GOP Debate – Romney’s Pyrrhic Victory

Governor Rick Perry. How does his faith inform his decisions?
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Mitt Romney scored a Pyrrhic victory in last night’s GOP debate. And the process still has not winnowed the rest of the field.

The GOP Debate By the Points

Mitt Romney definitely won the Orlando GOP debate—on points. At Simi Valley, Romney got the Shovel Award, and he can still “shovel it on” better than any of them. This time, Rick Perry’s bucket failed him, and Romney befouled him.

The key issue: immigration. Rick Perry, as Governor of Texas, approved a Texas version of the DREAM Act. Romney called him on it. Here is what Perry said:

If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.

Mitt Romney was ready for that. He said, quite reasonably, that when you don’t want to subsidize tuition for non-lawful residents, it does not mean that you have no heart. It does mean that you have a brain.

Anyone who has been to college knows: when you’re in college, if you’re not a liberal, you have no heart. But when you graduate, if you do not then become a conservative, you have no brain. (And by graduate your editor means get out into the real world, not move up from undergraduate to graduate or professional school.) Rick Perry should not have fallen into this trap. But he did.

Nor was that all. Romney is still vulnerable on two points:

  1. He changes his opinions to fit the bill, and
  2. He started a socialized-medicine system in Massachusetts.

But when Perry tried to attack Romney on those points, he failed miserably.

But Romney paid a devastating price for his victory. As smooth as he was, he gave every impression of a typical big-government progressive-lite. Why, for example, should Social Security stay as a federal program? Why not a crash program to convert that so-called trust fund to Individual Retirement Accounts? Peter Ferrara at the CATO Institute could show him how. Nor would the Ferrara plan cut any current retiree’s benefits. But Romney didn’t think of that. Whether that’s Not Invented Here or not progressive enough for his taste, CNAV does not know.

Nor does it matter. Mitt Romney won the Orlando GOP debate on points but lost, and badly, on substance.

The Seven Against Perry and Romney

Michele Bachmann. Still holding her own after the Orlando GOP Debate.

Michele Bachmann poses before an American flag. Photo: United States House of Representatives

Of the other seven candidates on the GOP debate stage, Herman Cain turned in the best performance of all. “Mister Congeniality” is as likable as ever. The best index of that was a peer vote that the moderators took: “Which of your opponents would you accept as a Vice-Presidential running mate?” Three of them picked Cain, more than any other candidate. Not that Cain was slow to attack. But he returned often to his own “9-9-9” program: 9 percent flat-rate tax on ordinary income, 9 percent capital-gains tax, and 9 percent national sales tax.

Michele Bachmann did not “break out” of the pack. But she did not sink into obscurity, either. The problem: too few people thought to ask her any questions. Nor did any opponent think to follow up on the “HPV question,” this although Bachmann pressed Perry yet again on executive orders for mandatory immunization for a sexually transmitted disease. (Bachmann should ask the National Vaccine Information Center for better advice than she has gotten so far. They have the dope on Gardasil, the HPV immunization drug.)

The moderators (and the question submitters) severely shortchanged Ron Paul. Or perhaps they let him off the hook. Rarely did the moderators ask him any questions, and never asked him a question about any of his own positions. So he could not make himself clear on the one issue on which he is the most vulnerable: foreign policy. The United Nations is now in session—and taking up yet again the “Palestinian question.” So the GOP debate was the perfect opportunity to ask Paul what he means by “preferential treatment” for Israel. No one asked him. (And no one asked any candidate about UN Agenda 21. That is far more dangerous to everyone’s liberties, not just of those who live in the Middle East.)

Who is the best conservative?

Andrew G. “Welshman” Martin again published his ratings of those who took part in the GOP debate. Michele Bachmann is still on top, and Perry and Romney both fell hard in the ratings—to third place (two-way tie with Ron Paul) and fifth place, respectively. Today, Martin explained more fully what he means by “a conservative.” According to Martin, a conservative supports:

  • Limited government
  • Individual freedom and self-reliance
  • Lower taxes
  • Few regulations
  • Providing for the common defense

That last is key—for today the only real fight for the Republican nomination for President is between conservatives and libertarians. A libertarian severely limits the common defense. No libertarian would have sent Commodore Preble’s task force to clean out the nest of the Barbary Pirates. Thomas Jefferson did. That act, properly speaking, began the War Against Terror. Jefferson converted to this “interventionist” view after he became President. Would Ron Paul do the same? Maybe—but people need to know more about what he thinks. And someone has to ask him.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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