ABC Republican Debate

December 11, 2011 by staff 

ABC Republican Debate, In the last debate, hosted by the Heritage Foundation, the questions were pointed, sobering and even educational—focusing on the challenges to national security that the nation will face in the coming years. This debate retreated back to the standard formula, with Diane Sawyer asking candidates repeatedly to say precisely how many jobs that they would create and the timeframe in which they will be created (only Romney complied with this demand).

The ABC / Yahoo questions were standard fare about whether or not the candidates could feel the pain of the American people (short answer: no) and a couple of soft ball questions to the candidates inviting them to attack Gingrich (does infidelity make you untrustworthy? Does calling Palestinians an “invented people” make everything worse?).

The final insult to the audience watching this debate was, after asking several questions intended to generate infighting among they candidates, they asked the candidates to close with a statement complimenting their competition because people feel like there is too much fighting and negativity in campaigns.

Despite having presided over something of a circus, the audience was treated to a rather enlightening and informative debate. So how did the remaining candidates perform?

Newt Gingrich: (Previous Letter Grade: B+ — > A-) The long knives were out for Gingrich and, while he largely survived the assault from moderators and fellow candidates, he did have some unconvincing moments in trying to explain his past as a lobbyist and his embrace of an individual mandate as an alternative to “Hillary-care” in 1993. His answers were hedging and probably did not assuage concerns among conservative voters who don’t believe Gingrich is particularly consistent in the values and principles department. However, given that two out of six moderator-asked questions were invitations to attack him and most of the follow up questions were asked of him, he did quite well. There was no implosion type statement in this debate and every moment that there is no Gingrich campaign explosion is another moment where he can consolidate support.

Mitt Romney: (Previous Letter Grade: B- — > C+) Romney had one job tonight – poke holes in Gingrich’s narrative and break up his rapidly consolidating support among the myriad wings of the GOP. He failed. Romney retreated to several tired lines that even people who don’t cover the campaign are tired of hearing. On Obama’s health care reform, “I wish he [Obama] would have called me.” On experience, “I spent my life in the private sector.” Gingrich had a pointed response to that saying that Romney would be a career politician if he had not lost to Ted Kennedy in 1994. That prompted a mixture of boos and applause from the audience and a half decent response from Romney about that being the best thing that had ever happened to him.

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