The field of Republican front runners are finally beginning to make some kind of rise, as the New Hampshire primary debate becomes a first opportunity for us to get a sense at who will be participating in the primaries at the beginning of next year. While the first official opportunity was in May, the playing field was very limited and people were only entering. Only one official candidate was actually present (Gary Johnson, who happened to be excluded from the debate). At this debate, six of the candidates had declared their candidacy and the seventh declared their candidacy at the debate. This was clearly the beginning of what could very well be an exciting primary season.
Attending the debate (in standing order) were Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Herman Cain. The issues included fiscal issues during the beginning, social issues afterward, and foreign policy and military issues toward the end. Moderated by CNN anchor John King, the debate began with long responses that tend to stray from the direct question, but quickly went on track and everything flowed.
The debate was pretty light in spots, in such instances as a beginning statement in which the candidates introduced themselves, a "This or That" in which the candidates were asked which of two things they liked better, and a closing that had them talking about the current playing field. I am going to review each of the candidates performances as individuals and give each a school grade...
Rick Santorum- Santorum was the candidate on the field who polled the lowest of the seven that were there on most occasions, and to me, he seems like a typical caricature of the conservative Republican. He didn't stand out as much in this debate and did not take the opportunity to run away with his pro-life views next to Mitt Romney's. I do watch the debate to have my questions answered as oppose to watch them make their own statements and mudsling the other candidates, but it seems like Santorum does not have too much to offer. I must say that he did better in this debate than the last, but there's nothing that makes me think, "this guy really stands out, he definitely has my vote." C+
Michele Bachmann- Bachmann had her highlights, but she's still just feeling the field. At the beginning of the debate, Bachmann was the only one to have not announced a run for president, but announced immediately that she's filing the papers for a presidential run. That and her guarantee that Obama will be a one-term president were her strongest statements of the night. Her answers were clear and she is beginning to give fellow Minnesota candidate Tim Pawlenty something to worry about. I also think she is more presentable than Sarah Palin when speaking. For being someone that most people don't know, Bachmann did a decent job. B
Newt Gingrich- For all that he's been through within the last week, Gingrich really stood his ground. While he has turned from being one of the frontrunners to being a part of the middle of the pack after gains from Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain, Gingrich didn't falter. He gave answers that were short, sweet, and to the point, and they were backed by logical explanations. Gingrich hasn't held political office since resigning from Congress in 1999 and has since been a Republican advocate and frequent guest on FOX News. It's nice to see him back and running for political office. If he was able to form a surprisingly successful chemistry with Bill Clinton, we'll have to see how he does in office. In the debate, I was satisfied with most of his answers. B+
Mitt Romney- Romney is currently the front runner and obviously the main target. Of course, this means that he's going to come under fire for the skeletons in his closet. One of his biggest flaws was the Romneycare that he passed when he was the Governor of Massachusetts. During the debate, Pawlenty had the opportunity to attack him on his coined term "Obamneycare" and Santorum had the opportunity with the topic of abortion. Nevertheless, Romney was able to keep his cool and explain the issues. He gave clear answers and even shifted the context in which his statements were stated. Romney continues to present himself well. B+
Ron Paul- Paul had himself another good debate and addressed the issues in only the way he could. While he went on to answer a previous question when given his first question (which Cain happened to do later into the debate), he continued to provide answers to the problems that we have and the solutions to these problems. Like he constantly states, he stands by the U.S. Constitution, which are the rules of our nation. He provides the most contrast to those on the stage, but he's begun to receive the respect he deserves. He has such a humble way of answering the questions and receives a good amount of applause on top of that. He's sure becoming extremely likable. A-
Tim Pawlenty- Pawlenty has been considered a possible candidate since the Republican National Convention back in 2008 and at the previous debate, was considered the most logical choice for the Republican party (Ron Paul was the shining candidate at that debate, though). I thought as the debate went on, Pawlenty did a better job in this debate. I felt that while he hasn't done everything to stand out, he did a better job answering the questions in this debate. He could have taken the opportunity to start a mudslinging match with Romney on his "Obamneycare," but chose to take it slow to prevent waves. I don't see the slow approaches lasting long as the debates go on, that is, if Pawlenty remains a strong candidate at that time. I felt he made an improvement from the last debate. B-
Herman Cain- Cain is the only one on the field who does not have any political experience and yet he was the best one in the debate. I felt that every answer he gave was clear, thorough, organized, and brought the point across. If given a question that needed a simple answer, he gave the simplest of answers the provided me with just what I needed to know. He's clear with what he's saying and his ideas are absolutely honest. Whether it be about Medicare, immigration, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," same-sex marriage, or anything in between. I knew what Cain was talking about and he was direct with those he was answering. He is surely making his mark on the field. A
The only thing that brought a bit of frazzling to the debate was how John King was really on top of the candidates when it came to direct answers and time limits. Granted, there weren't any bells or timers to keep non-human control of the time, but we should know that debates aren't always filled with direct answers. Nevertheless, the debate became a good watch as it went on. While my opinions seem to remain the same, I'm beginning to like Herman Cain more and more. He seems to have a clear plan on what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.
The next debate will be on July 10th in Las Vegas. I believe the polling requirements are going to be more laid back, thus Gary Johnson and other candidates that weren't invited due to low polling (like Buddy Roemer and Fred Karger) will most likely be invited, Johnson is a definitely, though. We'll just have to see how things go from here.