Elijah Friedeman, The Millennial Perspective
Last night seven Republican presidential hopefuls gathered under the lights on an impressive CNN set to debate the issues facing our country. For some, like Romney and Gingrich, the strategy was to tamp down the fallout from past statements and actions and focus on the present. For others, like Santorum and Cain, the strategy was to make a strong showing to get some name recognition.
For some reason none of the presidential campaigns have called me to get my highly unprofessional post-debate reactions and advice. Go figure. But since I'm just a nice guy, here's my take on each candidate's performance and my advice on what each candidate should do in the future.Coming into the debate tonight, some pundits predicted a Romney-bashing fest. Instead, Romney came out looking very good. He was, well, Mitt Romney - polished. He looks and sounds like a Hollywood president off of some Oscar-winning White House drama. Romney was able to avoid too much trouble from Romneycare, and instead focused attention on jobs. If there was a winner last night, it was Romney.
Since Romney performed so well, I don't have much advice for his campaign. But there is this. Don't be quite so polished all the time. Let's see some more passion and maybe a little broader message than simply "Jobs!"Tim Pawlenty had an opportunity to blow this race wide open last night. Instead, he lost a lot of ground. Pawlenty was thrown a softball by moderator John King, who asked about Pawlenty's use of "Obamneycare." Instead of delivering an ugly right hook at Romney, Pawlenty backed down, blaming the characterization on Obama instead. Even when King delivered a veiled insult about Pawlenty being willing to criticize from the safety of a TV studio, the candidate just hemmed and hawed about Obama. Pawlenty just looked weak. No one wants to vote for a weak, bland candidate.So here's my advice for the Pawlenty campaign. Don't pull punches when it comes to Mitt Romney. If your big thing is truth-telling, then do it, no matter whom it offends.Herman Cain managed a second strong debate showing. Every time Herman Cain started talking, it seemed like a breath of fresh air. He faced a little trouble regarding a past statement he made about Muslims, but then Newt Gingrich inexplicably came to his rescue. If anyone from the Cain campaign is listening, start taking notes. Cain needs to brush up majorly on his foreign policy knowledge. When issues about international affairs came up in the debate, Cain handled them well enough, but mainly used vague phrases and ideas. That works fine for now, but the Herminator need to hit the books.I'll probably make a lot of Ron Paul fans angry by saying this, but the 12-term congressman from Texas came across as a stodgy old man. I know positions are ultimately what matters, but in a debate appearance is important, and Paul didn't do too well. To make things harder, some of Paul's positions don't jive well with popular sentiments.Advice to Paul's campaign: Don't emphasize his controversial positions. Instead, push his anti-spending, anti-big government message.Maybe it's just because Newt Gingrich's campaign has imploded over the past few weeks, but at times I forgot he was even present. That doesn't bode well for the former Speaker of the House.
My advice for Newt, since he doesn't really have a campaign anymore: Give it up. Call it quits. You had your chance, you blew it.Go home.One thing Bachmann did well was
explaining how she had worked on an issue. Whether it was the repeal of Obamacare or some other piece of legislation, Bachmann was able to say what she had done to fix the problem. No one else on stage was able to say that.Bachmann has several problems. First, experience - she doesn't have much of it. Second, I think there are questions surrounding her electability. Bachmann's campaign needs to show that she not only has a firm grasp of the issues, but that her stances are in line with much of America, whether they are or not.Santorum did well. But for a guy who has very little name recognition and very little popular support, doing well isn't going to cut it. His strong points came on questions about social issues. But overall, Rick Santorum won't be helped by this debate much at all.This leaves a big job for the Santorum campaign. They need to get media attention for their candidate - a lot of it. Now if he were a former VP-candidate from Alaska, this would be easy. But he's not, so his campaign must come up with a way to quickly build name recognition. I don't imagine a lot will change because of this debate. Romney will stay atop the polls for now, Cain will continue to do well, and Bachmann may get a slight bump. But there's still a long time to go until November 2012. So buckle up and enjoy the ride.