The National Association of Manufacturers put together a terrific GOP presidential forum on Tuesday. Instead of canned 60 second answers, the candidates talked in detail about how to boost America’s economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
The event was held at Vermeer Corporation in Pella and Governor Branstad served as one of the moderators. Five candidates participated. As we usually do with presidential debates and forums here at TheIowaRepublican, I will give my thoughts on how each candidate fared, as well proclaim the overall winners and losers.
Here is the breakdown, in the order they participated in the forum:
Rick Perry: The Texas governor appeared much more relaxed than he has in the debates. The robotic demeanor and stumbling answers were gone. Perhaps being allowed to sit down in a living room-like setting while chatting with a fellow governor helped Perry. There were two negatives. Perry was asked about his flat tax proposal and instead of promoting it, he discussed his jobs plan. He also deflected a question about trade by focusing on boosting our natural resources.
Best line: “Washington corporate lobbyists are going to hate me as President of the United States.”
Overall, Perry performed very well. If he can project this demeanor in the numerous upcoming debates, Perry might regain some of his footing.
Rick Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator frequently talks about manufacturing during his campaign stops, so this event was well-suited for him. Santorum talked in depth about the issues and displayed a wide array of knowledge.
He was the only one to criticize another candidate, reminding the crowd that the top three candidates in the polls (Romney, Cain and Perry) supported TARP. He also said Mitt Romney’s plan of offering the states waivers for ObamaCare is a bad idea.
Best line: While talking about his opposition to ethanol subsidies, something started beeping next to him. Santorum jokingly responded, “Did I say something wrong? I voted against all the tax credits for ethanol. I won’t repeat it again, I promise.” The crowd appreciated the unscripted moment and Santorum showed he’s human with a sense of humor.
Overall, it was a good performance. Santorum tends to be a little verbose at times. If he could talk in soundbites or with memorable phrases, it would benefit him.
Michele Bachmann: The Minnesota congresswoman sounded very well informed, throwing out statistics and figures and providing substantive answers. Bachmann was relaxed and projected confidence. She only mentioned her Iowa roots once. That was a welcome respite.
Best Line: “I don’t want to see manufacturing serve the government, I want government to serve the people.”
Overall, there were no signs of the gaffe prone Bachmann that has shone up at times during the campaign. She did well.
Ron Paul: It was an interesting dynamic between Congressman Paul and Governor Branstad. It was almost as if the Iowa governor wanted to help Paul. Branstad trumpeted one of Paul’s key policy proposals, saying, “I think you’ve got the boldest plan to reduce the federal deficit.” During Branstad’s questioning, it seemed more like he and Paul were chatting over coffee at a diner instead of a nationally televised forum. The focus on taxes, regulation and the economy are perfectly suited for Ron Paul. Although some Republicans disagree with his foreign policy, few dispute his stances on fiscal issues.
Best Line: When asked what he would like to hear Fed chairman Ben Bernanke say during a speech tomorrow, Paul responded, “He is resigning.” That might have been the best line of the night.
Overall, it is hard to disagree with anything Ron Paul said. I often do, but not today. Good showing for Paul.
Newt Gingrich: He has shined in all the debates and most forums and this was no different. Prior to the broadcast, the live audience was asked to hold their applause. However, they clapped for Gingrich’s answers three times and laughed a few other times. The former House speaker’s command of the issues, combined with the ability to verbalize that knowledge, is unmatched anywhere in U.S. politics. One potential drawback came when Gingrich differed from the rest of the field in regards to wind energy tax credits. He proposed creating a minimum 10-year rolling tax credit. Most of the others said they want to get rid of all energy tax credits.
Best line: “I’m not normally pro-trial lawyer, but I’d like to hire the toughest, most aggressive trial lawyer in the country and make them U.S. trade representative.”
Overall, it was a terrific performance.
Overall Winner: Newt Gingrich received the best response from the audience, so I give him the slight edge. However, I thought the other four participants handled themselves well.
Overall Losers: Herman Cain and Mitt Romney, because they declined to participate in the event. As Governor Branstad said after the forum, “The ones that weren’t here were the ones that missed out. This was a great opportunity.”
Photo courtesy of NAM.org
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