Expectations for Tonight’s Debate

Political junkies looking for an excuse to avoid organizing their sock drawers will be gathered ’round the tellies and laptops this evening to watch the latest GOP presidential debate.  You can watch it on MSNBC or streaming on  Politico.  Festivities kick off at 7:00 pm CST though there’s sure to be pre-game coverage beforehand.

Tonight’s debate will feature 8 candidates and because of the Crowd’s remarkable connections, we can give you access to the last-minute advice each one is receiving from their handlers and debate coaches about what needs to be achieved, what needs to be avoided and how to get there.  Let’s listen in:

Michele Bachmann: “…what we really need tonight, Congresswoman, is for you to show that you’re still relevant to this race.  Yes, we’ve lost all the momentum we had coming out of Ames.  Yes, we’ve lost our campaign manager and our #2 manager this weekend.  Yes, there’s a danger every time you open your mouth, but your job this evening is to own the stage like you did at the New Hampshire debate in June (boy, doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?).  We’re trying like hell to get the moderators to ask you a ‘gotcha’ question about Marcus or the counseling or the farm so you can do the moral outrage thing again, but we can’t count on it.  Ignore everyone except Romney and Perry and attack them whenever possible:  Romney’s a flipflopper, Perry’s governed Texas for 11 years by selling it off bit by bit to his buddies.  Steal Palin’s ‘crony capitalism’ line if you see the opening to use it.  Hit Obama as often as possible – it might be time to bring back ‘gangster government.’  And, please, please, please…try not to knock us off-message with a ‘freelance’ answer; if it isn’t in the briefing book, please don’t say it. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he’s from Iowa like you!”

Herman Cain: “Herman, just go out and enjoy yourself tonight.  Our best guess is that this might be the last debate you’re invited to; your polling numbers are down there with Gary Johnson.  Because of that, the moderators are probably not going to give you a lot of openings so you’re going to have to jump in whenever you have a chance.  You’re articulate, you’re good on your feet, so just roll with it.  Who knows, we might get a “this is my microphone Mr. Green” moment that will keep us alive another month or two. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  You were both on the radio!”

Newt Gingrich: “Mr. Speaker, I’m not sure what to tell you to do.  I mean, just a month ago I was a volunteer in your campaign’s New Hampshire office and now I’m your campaign manager so I’m a little over my head here.  I guess you could talk about your ideas…you always have really cool sounding ideas…and maybe quote some Greek philosopher… that always sounds good.  Does your wife have any advice? Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all,  he was out of office for as long as you before he won the presidency!”

Jon Huntsman: “Governor, we really see this as your first appearance on the national stage.  Our polling tells us that a good percentage of likely Republican voters have forgotten you’re running for president.  Even worse, among those who do they don’t like you much because you’re seen as too moderate or are out of the consideration set because you worked for the Great Satan (Obama).  Tonight, you’re going to have really show a little leg in the sense of showing the base you can hate Obama and what he’s done to our country as much as the craziest, most jingoistic candidate out there.  You know who we’re talking about.  We need you to be aggressive and energetic – here take a couple of these…no, they’re perfectly legal (somewhere) – and to work as many of these words – “failure,” “bankrupt,” “traitor,” “un-American,” “disaster” – into your responses as possible.  Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he was a governor just like you!

Ron Paul: “Congressman, we’ve seeded the audience with as many supporters as we could get into the building – our guys have been standing on line for two weeks to get seats in the hall – so you can count on applause every time you open your mouth.  Hell, they’ll cheer if you break wind!  Just keep doing what you’ve been doing at every debate – tell the truth that we’re bankrupt as a country, that drugs should be legalized, that we should pull every troop back to the U.S. border, that the Fed ought to be eliminated and the gold standard readopted – and it’ll be great.  You can’t count on the moderators giving you equal time – remember how they ignored us after Ames – but let’s all remember that we’re really setting you up for the 2020 race. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, for years people thought he was an extremist just like you!

Rick Perry: “Governor, I know you don’t like debate formats so I know you’re not looking forward to tonight.  And, you can expect that everyone will be gunning for you.  Even so, our goals for tonight are easy: no mistakes, no gaffes, no scary language.  Keep your answers short, serious and to the point.  We’re lapping the other candidates in the polls among likely GOP voters so this approach will also help us with another long-term goal; persuading moderates and independents you’re a viable choice.  Work the brush fires into a couple of responses – how brave the people of Texas are, how resilient they are, how much they represent the best of America, something like that – but remember – as hard as it is to believe – not everyone loves Texas.   We’re also trying to position you as the outsider who can go to Washington and fix what’s wrong there, but this is a fine line to walk; the more we talk about that, the more we remind people of George Bush.  Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he used to wear cowboy boots just like you!”

Mitt Romney: “OK, let’s all get on the same page here: the ‘running as the defacto nominee’ strategy is no longer working.  As page 17 of the Powerpoint clearly indicates, GOP voters are still ‘unenthused’ about the Governor as the Republican nominee.  Accordingly, if you’ll flip to page 27, we’ve set ought a 5-point plan for tonight’s debate: 1) be less scripted; 2) make more use of pre-screened one-liners to convey spontaneity; 3) include at least two key messages from focus group testing in each answer; 4) smile between 1.5 and 3 times per answer depending on content; 5) attack Governor Perry as unelectable, dangerous and clone of George W. Bush. Oh, and claim that you’re the one true heir to Ronald Reagan’s legacy.  After all, he ran for president twice just like you!”

Rick Santorum: “Honey, you know the kids and I are behind you 100 percent.  We love being with you in the RV, we love all the Motel 6s we’ve stayed at when we could afford them and – if it were up to us – you’d be the nominee in a walk.  After tonight, though, maybe we could take a couple of days off?  See Disneyland?  Take the tour here?  Then we can claim you’re just like Ronald Reagan.  You could get a pin from the gift shop.”

For those looking for something to do between the guffawing and sputtering, let’s do this:  let’s count how many times each candidate says “Reagan” and let’s put our bets down about how many minutes will pass before someone invokes Nancy Reagan as an American heroine.  I’m guessing 12 minutes in and it will be Perry.

– Austin

44 thoughts on “Expectations for Tonight’s Debate

    1. Jim Leinfelder says:

      “Galileo got outvoted for a spell.” This stuff is parody proof, like trying to sketch a caricature of Joseph Carey Merrick. Those poor kids at The Onion.

      1. PM. says:

        Expect to hear a lot of Republicans whining about intellectual elites who are out of touch with real people, that all the criticism of perry is simply snobbery, all of the usual “victim” card of the right.

      2. Erik Peterson says:

        I never really concerned myself with the elites. I always thought the condescension of the average metropolitan liberal was absurd enough.

        So your point would be say SRC libs as an example are not snobby and condescending, not kinda bigoted?

      3. PM. says:

        My point is not about “SRC libs” at all, but rather about how self styled conservatives ( specifically Fox News types, such as Hannity, O’Reilly, Kelley, et. al.) have adopted a “victim” mentality, and love to portray themselves as victims of mean and unfair liberals who look down on them all the time, who make fun of them (conservatives such as Perry and W) for not being smart and intellectual.

        here is an example of what i am talking about:


      4. Erik Peterson says:

        Hey, no prob. I’m just trying to get at the root. Which is, Democrats pretty much have it as an article of their atheistic faith that they’re smarter than everyone else. Whether there is actual media bias or not, this sentiment seeps out of the media.

        But apparently, no one is supposed to complain about it or push back, or tell them they’re full of it, lest they be ‘playing victim’.

      5. PM. says:

        Actually, Erik, it would be really simple to address this issue, and solve it–start to value intelligence.

        It is not as if there are no smart Republicans–there are. Both Huntsman and Romney are smart and there is clearly a lot of thought behind their policies. I may not agree with them, but disagreement and stupidity are different things.

        For example, look at climate science. Perry is just plain wrong when he tries to argue that there is no consensus around this matter (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/aug/22/rick-perry/rick-perry-says-more-and-more-scientists-are-quest/).

        There is consensus that human activity causes (and has caused) and increase in global temperatures. Human activity is not the sole cause (there are natural causes, cycles, etc.). There is still discussions about which causes are responsible for what percentage of temperature increase, etc., and even more discussion about what we should do about it (policy choices–see Bjorn Longborn for example–http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B8rn_Lomborg). those are good debates, and we would all be better off if we were talking about those things, and Republicans were debating them in the primaries. But they are not. They are trying to attack the science, and making themselves look like fools in the process.

        To go and then complain that these idiots (Perry et. al) are the victims of a liberal atheistic conspiracy to make them look stupid (when in fact they really are stupid) only compounds the sillyness.

      6. Erik Peterson says:

        He’s not stupid. It stands to reason he’s smarter than you or I, and he’s at least as smart as Obama (that’s not nearly as high a bar as a lot seem to think).

        It’s really stupid and moronic to call him stupid.

      7. Erik Peterson says:

        Baloney. The predominant, mainstream Republican sentiment (probably up to East Anglia) was to obliquely acknowledge AGW, but argue that a tax regime will do nothing. That’s the Longborg argument. I’d acknowledge that all bets have been off since, but that’s because AGW is a dead letter. That wasn’t our fault by the way, you did that on your own fellas.

      8. PM. says:


        Why does it stand to reason?

        (you need to do more than simply assert something strenuously for it to be true)

      9. PM. says:

        I agree with your point about what the mainstream Republican argument about Global Warming WAS…..and that is the problem. The Republican mainstream has shifted dramatically to the right, to the science deniers, to the flat earthers, to those who think that the best way to solve wildfires is to hold a prayer meeting, etc.

        Reagan has been left behind–as the link i posted below shows, he would never make it past the Republican primaries today.

        What has happened to the republican Party? Why are there so few sane conservatives left? Is Rick Perry really the best that the Republican party has to offer?

      10. Erik Peterson says:

        It’s a stronger assertion that a asserting he’s stupid.

        He’s a college graduate, a pilot, and a governor. I’m one of those things. Are you any of those things?

        Is it necessary that you see his IQ scores, or can you be satisfied he’s smart by examining the weight of his accomplishments?

        You folks throw around the word stupid awfully cavalierly. That’s ironic.

      11. PM. says:

        Sorry, erik, but I have known stupid governors, stupid pilots, and stupid college graduates. None of those things bear much weight as a marker of intelligence. Nor, for that matter, do IQ scores (i know plenty of people who have high IQ’s and are not all that smart).

        I am saying that he is stupid because of his rejection of expertise. One of the most important measures of intelligence is knowing what you do not know. Rick Perry seems to think that he knows global climate science, and that it is wrong. Clearly, what he said about it is wrong, and his characterization of the nature of the debate on global warming is wrong. yet he thinks that he is right, and he has no training or background in the area, and is clearly not relying on those who do. That is stupid.


        Just as you would be stupid to let me fly any plane that you might be a passenger in, I think that we would be stupid to have Rick Perry making decisions about global warming.

      12. Erik Peterson says:

        You’re such a concern troll PM. I’ve seen it, and I knew it would come up here. He managed to tongue-bathe those liberal sweetspots. If confirmation bias could cause orgasms, that article woulda been 5 or 6 underwear changes for any liberal who read it.

        I’ve been convinced the guy exists, and that it’s not fakery. But fact of the matter is the false equivalency / false balance arguments are esoteric to the point there’s no way this guy has actually been a Republican for a very long time.

      13. PM. says:

        Ahh, yes, you don’t like what he says, you are unable to dispute any of it (especially his very existence, although you tried), so you try to challenge his authenticity as a Republican as a way to attack his credibility. Sort of like Bill O’Reilly trying to assert that the mass murderer in Sweden couldn’t have been a Christian because Christians don’t kill (except, of course, they have a 2000 year history of killing).

        But, of course, you don’t actually contest what he has to say.

        Rather telling.

        Seriously, the guy is giving a first hand account of what Senate and House Republicans are trying to do, and have been doing, and he knows because he was one of them for, what was it, 30 years?

      14. Erik Peterson says:

        No, you can be assured, I can capably dispute anything.

        I found it neither compelling nor alarming. I’ll perhaps elaborate tomorrow.

      15. Erik Peterson says:

        I suppose zealousness could be to conservatism what smugness and conceit are to liberalism. But no, I didn’t find it alarming. Or ‘disturbing’. I mean, what’s going to happen when the Tea Party zealots cut the budget but really, actually, don’t cut the budget? What’s going to happen when cap and trade isn’t implemented, just as it never would have been under the Democrats? There’s no alternate history in which the Democrats save us PM. They’re inept and compromised. So there’s no reason to be alarmed, certainly not more so. I’d grant, there’s not much of an alternate history in which conservatives save us. The hell with it.

        And yes, my first reaction was it was fiction. Its pays too perfect an homage to pet liberal theories of false balance and false equivalence. Thus, as it’s not fiction, this guy is a Democrat. You don’t become able to articulate these particular esoteric theories without being immersed in the ‘in group’. It’s way too academic. You telling us Republican congressman and senators don’t have Democrat staffers? Pftt. I know Democrat officials don’t have Republican staffers, but let’s be real. 85% of people who want to be staffers are Democrats, and there’s only so many jobs.

        Speaking of… false balance and false equivalence are merely rehashes of Marx’ false consciousness. This would be my primary objection, that this guy and other pseudo-intellectuals continue to peddle this manure.

        You folks continue to be profoundly crestfallen that the broader populace resists your ideology. So you dismiss countervailing rhetoric by claiming it’s not good enough to even be discussed / used against your arguments. That’s ‘false balance’. It’s bullshit.

        But false moral equivalence is the real gem. As a matter of truth…veritas…wisdom…etc… its inarguable that everybody does ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. Incivility, corruption, hardball, scandal. And that’s because people are people (oh, why can’t it be…) But you and the like minded basically believe your embrace of weird egalitarianism makes you better people, and that being better people gives you a moral trump card in any comparison of conservatives and liberals. It’s very post-modern, but it remains very Marx-y. Thus, I’m not impressed, and no one should be.

      16. PM. says:


        all you have done here is to argue that the content of this should be ignored because it was “obviously” written by a democrat. And, despite this person having worked for a Republican, you assert that he is indeed a democrat because:
        1. all Hill staffers are Democrats; and
        2. he uses literary and argumentative forms that are characteristic of democrats and their ilk.

        Basically, everything you have done so far in your efforts to contest this have been in the form of an ad hominem attack on the author and his supposed background (something that you can only make assumptions about, because you don’t actually know). You are attempting to discredit all of this without actually engaging with the actual arguments, without any counter evidence.

        Don’t you see that this is really compelling evidence of confirmation bias on your part? You are seeking to discredit without actually engaging. And yet, of course, you opened all of this by trying to preemptively accuse everyone else of just what you are doing–projection, in fact.

        I suppose that this is not really all that surprising–after all, you first appeared here in SRC as one of the trolls following Lambert, and most of your attacks on him are also ad hominem in nature. You appear to be more and more Newt-like as we see more of you.

        I am disappointed.

      17. Erik Peterson says:

        Last things first. To mock bigots and pseudo-intellects for sport is not to engage in ad hominems. Indeed, it has socially redeeming benefits, but I try to be modest about my own efforts.

        You’re right, I used a very broad brush and made some assumptions about Lofgren. But that is not the only thing I did. In addition to saying ‘consider the source’, I discredited the idea of false balance and false equivalence. You made no objections to my characterizations.
        As to the nature of Lofgren’s alarm. I batted at this, but it’s just to say, right, I don’t find Conservative zealotry alarming. I don’t find their craziness alarming. What is it that they’re going to do? Cut the budget? Not pass cap and trade?

        I went through this, I grew up in a Democrat household. When Reagan won, his zealotry was to instigate a war with the Soviets. Cuz he was crazy. And as non-Protestants, we were sure he would allow Falwell to round us all up and put us in camps. Because he was crazy.

        So I outgrew that lib perspective that finds Conservative ‘craziness’ all that dangerous. It’s a perspective that’s juvenile, moronically stupid, and without any context for actual political craziness.

        Ya know… whatever. I’m not Newt and I’m quite sure you know that. Ignore me if you want, and go back to politely agreeing among 3 or 4 of you that Obama’s the greatest and bound to win because of various Republican shortcomings. Disappointed? I’m amused that you think you’re talking down to me.

      18. Erik Peterson says:

        I read it:

        – Andrew Sullivan is not a conservative. That’s absurd.

        – I say “Lofgren uses literary and argumentative forms that are characteristic of Democrats and their ilk, and is thus a Democrat. “ That’s right, that’s what I say. That’s not a weak argument. He didn’t come up with this stuff on his own, it’s not a novel piece of insight at this time. I don’t agree with this notion that because he works for Republicans, that he is one. That’s got at least half a chance of not being true. The use of false balance and false moral equivalence arguments is the rhetorical signature of a liberal.

        – False balance and false moral equivalence arguments are false consciousness arguments. They’re also a way to define the rhetorical arena arbitrarily, and in the favor of liberals. To be a conservative, and say “we’re not going to reorganize our economy around AGW” is neither imprudent nor anti-science, but it’s defined that way. Thus, liberals get to invoke false balance and exclude that perspective. BS.

        – I agree, the ‘prosperity gospel’ has been a powerful influence within conservative circles (Sullivan).

        – I don’t object to the characterization that this is a manifestation of the culture war between Christian Republicans and atheist Democrats (Sullivan). Or something.

        – Let’s say that this way that they are IS rightly called ‘crazy and anti-science’. What’s the upshot of that? They’re not going to adopt cap and trade? They’re going to cut the rate of growth of the budget? This is not the apocryphal stuff of which “concern” and “alarm” are warranted. It’s not a compelling observation of their ‘scariness’. Bogus.

        – To call them crazy and scary when they are not crazy or scary is to be held captive by some very basic bigotry. Liberals have enormous bigotry problems.

      19. PM. says:

        Sullivan certainly is a conservative–but definitely not a member of the current manifestation of the Republican Party. So is Frum, and many others, particularly former office holders, like Jack Danforth and Bill Frenzel and Arne Carlson and Dave Durenberger, etc. I am talking about the conservatism of Burke and Hume–who appear to be anathema to today’s Republican Party

        Your problem is that you equate the two–and further, you really do not seem to have an understanding about how to define conservatism–which is really classical liberalism (before it got redefined). Hume certainly was an atheist–and one of the foundational thinkers of conservatism. Conservatives can be religious in terms of tradition–but certainly never fundamentalists. Conservatives would never be either that idealistic or that radical. Conservatives would want to keep a place for religion–but never want to make the United States a Christian country.

        Conservatives would never consent to allowing conservatism to be coopted by Republican Party hacks and twisted into something that has no relationship to the history of conservative thought–and that, more than anything else, is what conservatism is–a reverence for the great thinkers of the past.

        If you are interested, here is a great read on the subject:

      20. PM. says:

        Oh, and you clearly don’t know much about Sullivan if you think he is an atheist. He is a very committed catholic.

      21. Erik Peterson says:

        I just read Lofgren’s piece again. I was way too measured. He’s a nutter hard lefty.

        My gosh the patronizing… PM, what you have identified as my ‘problem’ is not actually my ‘problem’. I had a good education, I read a lot, and I retain information. I can make the theoretical / classical / practical distinctions. They’re not all that pertinent, as I have only a few choices who to vote for. Republicans are adequate for me most of the time.

        So, I don’t really care if Sullivan really is a classical conservative or not…. But you folks rilly, rilly desire a credible Republican to be evidentiary for the scary nuts, dumb thesis. Neither Sullivan or Lofgren are that guy. K? They’re not.

      22. Erik Peterson says:

        @3:40 – what are you putting words in my mouth now? I imagine in your own mind you’re always the victor of these arguments, arentcha.

      23. PM. says:

        Erik: here are the words you put in your own mouth, that i referenced. Choke on them.

        -” I don’t object to the characterization that this is a manifestation of the culture war between Christian Republicans and atheist Democrats (Sullivan). Or something.”

      24. PM. says:

        Hey, Erik, way to follow the Perry playbook–when you are shown to be inadequate, double down!!! I am sure your education was fine–shame you simply choose not to use it.

      25. Erik Peterson says:

        @2:30 I was citing him, not describing him in particular. But go right ahead, grab the chalk and mark youself a great big hash mark.

      26. Jim Leinfelder says:

        @ Erik and, I suppose, PM, re: Perry as dim bulb. It’s a simplistic proposition the two of you have worked out here. Either Perry’s smart or he’s stupid. He’s both and he’s neither. As a political animal and consolidator of power, he’s very bright and gifted and that’s where he puts his energy. As an intellectually curious thinker or policy wonk, he’s clearly not, and invests virtually no energy in such enterprises unless he’s pushed.

        He’s the sort who considers the word “nuance” to be a pejorative and a tell for weakness. He was one of those kids who raised his hand in class, not to contribute an insight or ask an incisive question, but to button hole the professor about whether or not what’s under discussion will be on the test. It’s why he didn’t go to veterinary school school, other than having an appalling transcript, he’s just not the student type.

        Erik asserts that his time as an Air Force pilot is an ear mark for intellectual prowess. Well, he flew C-130s. Nobody joins the Air Force aspiring to C-130s. He clearly washed out as a fighter pilot. But he probably logged more actual air miles than Bush in an air craft that is not obsolete. He’s obviously good at following a check list since, as far as I know, he never crashed one.

        Here’s a pretty balanced piece from Politico attempting to address the simplistic question of whether or not Perry is stupid:


      27. Erik Peterson says:

        I don’t have much to quibble with in your description… both and neither in terms of a personality… but I’m quite sure his brainpower is in the 90 – 100 decile bracket. We’re speaking in relative terms, by which we’re going to call a guy with a 120 IQ dumb and the other with a 125 IQ smart. Of course, you’d assert Obama is the smarter, when there is zero evidence that’s actually the case.

        “Well, he flew C-130’s”

        Do you take yourself seriously when you say stuff like that?

        Lefty’s have a lot invested in false consciousness arguments. That’s what calling conservatives and Republicans dumb is – another false consciousness argument.

      28. Jim Leinfelder says:

        I see, so when you cite Perry’s ability to fly an airplane to refute PM’s denigration of his intellectual powers, that’s a legitimate riposte by means of equating the holding of a private pilot’s license and significant intellectual powers, not an example of the esoteric concept of”false consciousness,” attributed to Marx but actually coined by Engel.

        But when, as a mere aside, I mention that he wasn’t flying fighter jets while in the AF and that piloting C-130s is not much of an indicator of anything but the ability to follow a check list, I’m guilty of the exclusively liberal sin of “false consciousness.”

        That’s just pedantic pissantism.

        My point was that this binary pseudo-argument you and PM are having is of little use to anyone.

      29. Erik Peterson says:


        1- Right.

        2- No. It’s just that it’s safe to say flying C-130’s is an indicator of above average intelligence. To the extent it’s not as impressive as flying an F16 is irrelevant.

        3- Could be.

        4- Could be. You guys who are liberals and have a gift for verbose, sardonic, prosodic misanthropy can pat yourselves on the back for the rest of your lives on how ‘smart’ you are. It’s also of little use, in addition to being not true. More than that, ‘conservatives are dumb’ is the third leg of the modern liberal’s false consciousness ‘stool’ (false moral equivalence and false balance being the other two).

      30. Erik Peterson says:

        It’s not facile. It’s a perfectly good observation deployed perfectly well. To say the middle class that votes Republican is stupid is practically identical to saying the middle class that votes Republican is under a false consciousness.

        Good article. He agrees with me that Thomas Frank is craptastic.

        I’m verbose and prosodic, but not witty and misanthropic. I love people. I’m not a bigot, I don’t believe people are dumb based on their political affiliation. Nor do I squirm much.

      31. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Heh, of all the things that waft off your posts, Erik, love would be the last thing I’d ever list. Condescending contempt, check. Ad hominem schadenfreude, loads. Sneering dismissal, oodles. Love, not a whiff.

      32. Erik Peterson says:

        It takes a certain amount of assertiveness to not get talked down to and not get patronized as a conservative here at SRC. I won’t stand for getting talked down to by my rough intellectual equals just to be courteous. My reaction is, fairly benignly, who you think you are? It follows, I won’t stand for the absurdity of getting talked down to or insulted by intellectual inferiors without letting them know, perhaps endlessly, that its absurd. I don’t believe I’ve engaged in ad hominems with you, PM, or Joe. OK?

        I’m self-aware, I’m sure my act gets old. You’re aware you come off as a sneerer and condescender yourself, right? Joe and PM come off as earnest.

        The man wanted to know what people thought of the Mike Lofgren article. I had read the article, I joined the conversation. My point of view is meaningful, and our interests align. It’s that simple.

  1. PM. says:

    For those of you without access to the NYT:

    September 8, 2011, 12:50 AM
    Electability a Primary Liability for Perry
    I’ve developed a habit — it’s probably a bad habit — of assigning letter grades to the Republican candidates based on my initial reaction to their performance in debates. After Wednesday night’s debate in Simi Valley, I gave Rick Perry a B-minus, meaning an average performance. Meanwhile, I gave Mitt Romney, his primary rival for the Republican nomination, a higher grade of A-minus.

    The grades are based on neither style nor substance per se, but instead mostly on strategy: how much each candidate did to improve his chances of winning the nomination. Newt Gingrich, for example, got in some good one-liners and seemed more poised than he had in past debates. But in deliberately avoiding contrasts between himself and the other candidates, he did little to give Republican voters a reason to pick him — something he needs to do, since he’s standing at about 4 percent in the polls.

    As for Mr. Perry, I thought he had a very good opening sequence, surprising Mr. Romney by going on offense and critiquing his job creation record in Massachusetts — including a crowd-pleasing remark that compared Mr. Romney unfavorably with former Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis.

    But he got weaker as the night went along. Some of Mr. Perry’s odder moments — like his invocation of Galileo Galilei in response to a question about climate change — are liable to make for a funny segment on The Daily Show and then be forgotten about. What was more noteworthy was Mr. Perry’s response to a question about Social Security, where he doubled-down on rhetoric from his book and characterized the program as a “Ponzi scheme.”

    This particular remark is not likely to sit exceptionally well even with Republicans, conservative though they may be. A CNN poll published last month found 57 percent of Republicans opposed to major changes in Social Security and Medicare.

    Perhaps for the Republicans who will turn out in the primaries — who tend to be more conservative than Republicans as a whole — the numbers are closer to even, or a little bit in Mr. Perry’s favor. I would argue that Mr. Perry’s remarks were nevertheless unwise.

    The reason is that this will play into concerns about his appeal to general election voters. (With good reason: some 62 percent of independents, and 69 percent of moderates, are opposed to reforms on the scale that Mr. Perry has advocated, according to the CNN poll.)

    Electability does matter to primary voters. Historically, parties have rarely nominated the most ideologically extreme candidates in their field. Yes, George McGovern and Barry Goldwater won — but they have been more the exceptions than the rule as compared with a host of others (Howard Dean, Pat Robertson, Jesse Jackson, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Brown) who lost.

    In fact, Mr. Perry’s lead in the polls right now is based in part on perceptions that he is electable. The recent Washington Post / ABC News poll posed an interesting set of questions to Republican voters — asking them who they thought was closest to them on the issues, and who they thought was most able to defeat President Obama, in addition to their first overall choice.

    Mr. Perry led the Republican field on each of the measures. But his lead was actually larger on the electability question: 30 percent of Republican voters said they thought he had the best chance of defeating Mr. Obama, versus 20 percent for Mr. Romney. By contrast, Mr. Perry held a smaller, 6-point lead over Mr. Romney on the question of his issue positioning.

    This perception stands in contrast to the views of Republican elites, about 70 percent of whom think that Mr. Romney is the more electable nominee, according to a survey conducted by the National Journal.

    It also stands in contrast to head-to-head polls matching Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney against Mr. Obama. Since Aug. 1, nine polling firms have tested both Mr. Perry and Mr. Romney against the president, and eight of them have found Mr. Romney doing a little stronger. On average, he has trailed Mr. Obama by just one point in these polls, versus a 5 percent deficit for Mr. Perry.

    I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on these head-to-head polls — but my research (which we’ll be publishing in more detail in a separate article) suggests that the ideological positioning of the candidates does affect general election performance, even after accounting for factors like the performance of the economy and a president’s approval ratings, and might plausibly make several percentage points worth of difference.

    But back to the primaries: voters and parties are looking to calibrate these two objectives — picking a candidate who has a good shot at winning, and picking one who can be counted upon to advance their agenda. In a reasonably competitive field, failing either test will usually be disqualifying.

    What Republican voters may perceive to be “electable” and what swing voters think may be two different things. Still, you can see that people like Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin perform badly according to this test even among Republicans, according to the Washington Post poll, and it seems to be limiting their upside potential.

    Mr. Perry has so far avoided this fate. But if perceptions about electability fade, so will his overall numbers. Regression analysis of the Washington Post poll suggests that Republicans are weighing these two factors — electability and issue positioning — about equally. If Mr. Romney, rather than Mr. Perry, led on the electability question, that could be enough to push him past Mr. Perry even if Mr. Perry is a little closer to Republican voters on the issues.

    To be sure, it can be tricky to invoke concerns about your rival’s electability. You may, in some cases, implicitly (or even explicitly) be abandoning goals that your party holds dear. Such criticism can run the risk of harming the opponent’s brand should he win the nomination, and therefore may be met with limited tolerance from party elites. And such remarks can have an eat-your-spinach tone to them, reading better on paper than they sound in the room.

    Mr. Perry’s problems on Wednesday night, however, were of his own making: he was strong when engaging the other candidates, but weak on handling questions from the moderators. Unless he develops a stronger defense of his positions on Social Security, he will make Mr. Romney’s job much easier.

  2. Joe Loveland says:

    It looks like Perry is running away with the Tea Party wing, with Bachmann and Paul denting him up but not overtaking him. The longer they stay in the race, the crazier Perry will have to get. Then again, how much crazier can you get than calling the most popular government initiative in the history of the nation a criminal act.

    At the same time, it looks like Romney is running away with the establishment wing, because Huntsman is the only real rival for that dubious honor. Huntsman, who would have looked like an extreme conservative just a few years ago, now looks way too soft on science to be electable in a GOP primary.

    If I were a GOP primary voter, my primary question about Romney would be this: “How is it that a billionaire can’t get a better dye job than THAT?”

  3. PM. says:

    In case any of you are wondering how this all translates into electoral college votes right now….


    So right now Sabato sees 247 electoral votes as solid or leaning democratic, and 206 electoral votes as solid or leaning republican. Obama needs another 23 votes (270) to win, and Florida (29) would do it for him–and this is why I think that so many republican strategists (Karl Rove, for example) are so afraid of Perry–his social security “ponzi” charges might be enough to guarantee an Obama victory.

    In any event, it is interesting to look at this map, and think about what could change over the next year.

    1. Erik Peterson says:

      He’s not going to win FL. Marco Rubio is going to be the VP nominee, which will be enough to seal it if it wasn’t already.

      I don’t think Obama will win Wisconsin, and I’d bet like $200 on it.

      Really, in addition to constructing a benign “good man, bad president” narrative for Obama, I think some effort out to be made to convince him not to run in 2016.

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