Tag: Ron Paul

Paul vs. Paul

Ron Paul and Paul Krugman had a debate about economics (apologies for the link, which auto-plays). You can read Tyler Cowen’s commentary here. I agree with his final take:

There were too many times when RP simply piled polemic points on top of each other and stopped making a sequential argument. He overrates the costs of inflation, including in the long term, and for a believer in the market finds it remarkably non-robust in response to bad monetary policy. Still, given that Krugman is a Nobel Laureate in economics, and Paul a gynecologist, the score could have been more lopsided than in fact it was.

I have disagreements with Ron Paul on monetary policy and the Federal reserve. But I think Cowen understates Paul’s performance. There were several times where he got in points that Krugman had no response to (except to later whine with dubious factual accuracy on his blog). The fact is that the Keynesians really don’t have an explanation of how a 60% cut in federal spending after World War II produced an economic boom, other than to wave the “we owe the debt to ourselves” mantra. The fact is that they predicted Truman’s budget cuts would wreck the economy and they didn’t.

I think Krugman also, like most Keynesians, underestimates the potential danger of inflation. It is true that a moderate inflation can ease a financial crisis. But it’s very hard to manage a “moderate” inflation because the temptation to inflate away debts is strong and it is very easy to get into an inflation-interest rate spiral like we did in the 70’s. This is why the Federal Reserve has been keen to keep that beast in its cage for three decades.

Still, it tells you something about the intellectual weakness of the Left when they are preening/whining about, as Cowen said, a Nobel Laureate debating a 76-year-old Republican who is regarded as a crackpot by all “thinking people”. I suspect Krugman will next debate Milton Friedman. This may actually be an even match since Friedman is dead at the present time.

Let All the Poisons That Lurk in the Mud Hatch Out

In probably the most foreseeable political development of the last month, the Ron Paul newsletters have moved front and center in news coverage of the Republican primary. We discussed this issue extensively four years ago and I’ll just repeat what I said then: the content of the newsletters is deplorable; I believe Ron Paul when he says he didn’t write them; but he owes the voters a much more thorough response than he has provided if he wants to be a serious presidential candidate. Ultimately, you are responsible for what goes out under your name. This is an entirely legitimate issue.

Of course, now that this cat has come out of the bag, the entire litter of Ron Paul baggage is following: his association with and occasional indulgence in conspiracy theories; the contributions he’s gotten from a few neo-Nazis; his association with the Birchers, etc., etc. The consensus — at least among Lefties — is that Ron Paul is the kookiest of kooks, a radical racist fascist anti-semitic lunatic: a characterization that sounds ridiculous to anyone has actually listened to him. Only in the alternate reality of a political campaign could that description have credibility.

Getting to brass tacks, let me address the last part first: the association with racists and other loons and the support — political and monetary — from some members of Stormfront and other fringe groups. I despise guilt by association arguments and Ron Paul is a good illustration of why. His critics can not point to a single policy point that is fascist. They can not point to a policy that reflects white supremacy, anti-semitism or racism. Well, they’ll claim cutting off support for Israel — as part of ending all foreign aide — is anti-semitic. But most thinking people won’t buy that.

So what’s a slime merchant to do? Use guilt by association. Point out that some racists or affiliated scumbags support Paul and darkly intone, “what does that tell you?” What it tells me is that racial hate-mongers are such idiots they are supporting a candidate who, if he had his way, would make their dreams of a powerful leviathan state impossible.

In this country, people are free to support any candidate they choose. The candidates are not responsible for who supports them or votes for them (although I wouldn’t object if they returned their money). The same people blasting Paul because a few racists support him would not blast Obama if some communists or Black Panthers supported him. Politicians are responsible for their views, their votes and their policies. Getting support from the American Family Association means nothing; supporting their anti-gay agenda does. Getting support from PETA means nothing; supporting their animal rights kookery does. Does Paul support the agenda of the racial hate-mongers? I don’t think so.

It’s not like Paul has a dearth of controversial views. But to the Paul bashers, it’s not enough until they’ve tied him to something truly vile, no matter how many degrees of separation are needed.

Now, to address the more serious point about the newsletters and his buddying with conspiracy theorists and racially-amped paleo-conservatives like Lew Rockwell: this does bother me and is one of the reasons, as I explained here, why I can not support Paul for president.

But tar-brushing has simply gotten out of hand. To be sure, some of the views Paul has advocated and is advocating are extreme or even nutty.

But…

Let’s pause for a moment remind ourselves of some of the things that “mainstream politicians” believe.

  • That Medicare, which wastes one in five dollars on fraud and has tens of trillions in unfunded future liabilities is a model for healthcare reform (most liberals) or should be preserved at all costs (both parties).
  • That the government can and should prevent people from getting high (both parties).
  • That government’s various regulatory, anti-terror and anti-crime efforts should be advanced with things like asset forfeiture, no-knock raids, gag orders on critics and shoving aside Constitutional liberties (both parties).
  • That there is no problem with a tax and regulatory structure so complex that the enforcement agencies don’t understand them. That’s it’s perfectly reasonable to jail or financially ruin people who violate these codes without a trace of mens rea (all Democrats; far too may Republicans)
  • That Iraq had WMD’s (both parties).
  • That we should start a war with Iran (the neocons, several GOP nominees).
  • That homosexuality can be cured (Bachman), that gay sex should be outlawed and kids taken away from gay families (Santorum).
  • That you can balance the budget without cutting Medicare and Social Security (most Democrats, many Republicans.)
  • That you can balance the budget while cutting taxes and increasing defense spending (numerous Republicans and almost all Presidential nominees).
  • That the cap and trade disaster in Europe is a model for dealing with global warming (many liberals).
  • That we should mandate increased use of expensive and destructive corn ethanol (members of both parties).
  • I would submit that the above — all of which are considered respectable beliefs in the political establishment — are far more insidious and dangerous than anything Ron Paul believes. I don’t go to bed worrying that someone thinks the government participated in or provoked terrorist attacks. The danger of Stormfront or other racist groups does not keep me up at night (and as a Jewish astrophysicist married to a foreigner, I’d be near the top of their hit list). But the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the crippling of civil liberties, the expansion of the welfare state and our burgeoning debt do worry me. And from what I can tell, all the mainstream sensible non-conspiratorial candidates support all or most of the whack-job ideas that are ruining this country. Ron Paul may be in bed with kooks, but the mainstream candidates are in bed with entire industries.

    Some of Ron Paul’s ideas are dangerous. Ending the Federal Reserve or going back to the gold standard or whatever. But the President’s powers are limited. And they would be especially limited under someone who is already isolated within his own party and is running on a platform of decreasing his own power.

    Remember my view of checks and balances: our system is not intended to allow a majority to gang up on the individual; it is intended to allow any of our three branches to derail stupid, foolish, reckless, destructive or unconstitutional behavior. Paul is the only remaining candidate who is even dimly aware of this.

    If Ron Paul is a crazy candidate, it’s because we live in crazy times. It’s because he suddenly sounds a whole lot less crazy than many of our mainstream political figures and almost all of the ones running for the GOP nomination (Huntsman excepted).

    Personally, I wish the enthusiasm for Ron Paul were directed toward someone like Gary Johnson, who is just as libertarian but has an established and massively successful track record as governor of New Mexico and lacks Paul’s considerable baggage. However, for better or for worse — probably for worse — the libertarian wing of the GOP is rallying around Paul. And the focus on areas where he is a little batty has taken away the focus from where it should be — the issues on which he is the least insane man on the stage.

    I don’t think the GOP should nominate Ron Paul. But I do think they should listen to him. Because — dirty laundry or no — he’s talking sense on a number of critical issues.

    Paul? Maybe

    If you thought the Republican establishment was having kittens over the possibility of Gingrich winning Iowa, they are *really* having kittens over Ron Paul potentially winning Iowa. Despite his closeness in the polls, every commentary I’ve seen recently has been of the “he has zero chance” variety, even to the point where Chris Wallace has said that if Paul wins Iowa, it won’t count. David Frum unleashed a hard-hitting and factually questionable critique. Rush Limbaugh bizarrely said he is the only candidate who would lose to Obama. And the vitriol that flowed against his inveighing against a war on Iran was fierce.

    I think it’s very possible that Ron Paul will win Iowa. In fact, I hope he does. If nothing else, watching every commentator — liberal or conservative — shit their pants would be fun. If nothing else, watching them trying to declare a second-place Gingrich or a third-place Romney the “real winner” would be fun.

    I’ve liked Paul since he became a national figure in 2008. One thing he has that few have is consistency. Even liberals respect his integrity on the issues. Granted, sometimes he is consistently looney. But his opposition to war, big government and the War on Drugs; his support for basic civil liberties and strict interpretation of the Constitution is sometimes a joy to hear. It is telling that the GOP field has moved heavily in his direction. At last Saturday’s debate, several candidates sited him as having taught them about various issues.

    Now should he be the nominee? Andrew Sullivan, of all people, makes the best argument here. Sample quote:

    I regard this primary campaign as the beginning of a process to save conservatism from itself. In this difficult endeavor, Paul has kept his cool, his good will, his charm, his honesty and his passion. His scorn is for ideas, not people, but he knows how to play legitimate political hardball. Look at his ads – the best of the season so far. His worldview is too extreme for my tastes, but it is more honestly achieved than most of his competitors, and joined to a temperament that has worn well as time has gone by.

    I feel the same way about him on the right in 2012 as I did about Obama in 2008. Both were regarded as having zero chance of being elected. And around now, people decided: Why not? And a movement was born. He is the “Change You Can Believe In” on the right. If you are an Independent and can vote in a GOP primary, vote Paul. If you are a Republican concerned about the degeneracy of the GOP, vote Paul. If you are a citizen who wants more decency and honesty in our politics, vote Paul. If you want someone in the White House who has spent decades in Washington and never been corrupted, vote Paul.

    That’s about as good a case as anyone has made. But .. you know … I kind of agree with the critics. While his supporters are passionate, his broad appeal is almost non-existent. Nominating Paul could mean you’ve basically conceded the election (in fact, I would argue that the withdrawal of reasonable options like Daniels, Christie, Pawlenty and Huckabee indicates the GOP already has conceded the election).

    Now maybe that’s OK if what we’re looking for is a exorcism. The demons afflicting the GOP — big government conservatism, culture war orthodoxy, overly aggressive foreign policy, selective Constitutional adherence, and a pathological hatred of all things Democrat — need to go before they get power back. Tonight’s debate featured calls from the GOP candidates for war in Iran, gutting of the judiciary, deep tax cuts while the deficit explodes, a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage and other nuttery. And of course, they tossed out every calumny they could think of for the President, deserved or not. In 2008, Paul was on the fringe. Now, compared to these jokers, he looks reasonable.

    However … Paul has baggage: his nutty ideas about the gold standard, his support of the Constitution Party in 2008, and especially his association with Lew Rockwell and some racially-charged things Rockwell said in Paul’s newsletter. Here’s what Lee said back in 2008:

    I’m beginning to view Ron Paul in much the same way I viewed Jack Kervorkian, a man whose ideas I fundamentally agree with but who I think is the wrong standard-bearer for them.

    I still think that’s the case. If Paul is the nominee, all of these issues will come out. And his response last time was disappointing, to say the least.

    Moreover, election 2012 is not just about fixing the GOP. While it’s likely that Obama will be re-elected — Americans hate to throw out incumbents — it’s by no means certain. And we have to treat the GOP field as though it contains the next President and act accordingly.

    That’s why my favorite at this point is John Huntsman. He many of Paul’s strengths but fewer of his weaknesses. He doesn’t needlessly bash Democrats but opposes their ideas. He accepts that global warming may be real but opposes radical plans for fixing it. He’s conservative in his personal life but more tolerant in his politics. He has foreign policy experience and a tax plan that would eliminate all deductions. True, his campaign has been spectacularly poor — he’s currently polling slightly lower among Republicans than Nancy Pelosi would. But he’s the better option, in my opinion.

    If Paul wins Iowa or finishes close, this thing is going to go a long time. I still think Romney will win the end. He’s weathered bubbles from Perry, Bachmann and Cain so far. I can’t believe the Gingrich bubble will last or that the Paul bubble is ultimately sustainable. But if it drags out long enough, we may be looking at a brokered convention.

    And in that case, anything can happen.

    Ron Paul supporter determined to outshine anything Democrats might do this election

    I… I honestly don’t know what to say.

    I am seriously at a loss for words. I can barely get the summary out, because even that sounds so ridiculous that I just want to devolve into murmuring “Jesus Christ Jesus Christ Jesus Christ JesuWHATTHEFUCKISWRONGWITHYOU?!”

    A Ron Paul supporter has taken out a full-page ad in the Austin Chronicle asking “strippers, escorts, and ‘young hotties'” to say they’ve had sex with Rick Perry. It also tries to imply that he’s gay as well. … Yeah.

    I… … yeah.

    I… trying to say something, all I can really do is quote the article:

    It’s not even a personal attack. It’s an ad hoping it can make a personal attack later. Is this really where we are?

    Well. I’d disagree. It’s clearly a personal attack, in the same way a lawyer asks a question he knows he’s not allowed to ask, because even if opposing counsel objects and it’s sustained, he still got to put it in the jury’s minds. It’s… just so ridiculously blatant, petty, and… I…

    … Yeah.

    Uncle Paul

    Jon Stewart has a point:

    Ron Paul finished second in the Iowa straw pole, but you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage. This is hardly an isolated incident. As Tim Carney notes:

    If Paul had garnered 153 more votes on Saturday, winning the straw poll, you can be sure that every wrap-up story would have focused on the event’s irrelevance.

    Why do the mainstream media and the Republican establishment persist in ignoring and dismissing Paul?

    Part of it, I think, is that Paul is 2008’s news. While he was refreshing then, he’s just crankier now. Paul has always been appealing to certain political junkies, but his mainstream appeal is limited. Now that many of the GOP candidates have picked up some of his more populist points, he’s not as appealing to some (although clearly still appealing to many Iowans).

    However, I think there’s more to it than that. I think the reason Paul is being ignored is because he is consistently embarrassing both the political and the media establishment and it’s driving them bonkers. Paul advocates views that many in the country support but none of the establishment wants to touch — legalization of marijuana, ending the wars and federalism, in particular (all the other candidates makes noise on states rights but end those noises when the states want to do something they don’t like, such as gay marriage). These views are all perfectly within the mainstream. Two-thirds of the country supports allowing gays to marry or form civil unions, the majority of even Republicans want the wars ended and we’re nearing a majority on marijuana. But the power base of both parties supports the war on drugs, the war on terror and wants gay marriage to go away. And since they want it, the media sees these as the “sensible” view. Paul’s popularity is constant frustrating reminder of just how out of touch they are and how the “sensible, mainstream” is neither sensible nor mainstream.

    Paul is also afflicted by what I call the Curse of the Libertarian: you are always ignored but you are always right. And when you’re proven right, you get blamed anyway. Carney again:

    In 2002, as President George W. Bush was pushing more subsidies for mortgages and home-buying under the motto of an “ownership society,” Ron Paul took to the House floor to issue a warning. Through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Reserve, “the government increases the likelihood of a painful crash in the housing market.”

    Neither the mainstream media nor the GOP leadership wanted to hear this at the time. Housing was the engine of our growth, and Ron Paul was just being a crank again. So we pumped and pumped, until the inevitable crash.

    Paul similarly foresaw our current debt crisis, warning that cutting taxes and increasing spending was the recipe for disaster. “Endless borrowing to finance endless demands cannot be sustained,” Paul said eight years before the S&P downgraded U.S. debt.

    Back then Paul was also warning of the perils of two open-ended wars and lengthy occupations halfway around the world. Paul was nearly alone among Republicans in opposing George W. Bush’s Wilsonian vision of spreading American-style democracy at gunpoint. Today, our continued Afghanistan occupation is generally seen as pointless, and even many conservatives consider Iraq a mistake.

    I liked Paul in 2008 although my support waned due to his association with Lew Rockwell’s racial bullshit. But I haven’t blogged about him this year because there’s not much to say. He’s still who he was four years ago: passionate, annoyingly correct, somewhat flaky and probably unelectable. But I still like him and am glad he is out there even if I’m hoping Gary Johnson will take on his role in the future.

    But here’s the thing. He’s no longer the loopiest person in the GOP field. You can’t possibly say that when the field now includes one hack with a Google problem, one serial liar who support reprogramming gays and another candidate who, in his first week of campaigning, accused the Bush-appointed Chairman of the Fed of treason and joked about lynching him.

    Whatever we think of Paul, he’s a contender. It’s time to start treating him like one.

    Update: Glenn Greenwald nails it (you should read the whole thing):

    There are many reasons why the media is eager to disappear Ron Paul despite his being a viable candidate by every objective metric. Unlike the charismatic Perry and telegenic Bachmann, Paul bores the media with his earnest focus on substantive discussions. There’s also the notion that he’s too heterodox for the purist GOP primary base, though that was what was repeatedly said about McCain when his candidacy was declared dead.

    But what makes the media most eager to disappear Paul is that he destroys the easy, conventional narrative — for slothful media figures and for Democratic loyalists alike. Aside from the truly disappeared former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (more on him in a moment), Ron Paul is far and away the most anti-war, anti-Surveillance-State, anti-crony-capitalism, and anti-drug-war presidential candidate in either party. How can the conventional narrative of extremist/nationalistic/corporatist/racist/warmongering GOP v. the progressive/peaceful/anti-corporate/poor-and-minority-defending Democratic Party be reconciled with the fact that a candidate with those positions just virtually tied for first place among GOP base voters in Iowa? Not easily, and Paul is thus disappeared from existence. That the similarly anti-war, pro-civil-liberties, anti-drug-war Gary Johnson is not even allowed in media debates — despite being a twice-elected popular governor — highlights the same dynamic.

    Exactly. Ron Paul challenges our media and politicians’ most sacred lie — that our problems can only be solved by absolutely loyalty to the platform of one of our two idiot parties.

    Fixing the Fed on Pot

    This will go nowhere. But I’m glad it’s at least being proposed:

    A group of US representatives plan to introduce legislation that will legalize marijuana and allow states to legislate its use, pro-marijuana groups said Wednesday.

    The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, and allow people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.

    The bill, which is expected to be introduced on Thursday by Republican Representative Ron Paul and Democratic Representative Barney Frank, would be the first ever legislation designed to end the federal ban on marijuana.

    My reading of this is that it would pull the leash on the DEA, making them enforce laws in states that want to keep pot illegal but leaves states alone that legalize it. I would prefer to also see language instructing the IRS to allow legal pot businesses to deduct expenses; one of the many insidious ways the Feds are attacking legal marijuana is taxing the shit out of distributors.

    There is little chance this will pass. There are too many federal agents whose livelihoods depend on cracking down on pot and the issue is far too easy to demagogue. But I hope it will get to a floor vote. I want all the faux-federalists and pretend civil libertarians to show exactly what kind of political cowards they are. I want Barack Obama, in opposing it, to show what a hypocrite he is and what a huge lie he told in the 2008 campaign. I hope this gets introduced every year so that pressure and momentum will build.

    This is the right thing to do. And it tells you how broken our Congress is that it takes fucking Barney Frank and Ron Paul to even suggest it.

    Debate Thoughts

    I sort of watched tonight’s debate, joining in about half an hour in and catching up on my RSS feed while listening. Here are a few thoughts. First, the candidates:

  • Herman Cain seems to have peaked. He wasn’t nearly as persuasive as he was in the last debate and he had difficulty on the Muslim loyalty question. He really needed to stand out tonight and he didn’t.
  • Michelle Bachmann is a serious candidate — far more serious than Sarah Palin. She’s better on the issues, smarter and more confident in her knowledge. I don’t like her positions at all. But I think she could end up as a vice-presidential candidate. I was surprised by how well she carried herself.
  • Much as I like Ron Paul, he seems tired and not nearly as refreshing as he was in 2008. There are times when he’ll say something that makes me cheer and I hope he sticks around for a while. Think of him as the libertarian conscience of the GOP.
  • When it comes to Rick Santorum, I’m not objective. The guy just annoys the fuck out of me.
  • Tim Pawlenty seems like a nice guy and his candidacy reminds me a bit of Huckabee’s. But he seems to keep getting lost in the crowd. Every time he spoke, I was like, “Oh, yeah. T-Paw is there. Huh.”
  • Newt occasionally said something interesting to wistfully remind of his early days, when he seemed likely to transform our government. As as Presidential candidate, he’s toast.
  • Mitt Romney is clearly the front-runner even though his rivals don’t seem to realize it. He was poised and presidential. He made me cringe when he got into social issues. But I still think he will win the nomination if his organizational skills are anything. He and Pawlenty were the most sane and are therefore the most likely to win the nomination. Despite the rantings of the Left, the GOP does not nominate demagogues for President. McCain, Bush, Dole, Bush, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, Goldwater, Eisenhower … all of these guys were in the conservative mainstream.
  • The one guy who I most missed was Gary Johnson. Johnson really impressed me in the first debate and I think his voice would have been wonderful in this one. He’s a saner version of Ron Paul.

    As for the issues … well, there wasn’t a lot of time to get into substance and the moderator seemed uninterested. In that situation, the debate degenerated into talking points. The culture war issues distressed me, especially the support for the Federal Marriage Amendment — the GOP’s current attempt to replace the so-called Southern Strategy as their cultural albatross. They seemed to be all over the place on the economy. The only thing I heard clearly was that whatever Obama was doing was wrong. That’s not a policy. The only one who seemed to really have a grasp of the issues was Romney, but that probably has more to do with his polish as a candidate.

    Hopefully future debates will allow longer answers and get into substance. A better format with this big a field might be to have two four-way debates among the eight candidates. Toss an issue out and let them go at it for half an hour. Then we’ll see who knows his ass from his elbow.

    Ron Paul thinks the Pakistani government is above board

    I was like, “No way. He didn’t. There’s no way that numbskull said we should’ve ‘worked with the Pakastani government’ to get a man they were protecting for years.” But yeah…he said it. And this is why Ron Paul is not fit to be dogcatcher much less President.

    Ron Paul says he would not have authorized the mission that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, and that President Barack Obama should have worked with the Pakistani government instead of authorizing a raid.

    “I think things could have been done somewhat differently,” Paul said this week. “I would suggest the way they got Khalid [Sheikh] Mohammed. We went and cooperated with Pakistan. They arrested him, actually, and turned him over to us, and he’s been in prison. Why can’t we work with the government?”

    It’s dumb things like this which prevent the “big L” Libertarians from ever being taken seriously (I know, we’re all supposed to pretend Ron Paul is a Republican. It’s BS.). This is naive. It’s stupid. It’s reckless, ignorant, and not a little myopic. It’s Ron Paul all over. The man isn’t fit to be block captain of my neighborhood watch with naivete like that. I’m sorry, I know that Republicans are almost nothing but a disappointment and we desperately need legitimate third & fourth parties but not this man, and not in these times.

    Paul also said:

    What if he’d been in a hotel in London? We wanted to keep it secret, so would we have sent the airplane, you know the helicopters into London, because they were afraid the information would get out?”

    Ed at Hot Air added:

    For one thing, had we found him holed up in London, we would have been able to trust the British intelligence service to cooperate.

    Duh. Paul’s showing his ass on this one for sure.

    Hat tip: Jammie Wearing Fool via Hot Air via Ace.

    The Replacement Killers

    None of the supposed GOP “front runners” — if there is such a thing at E-18 months — participated in last night’s GOP debate. This is probably why it was actually interesting. Feel free post your thoughts. Not much is settled at this point — we don’t even know what the issues will be in 2012. But my brief impressions of the guys who are vying for fourth place:

    • Gary Johnson does not have a chance. It’s a pity because he’s smart, libertarian and could win moderates. But he’s a little too … invisible to win the GOP nomination, especially when he’s on the stage with firebrands like Paul, Cain and Santorum. I did like him quite a bit, though and have since his gubernatorial days. Plus, how cool would it be to have a President who has climbed Everest?
    • Ron Paul reminded me of why I like him so much. Four years older and he’s still energetic and passionate. His defense of drug legalization was one of the highlights of the night. I’m not sure he’d be a good candidate given his past associations with Lew Rockwell and his somewhat kooky fiscal ideas. But having a Goldwater-esque pyrrhic victory might be just what Dr. No ordered. I really hope he stays in the field for a long time to force the other candidates to be honest. His influence has only grown.
    • Tim Pawlenty made zero impression on me. He’s trying to straddle a lot of issues, Romney-style, including creationism and cap-and-trade. I just don’t see him gaining much traction with the rank-and-file GOP. He wouldn’t be bad President, I think. But his personal appeal isn’t strong.
    • Rick Santorum reminded me that he is still a steaming bag of santorum. His Culture War positions were old ten years ago and his style is grating and sanctimonious. I do think, however, that he has a shot at the vice-presidency if a more moderate Republican (Romney, T-Paw) takes the lead. Social conservatives tend to like him and I probably dislike and slag him a lot more than he deserves.
    • Herman Cain had the best night, despite the panel’s attempts to avoid talking to him. This is really the first time he’s been on a national stage and he was clear, cogent and passionate. I disagree with Cain on a number of issues and am unconvinced that he would make a good President. But, like Paul, I hope he sticks with his candidacy for a while. He will liven up future debates. And between the two of them, they’ll make Trump look like an idiot.

    Nothing is decided at this time. Pawlenty needed a good showing to make himself a legitimate candidate and I just didn’t see it. But I think Cain and Paul showed that they belong in the debates. Paul we knew about. But his was Herman Cain’s coming out party.

    Predicting an election 18 months out is a fool’s game. But looking over the current field — last night’s five plus Gingrich, Romney, Huckabee, Huntsman, Bolton, Palin, Bachmann (I’m assuming Trump will drop out at financial disclosure time), I’ll take a stab at prediction and preference. Right now, my preference is for Gary Johnson. My prediction is still that it will be Romney.

    Now if only they could have gotten “The Rent is Too Damn High” candidate out there. (Yes, he’s running for the GOP nomination. Seriously.) Wouldn’t it be awesome to see him go up against Trump?