There were two debates that were held in December. One of which was aired on ABC and the other on FOX News. Both were held in Iowa and featured Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and for the debate held on FOX News, Jon Huntsman. These were the first two debates that didn't feature Herman Cain, and since this change, it seems as if the polling order within the field has become uniformed.
I will be doing something different than what I did for the previous debates. I will be reviewing how the candidates are doing in the debate and tying it with how they are doing in the race for the Republican nomination. The debates have become battlegrounds for the front-runner candidates, Gingrich and Romney to be specific. I will mention the candidates individually and grading them on how well they have stood their ground in the race.
Rick Santorum- Santorum's numbers are strong compared to his numbers in most other early states and nationwide. The problem is... those numbers aren't very high to begin with. He's running at 5% or slightly higher in Iowa and under 5% elsewhere (with the exception of his home state of Pennsylvania, which he tends to place in third and has polled as high as 18%). In the debates, he's asserting his ground and how he shows no nonsense for issues he feels strongly about. These issues include social issues and foreign policy. If you stand in his way, he'll fight his way through you. He's mentioned that he was consistent with his beliefs and stood by these beliefs whether they were popular or they were not. During the early debates, he was the candidate that didn't stand out in the crowd. Starting in August, when he was participating in a debate in Ames, Iowa, he became assertive with his views and the time that he had to express them. Santorum put most of his time in Iowa and not coming out with 15% or more (which I believe he comes out with 5% and 10% if he hits the jackpot) will be a loss that will result in Santorum's exit from the race. He seems to be a guy that's in it for the long run, but I also think he's a guy who will only get about 1% in New Hampshire and no more than 5% in any other state besides Pennsylvania. The FOX News Debate may have been the last we see of him for the 2012 race, but he could possibly run again. He made an impression during the debates and that's how we'll remember him for now. B
Rick Perry- It was the poor performances in the debates that caused the incredible shrinking of Rick Perry's campaign. It was an ad titled "Strong" that made Rick Perry even more unpopular and maybe even damaged his support from those who weren't social conservatives. In the most recent debate, he compared himself to Tim Tebow and how miracles could happen. He also mentioned how he was finally getting the hang of these debates. Yes, he's finally getting the hang of these debates, but now it seems a little too late. Bashing him in no longer popular in the race. Nowadays, people are looking to bash Newt Gingrich. Perry's numbers in Iowa and South Carolina seem to be in the mid-single digits and in New Hampshire, they are atrocious. I had mentioned that he had until South Carolina to make a splash or his campaign will be over. I stand by it. Perry is not presenting himself well and seems to be more remembered for his flubs than his feats. Getting 15% or more in Iowa, New Hampshire, and/or South Carolina will be key in the race, and Perry MAY get that much in South Carolina, but that's if passionate social or neo-conservative voters come out in the droves. Perry is not doing himself justice in the race and will need to pull something from his sleeves if he's going to want to come near the nomination. C-
Mitt Romney- Romney has consistently remained at the front of the pack. The race has almost always been down to Romney and somebody else. Romney comes off as being the most "politician-like," more so than Newt Gingrich, though being the most "politician-like" doesn't be the most "presidential worthy." Romney has taken his hits at candidates such as Gingrich, but has also been able to fess up to his mistakes and that he is NOT the perfect nominee. He did it last election when it came to his position on abortion and how he was pro-choice in the 90s when he ran against Ted Kennedy. This goes to show you that he does want the voters to trust him on his positions. Whether or not he's to be completely trusted would be up to the American people to decide. We should take what any politician says is a grain of salt, as that's just common sense. Romney's leading in New Hampshire and in or battling for second in Iowa and South Carolina. He will likely be able to clinch the northeast, California, Michigan, Utah, along with other states that generally go to Democratic candidates. If he garners a decent amount of delegates, he will likely be able to stick around until June, when primaries such as California and New Jersey occur. He comes off as presentable at the debates and will be a candidate to look at. B+
Newt Gingrich- In the many earlier debates, Gingrich was the blunt and aggressive debater who went after Obama, Bernanke, Dodd, Frank, the Democratic agenda, the media, and anything and everything else that stood in his way. He was like a freight train that was going in any old direction, but this direction was sure to be the right one. Gingrich is now the front-runner and is leading polls in Iowa and South Carolina. He is also the key target for several of the other Republican candidates. He is indeed a candidate that's going to take a lot of heat, as there are many dark spots to Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul took the first jab at Gingrich with an ad, and Michele Bachmann quickly followed with a pro-choice position of his. Gingrich happens to talk about the Reagan administration more than any of the candidates, as he was one of those who was in public office during the eighties. Gingrich debates well and his good debating has helped him move upward. He should be a strong candidate in the south and winning South Carolina, as every Republican nominee has won since 1980, could really be the decider. Gingrich just has to keep calm in the debates, but at the same time remain firm. He'll be a freight train whose destination could be the Republican nomination and then off to his next route: the White House. B+
Ron Paul- Many people say that Ron Paul doesn't have a chance and that there's no way he could win the Republican nomination. I don't know about that. He was just about a hundred votes from winning the Ames Straw Poll and it was Michele Bachmann that won that. At this point in time, the vote may be a bit more spread out, leaving some open space for Paul to prevail. Paul has taken advantage of the time during the debates. His reply to the fact that many say he doesn't have a chance is that anyone on the stage is more electable than Obama. Paul remains consistent with his views on foreign policy and how we need to stay away from the possibility of going into Iran. He mentions that Switzerland and Sweden are doing a fine job with their history of remaining neutral. This brings for heated debate from the other candidates with the exception of Huntsman, who has a moderate view on foreign affairs in the middle east, but not as severe as Paul. Aside from Gingrich and Romney, Paul looks like he is fighting for the big prize. He was the first to release an attack ad on Gingrich at the time in which Gingrich achieved front-runner status. Paul could very well be a dark horse for the 2012 race for the presidency, it's all going to come down to voters. A
Michele Bachmann- If there's anybody that's taking advantage of the debates and bringing their opponents down to size, it would be Michele Bachmann. She coined the term "Newt Romney" when referring to the skeletons that are hiding in Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney's closets, she fought Gingrich on his lax stance on pro-choice colleagues, she even fought Ron Paul and his stance on staying away from Iran. Bachmann is benefiting from the debate, but whether or not it will garner votes is something that's to be determined. Her support in Iowa is in the mid-single digits and closer to Rick Perry's. It's going to come down to Iowa and how well she could prevail in the first caucus. If she doesn't have a strong showing in Iowa, it could very well be the end for the 2012 Michele Bachmann campaign. Her numbers in New Hampshire are very low and South Carolina is a slight possibility, but nothing as strong as Iowa, which is just south of her home state of Minnesota. Based on how well she's fighting, she's fighting and fighting hard. She's got the spirit and that's what matters most. A
Jon Huntsman- Huntsman was not invited to ABC's debate as he did not meet the 5% requirement in Iowa. He was invited to the FOX News debate and it seems like for Huntsman, it's New Hampshire or bust. Unfortunately for him, the latter is much likely. Huntsman contributed his experience while he was Governor Of Utah and other brief ideas. He was not on the hot seat or engaged in any hot seat confrontations. Huntsman has not put a lot into Iowa, never did, and is likely to not put into Iowa so much anytime soon. New Hampshire's going to be his decider. He's polling at around 10% and will likely garner a vote of a little less. He does not have such a strong showing in any other state, besides Utah, and chances are he will end his campaign after finishing around fourth in New Hampshire. There's nothing Huntsman is really doing otherwise. C
As far as debates go, Michele Bachmann is taking more the most advantage of this time to strengthen her weakening campaign than any of the others and their campaigns of various strengths. However, going into Iowa, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul will be the candidates that will get the most looks. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman are in the next tier under.
The next debate will not occur until after the Iowa Caucuses, thus the lineup as to who participates will remain in question and depend on which candidates remain in the race. A lot will come down to what happens in Iowa.