momentum. Romney still looks strong in New Hampshire. Critical tests await in South Carolina and Florida, where polls currently show Gingrich leading

The GOP has adopted proportional allocation of the delegates in most of the primaries and caucuses. This GOP nomination fight is likely to drag on until spring.

When all is said and done though, as Ed Schultz of MSNBC has stated, there is little doubt that no matter who is nominated, and no matter how divisive the primary campaign may become for the Republicans, they will eventually unite under the banner of defeating Barack Obama. That is and always has been their only goal, no matter what damage they do to the country by pursuing it.

Let’s hope the President and his campaign can take these Republicans to task when the real race begins.

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