The Republican 2012 Field Becomes Clearer: Must-Reads From The Web
It’s been a big week for Republican presidential hopefuls. Monday night’s debate – the first full-fledged one of the primary season – ended with a clear front-runner (former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney) and an underdog challenger (Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann). It also included a dramatic swing-and-miss on "Obamaneycare" by Tim Pawlenty. The GOP field’s momentum kept up during the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, where libertarian-leaning Ron Paul won a straw poll ahead of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and Bachmann. Romney did not attend and did poorly in the poll.
Interpretations of the week's events have varied wildly, especially on the political left, where President Barack Obama’s supporters are becoming increasingly concerned that the sour economy is making their candidate vulnerable to the attacks of what would normally look like a weak field. Here are some highlights:
- At National Journal, Robert Brownstein, in his analysis of the GOP debate, notes that the differences between the candidates are less of ideology than of authenticity and electability: “The debate dramatized the near-monolithic consensus that has solidified in the GOP since 2008. After President Obama’s victory, the dominant interpretation inside the Republican Party was that John McCain lost not because he was too conservative, but because he (and George W. Bush) were not conservative enough, particularly on issues relating to Washington’s role […] In the presidential race, the party doesn’t appear to be looking for someone to write a new script; it is debating who will be the most reliable, and effective, messenger for the script that the party has already written."
- On the other hand, at the Republican Leadership Conference, Slate’s John Dickerson observed a party in soul-search mode. He watched Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour implore fellow Republicans to not dismiss a candidate based on ideological purity: “In the GOP there is agreement on the villain, but not quite on the method of deposing him. Barbour made the pragmatic case you'd expect from a former chairman of the national party. ‘Don't get hung up on purity,’ he said. ‘In politics, purity is a loser.’ He reminded the crowd of Ronald Reagan's saying that someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is your friend and ally—‘he's not a 20 percent traitor.’ The message was clear: Don't let a few disagreements prevent you from picking a presidential nominee who can beat Obama.”
- At The Hill, Cheri Jacobus takes the media to task for expressing surprise that Michele Bachman stood her ground in the debate, calling the reaction “chuckle-worthy”: “Why is it a challenge for the media to get their heads around the notion that a 50-something, three-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives who serves on the Intelligence and Financial Services committees, launched the Tea Party Caucus, served as a state Senator and was a tax attorney and successful entrepreneur could be capable of an able performance in a political debate? Is it because she is a woman and they still insist on grading on a curve?”
- The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg has her own take on what she calls Bachmann’s “unrivaled extremism,” especially with regard to gay rights. Even in a Republican culture that values fiscal conservatism above all, social conservative is still in the equation, she asserts: “None of this is likely to sour her many devoted fans. Indeed, it's precisely her unwavering ideological commitment that endears her to them. ‘She's not afraid to say things that other people on the right are probably thinking, but they're just too wimpy to say,’ says Pulkrabek, who supports Bachmann's presidential ambitions. ‘She says these things and she promotes these views because she really believes them.’”
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