Just about four years ago, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd was running for president but couldn’t seem to get anyone outside the Nutemeg state to notice. Dodd got more attention in Tuesday night’s GOP debate in New Hampshire than he did in all his efforts for the White House the last time around. The attention came courtesy of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Gingrich, seemingly still in the race for his supporters since he lags in single digits and seems insufferably cranky, said that if people were looking for officials to go to jail they should “start with Dodd and Countryside.”
Gingrich was answering a question about whether some Wall Street executives should have gone to jail as a result of the financial meltdown that resulting in the massive taxpayer-funded bailout. Gingrich invoked Dodd as someone who might have gone to jail over financial dealings. While Dodd has maintained he got no special treatment, the Countryside loans and controversy over them are seen as a major reason he did not seek reelection.
What can best be taken from the rest of last night’s forum was: The others now believe Herman Cain is a real contender—they concentrated on him and Mitt Romney nearly exclusively. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is done, toast, history, no mas, go home to Texas. He was terrible. He made Richard Nixon in the Nixon-JFK debates look like George Clooney. Michele Bachman should also go away. Rick Santorum is a right-wing nut bar. John Huntsman can’t win either although he acquitted himself nicely last night. Romney is even more entrenched in the driver seat in this race. He was sharp and didn’t back down when Perry interrupted his answer about health care (Mass, Romney-care v. Obama-care). Romney told Perry, “I’m still talking.”
The night was not without humor. Huntsman scored laughs by saying he thought Cain’s “9-9-9” plan was the price of a pizza, Cain being the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Huntsman also got a subtle dig in at Perry by, in prefacing a question to Romney, said, “I won’t ask you about religion” (Huntsman and Romney are both Mormons). Romney said under his breath, “Sorry, Rick.” See the below story for a full explanation.
Some of the candidates could use a refresher on “Debating 101.” First, when you repeat the name of your rivals’ plan, you only give it more attention. I would go back and count the times “9-9-9” was said by candidates other than Cain. Second, it’s important that you act like the camera is always on you especially when you are sitting around a table as opposed to behind podiums. Perry forgot this. And he forgot to sit on his coat; a TV trick that was laid bare in the movie “Broadcast News.” Failure to sit on one’s coat results in making you a humpback. Not a good look.
It took some digging to find Bloomberg Television, one of the sponsors of the event, on my cable system. Turns out, I do get it. Who knew? The opening and closing of the debate was uneven to say the least; more like a political “Blairwitch Project.” Bloomberg TV took their camera to the event. Next time invest in a producer. And the anchors were a beautiful woman and a guy who looked like Irving R. Levine. There’s a reason why they never let ol’ Irv anchor.
All in all, it might be time for the Republican establishment to pick a candidate and get behind him or her. Otherwise, they don’t have a chance in November (oh, November of 2012).