Here are my final thoughts on tonight’s Florida GOP Debate in Jacksonville which aired on CNN.
Ron Paul – He had his moments during the debate especially when Wolf Blitzer asked him about his medical records. Paul handled that question with good humor and aplomb.
Unfortunately, Paul continues to display his shortcomings on foreign policy. It’s well and good to say he would talk to Raul Castro and listen to what he had to say. But I suspect if he were to take the time to talk to Cuba’s Ladies in White and other dissidents, they would tell him he couldn’t and shouldn’t accept what Castro said at face value. Like President Obama, Paul thinks America is a big bully that imposes it will while the Castros of the world have pure intentions and are simply misunderstood. Paul should thank his lucky stars he didn’t get in on the Palestinian question from the audience because he would have made a fool of himself as he always does when this question comes up. Anyone who suggests that Israel created Hamas or tells Iranian state TV that Gaza is a concentration camp is in Noam Chomsky territory.
With that said, it is interesting to see both Romney and Gingrich take an increasingly friendly posture towards Paul during the debate. Rick Santorum was the only candidate who directly criticized Paul in this debate. Of course, this might very well be a product of the two frontrunners needing the support of Paul’s people going into the Convention. Would Santorum take a similar posture if he were in a stronger standing in the polls? It’s quite possible.
Mitt Romney – He came off as dodgy when asked about an ad which asserted that Newt Gingrich called Spanish “a language of the ghetto” said, “I doubt that’s one of mine.” When Wolf Blitzer revealed that he had, in fact, approved the message all he could say do was claim that he was unfamiliar with the ad’s content and that he doesn’t see all of his ads.
What a cop out! Either Romney approves the message or he doesn’t. Isn’t he the least bit curious about the ads being put out under his name. It’s one thing not to take responsibility for Super PACs who act on your behalf but to be blithely unaware of what goes on in your own campaign under your nose tells me that the lights are on but no one is home. Nor did he inspire confidence when he said he put his investments were in a blind trust and not responsible for them.
I’m not saying he didn’t land some blows on Newt over Fannie & Freddie but he overstepped when it came to questioning his Reagan bonafides. When a candidate has the endorsement of Michael Reagan and a statement from Nancy Reagan that “Ronnie passed the torch to Newt”, it’s not a smart line of attack for a candidate to pursue especially if he wasn’t supportive of Reagan in the first place. He didn’t help himself tonight.
Newt Gingrich – He took some punches from Romney over Freddie & Fannie although he got back at Romney over his Reagan credentials. As with Romney, their fight didn’t help him. It’s also worth noting that Wolf Blitzer stood his ground when he tried to chide him over the question concerning Romney’s tax return.
When Mitt made a point of accusing Newt of pandering to people in the states he visited, he countered that it’s useful for a President to know the issues that affect the states. Even Romney had to nod his in approval.
Newt had a few applause lines but it’s possible he peaked in South Carolina a week ago.
Rick Santorum – He scored points when he played the voice of reason between Newt and Mitt as well as with his answer about faith, lambasted the Obama Administration’s policy in Latin America and was also effective against Romney over Romneycare. But has Santorum packed it in in Florida? If he has, his good performance tonight might be all for naught.
Well, there won’t be another debate for almost four weeks. The next debate is scheduled to take place on February 22nd in Mesa, Arizona and will air on CNN. Arizona will hold its primary on February 28th.