The 2012 campaign season is officially underway. The Republicans held their first debate last week, with two more coming in the next two weeks. The debate featured some spirited exchanges, with the two frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, exchanging barbs and the others trying to get some points in.

Along the way a lot of shots at President Obama were thrown in for good measure. At one point, Newt Gingrich scolded the media for trying to get the Republican candidates to argue with each other, as opposed to concentrating on defeating the President.

Some exchanges between Romney and Perry included debate over who was more successful at creating jobs in their respective states, which shows at least they had their priorities in the right place. Perry opened by saying, “Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” referring to Romney’s predecessor as governor of Massachusetts. “As a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessors created jobs at a faster rate than you did,” Romney retorted.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman made a lot of prescient points. As far as jobs, he brought evidence that he was the most successful. “Forty-seventh just isn’t going to cut it, my friend,” he stated to Romney, referring to Romney’s rank as Governor in the job creation standings. And for Perry he added, “I hate to rain on the parade of the great Lone Star State governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the number one job creator during my years in service.”

Huntsman also was chastised by the others for saying what most people outside the party have believed for a long time, that the Republicans have become the “anti-science party.” He lamented the fact that the party questions evolution and climate change, stating, “When you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call to question evolution, all I’m saying is that in order for the Republican Party to win, we can’t run from science.”

Rick Perry is has questioned what science has seemed to show on both climate change and evolution. “I do believe the science is not settled on this,” he reiterated. He compared those who question those scientific findings to Galileo. “Galileo was outnumbered for a spell,” he said. Funny, since he was using the example of a scientist who was questioned by religious leaders to rebut scientists who are being questioned by Republicans largely based on religious teachings.

Perry should be given props for being the only one to give President Obama credit for anything, saying he deserves that for finally getting Osama Bin Laden. Romney had given a speech earlier in which he praised everyone involved in that operation, while conspicuously leaving Obama out.

Michele Bachman got her greatest amount of applause by saying she would provide the “strong, bold leader in the Presidency who will lead” the effort to repeal health care. “None of us should ever think that the repeal bill will just come to our desk,” she said. Herman Cain countered by saying, “I’m running against Romneycare,” a nod to the fact that as Governor of Massachusetts Romney passed a health care reform bill that also required residents to purchase insurance.

Social Security provided some fireworks, as Perry took a big risk by saying the popular program was a “Ponzi scheme.” Romney quickly added that Perry has said states should be able to opt out of the program.

All the polls show the vast majority of Americans favor Social Security, and want to see it strengthened as opposed to dismantled. So this will be a huge obstacle for Perry to overcome if he does win the nomination.

The event was Perry’s first opportunity to share the stage with his primary opponents, having just joined the race, and since he shot to the top of the public opinion polls. He totally destroyed the momentum Bachmann had after winning the Iowa straw poll at.

Another interesting exchange dealt with a question about whether Romney was indeed a member of the Tea Party. “I don’t believe you carry cards in the Tea Party,” he replied. “If the Tea Party is for creating jobs and keeping government small and keeping taxes down, then I’m for the Tea Party.”

Overall, the debate was somewhat tame, but we can expect things to heat up as the race narrows down and the gloves come off. There doesn’t seem to have been a clear cut winner, although many moderate voters were impressed with Huntsman’s logical, reasoned statements, which relied less on rhetoric and party line viewpoints and more on his personal beliefs. Judging from this performance, he may be a dark horse candidate, and possibly one that might have the best chance to appeal to mainstream voters and fare well against Obama.

To add to the festivities, the debate came the day before President Obama gave a speech to a joint session of Congress on the major issue of the day: Job creation. However, in the new Republican spirit of party over country, many Republicans skipped the speech, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican Minority leader in the Senate, quickly dismissed it as a “re-election plan,” not a jobs plan. He also stated that, “Gas prices are up. The national debt is up. Health insurance premiums are up.” Well, aren’t you a genius, McConnell? Gas prices went up, the debt went up and health insurance premiums went up under President Bush when the Republicans were the majority party, and you thought the President was doing a good job then. Oh yeah, that was a Republican President, so even with the same situation, that was okay.

Let’s hope whomever wins the Republican nomination is a little more serious about debating the issues with the President than the Republicans in Congress are.

 

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