Here are a few things I’ll be watching for in tonight’s Iowa debate:
Roughing Up Romney
In the first two pillow fights – I mean…debates - the candidates treated Romney the same way fellow actors treat Robert De Niro.
Everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Matt Damon will sit at Charlie Rose’s table and speak reverentially about how De Niro is the best actor alive. But no one will step up and say, “Hey, this guy’s last 15 years have been defined by Little Fockers and Analyze This. Seriously, what’s he done sine the tour-de-force that was 1995 with Heat and Casino?”
Similarly, in the first two debates, no one from Bachmann to Gingrich was willing to look at Romney and say, “This guy created the model for Obamacare!” As I said before, John King even took Tim Pawlenty’s fist and placed it to Romney’s chin. Nothing.
Some people are getting braver. Huntsman, Pawlenty, Bachmann, and Palin (should I include her?) have since challenged Romney on being late to the debt ceiling debate and some of his shifting opinions. It will be interesting to see if anyone roughs up Romney tonight.
How Many Three-Point Plans?
How many questions will Herman Cain answer with lists of three? Most of which only really get to two answers. And how many times will one of those two answers include “get the job done”? Or “hire the right people”?
Who is the Alpha Dog?
I’m going to write more about this in the coming days. But I don’t see an alpha dog among the GOP candidates on the stage. I’m talking about that Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant characteristic that says: “There’s 10 seconds left, we’re down by one, give me the ball and clear out.” I’m talking about staring down some third world dictator and making him blink first. I’m talking about someone who could rally a nation, a party, even a women’s volleyball team to a win.
I don’t see that person yet.
Who is Jon Huntsman?
I have to admit, I’m intrigued by Huntsman. I know…call me a RINO…call me liberal…call me a commie…whatever.
I like that the guy can speak Mandarin. I like that he actually ran something, as in…running the State of Utah. I don’t mind that he accepted Obama’s invitation to be ambassador to China. I will define him by his disagreement with Obama, not his animosity toward Obama. I like that he understood that we should take the best deal we can get, but in the end, we had to raise the debt ceiling. Also, I’m interested in seeing if he is the alpha dog.
But I don’t know that much about him. I’ve seen a little of him on TV. Not a lot. I’ll be watching closely to see who Jon Huntsman is in this debate.
Who’s Reached the End of the Line?
A couple of guys need a Hail Mary. A couple of guys really have to come through tonight or they may have reached the end of the line. Several people could drop out after the Iowa straw poll. Will Tim Pawlenty? Will Rick Santorum? Will Newt Gingrich? I’ll be watching to see who throws the long ball.
Can Bachmann Keep the Ball Rolling
I’m not a fan of Michelle Bachmann. But she did well in the CNN debate in New Hampshire. She was a net-gainer in that debate. I’m interested to see if she can keep the ball rolling or if she flames out.
Let me tell you the definition of a leader: someone who tells people the truth, even when – especially when - they don’t want to hear it. The source of our debt and deficit issues are the massive future unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare. And seemingly, neither Democrats or Republicans want to hear about that.
The Wall Street Journal wrote a wonderful editorial a few weeks ago entitled “Road to a Downgrade”. It lays out how our deficit woes began with the growth of the entitlement state…specifically Medicare. I want to hear about this and how candidates will address Medicare.
I don’t want to hear someone spend two hours blaming Obama. Yes, he has significantly contributed to our problems. But the problems began way before Obama. Be brave and talk about this. By the way: Newt has already disqualified himself for the presidency in my book because of this topic.