Last Tuesday marked the beginning of a three-week break in Republican presidential candidate debates. That’s a good thing for everyone, including the candidates and the voters. Everyone needs a timeout.
The performance in last week’s debate showed how badly the candidates need a break. It was shameful how petty their bickering was. They looked like a group of children fighting over who gets to sit in the front seat. Quite the opposite of presidential. Also quite the opposite position of their oft mentioned mentor President Ronald Reagan, who followed an eleventh commandment.
“Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” Reagan said.
Even the usually cool and collected Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) was off key. He came off like a kid tattle-taling to the teacher as he kept asking the moderator to make other candidates stop talking.
Herman Cain’s allure wore thin in this debate as he tried in vain to defend his 9-9-9 plan from scrutiny. What was that defense? Go to his website. Charming.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) failed to keep his crazy off the table by saying he’d end all aid to Israel.
And please, let’s just not talk about Gov. Rick Perry. He was there and awake, which is an improvement, but he was petty, divisive and just plain ugly to watch.
Sen. Rick Santorum scored a few points, but he also attacked the front-runner so much that he literally resembled a barking attack dog at one point. That’s after Santorum had already lost all hope for the nomination, when he couldn’t stop digging his Don’t Ask Don’t Tell grave a couple of weeks ago.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) were probably the most composed, but that might just be because they got the least amount of time to talk. If Michelle Bachmann is the one that sounds the most sensible on stage, Republicans might be in serious trouble.
But it’s not the candidates alone who need the break. Republican primary voters have been diligent, with this debate pulling in over 5 million viewers during its first run (The Fox News debate drew over 6 million).
Whether it’s the primary voters or the pundits drooling over the debates, these folks need a moment of meditation before moving on. Having been through five front-runners this year already, they need some time to think about what they want.
Perhaps if they are lucky, the field will narrow itself by the time we see the next debate. The larger the field, the more the bickering and the less time those voters get to hear any substance from candidates.
Here’s hoping a new play is called after this timeout.