After having missed the August 11 Republican debate, I finally had the opportunity to check it out in full yesterday. As a liberal, watching these debates are always rather frustrating and scary, but I feel that as somewhat of a political wonk, it's important to hear and understand (if possible) the perspectives of those on the other side.
While most of the questions thrown to the candidates are the standard softballs, occasionally they get hit with a tough policy question that the serious politicians and politicos like Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have no trouble with, but the less astute candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain find to be a little more difficult to answer.
What I think is interesting is how these candidates are trying so hard to pander to the right (most of them, anyway), that they'll probably going to end up crippling themselves in the general election. I was reading an article yesterday about how this primary is much different from that between Obama and Hillary, because in that fight they were attacking each other, but fighting for political moderacy, while in this Republican primary fight they're aiming all of their arrows at the president, but fighting for the fringe. I've got news for these candidates, the Tea Party, while it may be a vocal and vociferous movement, simply does not have the votes to give you the primary victory, or especially a victory in the general election. Winning the presidency in this country has to do with a) getting the majority of registered members of your party to actually show up to the polls, and b) getting a lot of independent voters (by registration - no voter is truly independent on the issues) to vote for you. It's that simple.
What the republicans are banking on is that they can excite their base enough so that ALL of them show up, and then the Republican establishment-types will vote Republican no matter what, because that's what they do. Then, they're hoping that Independents will be disenchanted enough with the economy (remember, stupid...) that they're turn their back on the President and his efforts to revive it. The problem with this philosophy is that it only works if Republicans sent one of their warriors to the general, and not one of their establishment candidates. Michele Bachmann will excite the base, but she has literally no chance of winning the general. Same goes for Herman Cain and Ron Paul. Mitt Romney and John Huntsman are on the opposite end of the spectrum; they can make a lot of money by appealing to the party elites, and could both possibly win a general election, but would most likely not do so because the party base would stay at home, and opt to mourn the state of the country, instead of handing the presidency over to a more mainstream, establishment Republican (to be fair, I give them credit for being principled, even if they are misguided).
Basically, I think the point I'm making is that Republicans are in a catch-22, and are probably going to lose the election. I don't know much about Rick Perry, but I find it hard to imagine that even if the guy is a great campaigner, and can play moderate for the Independent's sake, that the country would be willing to throw out the current intelligent, moderate, professorial president we now have for another governor from Texas.
First, I find Herman Cain's obsession with Islam and making sure that Shari'ah law is not practiced within United States courts very odd. The guy has tried to clarify his statements over and over again, but he continues to make his hole deeper. Cain has basically said that Christian values must be respected, because those are protected by the Constitution, but that Islamic values are essentially an infringement upon Christian values, and are therefore not protected by the same Constitution. When will Republicans give up their jingoist, pro-Christian agenda, and just respectfully let everyone believe what they want to believe (including Christians). Despite popular Republican opinion, respect for other religions does not infringe upon your rights.
Second, I think Sarah Palin's trailing of the Republican primary campaign trail to be kind of creepy. It seems obvious that all she wants is attention, which is probably why she will end up joining the Republican primary fight. However, with her credentials known (or lack thereof) and her name recognition already greater, than any of the other Republican primary candidates; to involve herself in the debates would probably do more harm than good. With almost 7 months before the Republican primaries are set to begin, Sarah Palin has no real incentive to join the fray, when she'll only be running as a celebrity candidate anyway, and everyone just expects her do so. She'll try and keep herself in the news, while desperately trying to bulk up her foreign and domestic policy knowledge. Look for Palin's primary campaign to be short-lived. She'll be in and out.