Opinion: Scoring the Iowa Debate - Bachmann Makes Good, Palin Wins in Absentia

I blogged the Ames debate live for WNYC, New York and I came away with the following observations.

First, the debate was way too long. In Operas you have an intermission and then resume the show – my dad always fell asleep in the second half. In debates one hour or 90 minutes is all the American people can take! Most people went to bed when the intermission started.

Second, the only real winner was Texas Gov. Rick Perry who was flying around the country stalking Iowa. I talked to lots of folks and they agreed with me. All along the debate I asked myself “What would Rick Perry say?”

Third, who is Rick Santorum?

Fourth, Newt Gingrich is a smart man but he seemed to think this was the 1980’s and he got confused and debated the questioner Chris Wallace (“why are you asking these Mickey Mouse gotcha questions?!”) thus pretty much blowing the night.  After all, everyone watching wanted to know what the $500 thousand dollar Tiffany account had bought Callista, why most of his campaign staff quit, did Callista really try to run the campaign, and what did Newt think of the Ryan budget plan – those questions were never asked!

Fifth, Michelle Bachmann won the debate for her Iowa initiatives no matter what the journalists say! She opened fire on Obama and got a rousing endorsement right from the git go. She got her facts wrong, was late for class the second half, claimed to be the number one member of Congress but she debated from the gut and with passion. Folks, debates are not Harvard Kennedy School seminars in government! They are politics and political theater! You can lie, distort, act nutty, be short in size and yet if you do this right reinforce your base of support. She did! No one asked her what kind of migraine medication she takes and how impaired she is while under the influence of that.

Mitt Romney did a fine job and is the best prepared to be President but Mr. Romney corporations are NOT people! You shoulda not said that at the Iowa State Fair even if you believe it! Most Americans HATE that Supreme Court ruling and throughout the debate that comment you made contaminated everything else you said! No one asked the Gov. how many people he had fired when he restructured Bain and how many people US companies (or the US Post Office) should fire under his presidency.

Ron Paul was great. He was confused, he was grandpa Paul, and he was outrageous in his wild and dangerous economic theories but HEY! his supporters love Ron Paul and he could say “Gobble dee gook to the second power, and, I promise to verflect the veeblefeezer if I’m President!” and they would cheer and still love him. No one asked Ron Paul who the Prime Minister of Italy is, or who’s the President of Paraguay. I wanted to know his answers on those. I really enjoyed W Bush’s answers on foreign leaders when he was running.

Tim Pawlenty is smart, controlled, boring (although his blood pressure went up on debate night), he effectively sparred with Bachmann, but he still won’t have a ticket out of Iowa. I don’t know why. He seems like he owns the family hardware store.

Caine proved that he’s a pizza pie executive and we need good CEOs to fix U.S. companies. We just don’t need them in the White House!

Jon Huntsman seemed confused and thought he might be at an Independent Party debate – his position on issues and his weasel and waffling on specific policy matters make him unfit for the GOP and in fact unfit to be president. He should join Cain and kick butt restructuring some companies that have too many slacker employees. He can begin by fixing his totally dysfunctional campaign organization, which rivals Newt’s in terms of bad blood and infighting (Google that, I don’t have time to ‘splain.)

Sarah Palin did a GREAT job with this debate. She didn’t participate and thereby kept her bid for the White House alive much longer than about half the folks who were up on the stage at CY Stevens Auditorium in Ames.

Now on to the Ames Straw poll, where we will see even more of a circus!

Steffen Schmidt is professor of political science at Iowa State University, writes and blogs for the Des Moines Register and WNYC’s “It’s a Free Country,” and is chief political correspondent for Insideriowa.com.