What did the twin GOP NH debates accomplish?.....
ABC/Yahoo Debate. Here is the debate transcript. Bill Kristol has the best take on this debate. Romney & Santorum helped themselves. This is more important for Santorum, as Romney is the cinch winner, unless all polling is way, way off. For RS, whether he finishes 2nd, 3rd or 4th is a biggie.
An ABC question about the 8.5 unemployment rates should have yielded an answer showing how misleading is the marquee number. Where was the GOP respondent who answered by explaining that the top number misleads, because of the declining labor force participation rate (LFPR)?
The LFPR was 66 percent at end-2008, and is now 64 percent, nearing a 30-year low. Put simply, given a rising LFPR, a falling unemployment rate signifies that the economy is rocking; but a falling LFPR in a bad economy signifies a sagging economy. Were the LFPR at the same rate today as it was when President Obama took office, the big number would be 11 percent, not 8.5. And if underemployment is factored in, the so-called U6 rate that includes part-timers who seek full employment, the rate would be 15 percent. Even this may be low, as if those too discouraged to even try to find work--and thus NOT counted in unemployment number--were still looking, the rate would be around 20 percent.
Jon Huntsman missed a home-run chance, when in discussing his service as Ambassador to China he did not distinguish ambassadorial service from serving in a policy post--running a cabinet or executive agency. An ambassador can ably represent as administration in a way that partisan cabinet members of agency heads cannot; the latter are almost purely creatures of politics.
NBC/Facebook Debate. Here is the debate transcript. I think Rick Santorum really shined on several big issues and won the day. Michael Barone had the best take on this debate. MB makes an interesting point, noting David Gregory's transparent bias: GOP candidates get more practice answering adversarial interrogation than do Democrats, which helps them in the general election contest.
Santorum gave a strong "electability" answer v. Romney. In 1994 Santorum won, while Mitt lost to Teddy Kennedy. In 2000 he won re-election in a 71 percent Democratic district (he had been redistricted in 2000 into a district with more Democratic voters), with a 90 percent conservative voting record, and won (in a year when the Presidential race was a virtual tie). This puts in perspective his 18-point shellacking in 2006, a dismal year for GOP candidates; the 2006 Senate race results saw 33 seats contested, with voters giving Ds a net gain of 6. It was the year that: (a) Iraq was at its nadir, with ignominious defeat appearing near certain; (b) President Bush 43's name was toxic, as spending escalated; (c) the GOP House was reeling from the Mark Foley scandal.
Santorum gave a solid answer on working with Democrats. He cited his sponsorship of welfare reform, which passed in 1996 & was signed into law by President Clinton. Santorum worked with opponents after Clinton vetoed the second version of the welfare reform bill, which had passed the Senate with 87 votes (35 Ds); the final version passed with 70 votes (17 Ds).
First, America is drowning in energy resources. So we must remove the regulatory constraints on the production of domestic energy.
Second, we need to break oil's monopoly as a transportation fuel, and create a truly level playing field for competing fuels.
Third, we need to build an environment that will incubate the next generation of energy technologies and ensure that America leads the global energy economy in the decades to come.
Huntsman, however, seems not to realize that the US now imports about 45 percent of its oil, down from 60 percent in 2005; JH thinks the latter figure still holds. His best line in the speech: "Every barrel from a friend is one less from a foe." Still, it is an impressive speech.
Re unions, Rick Perry gave a forceful defense of right-to-work laws that permit non-unionized employees to work. Romney & Santorum agreed.
Santorum gave an excellent Medicare reform answer, noting the two successful parts of current Medicare, C (Medicare Advantage, the Clinton plan to aid in physician-related expenses) and D (Bush 43's prescription drug benefit, to aid seniors in purchasing drugs) as being based upon premium-support. These are the two Parts that ObamaCare demolishes, in favor of government-driven support, as in Parts A (hospital stays) & B (selected outpatient care) costs. Parts A & B are the ones driving Medicare costs skyward, and driving down reimbursement rates for doctors, inducing many to retire early or join large organizations (hospitals, clinics).
A key area is Iran, which announced it has begun enriching uranium at its underground al Fordo facility (the initially secret one discovered 3 years ago by the West). The centrifuges at al Fordo are faster than those at Iran's huge Natanz plant, so this will accelerate Iran's drive to cross the nuclear threshold (a drive SecDef Leon Panetta does not believe is real). Asked why the West could not "live with" a nuclear Iran, as it did with the former Soviet Union and as it has with North Korea (since 2006), Santorum hit the pitch out of the park. He noted that Iran's leaders, unlike the others named, were theocrats who adhere to a creed of preferring martyrdom to life; thus, RS said, the threat of nuclear retaliation is an inducement to an Iranian nuclear attack. (It would have been a grand slam, had RS added that North Korea has yet to fully weaponize its nuclear bombs, and thus we have yet to test whether we can "live with" a nuclear North.)
The best quip of either debate was Newt Gingrich's quip re the EPA mandating use of water to deal with dust in Arizona's deserts. Said Newt:
In Arizona, they went in on the dust regulation and suggested to them that maybe if they watered down the earth, they wouldn't have these dust storms in the middle of the year. And people said to 'em, "You know, the reason it's called a desert (LAUGH) is there's no water."
EPA excess can be a potent fall campaign issue, with the right GOP candidate pushing it.
Bottom Line. Santorum & Huntsman may have helped themselves; Romney, by not losing outright, did well. Newt made some sharp points, but his testy attack on Romney did not help his case. The others were so-so.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Conservative Politics