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Ouch! Can Rick Perry recover?

Ouch! Can Rick Perry recover?

I have a new theory about the Republican cast of presidential characters, I mean candidates.  I’ve suspected for a while that the reason the GOP has let Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann on stage is that they make Mitt Romney look so good.  In the past, Romney just wasn’t able to light a spark with the general public.  Now as each of his competitor’s crashes and burns, Romney’s liabilities look like major assets.  Boring?  I would say stable.  Too smooth?  He’s never forgotten the names of the federal agencies he’s planning to trim.  A flip flopper?  I would say he is smart enough to evolve on positions that matter and that he isn’t someone so inflexible that he won’t admit if he’s changed his mind.   I don’t mind people evolving on issues.  At least it shows some measure of thought.  I still like Jon Huntsman (I think he’s funny. And every campaign should be punctuated by moments of wit like when he said Romney was “scared mittless.”) but there is no denying that Romney is looking absolutely presidential.  He is being totally forthright about the reality that Medicare is going to have to be reformed, he has been steadfast about the need to stop the ballooning federal debt, the fact that he wanted to insure the uninsured in Massachussets is a plus to socially liberal Republicans, and he has experience creating jobs, our country’s top priority right now.    I think a successful businessman like him might have more luck prodding businesses to use the cash they’re sitting on to create jobs than our current President who has lost his credibility on matters financial.

The GOP debate: 6 takeaways

The candidates wave before the Michigan debate. | Reuters

Answers by Cain and Romney are footnotes after Perry’s epic onstage meltdown. | Reuters Close
By MAGGIE HABERMAN | 11/10/11 1:26 AM EST Updated: 11/10/11 6:14 AM EST

In a season of memorable debates, the non-mudfest in Michigan made instant history.

Questions to Herman Cain about sexual harassment allegations and to Mitt Romney about letting banks foreclose on people’s homes were largely footnotes after Rick Perry experienced an epic onstage meltdown.

Below, six takeaways from the two-hour CNBC-sponsored event.

The “oops” heard ‘round the world

It’s hard to overstate how badly damaged Rick Perry is after the debate, one in which he overall performed more or less well — save for about 50 seconds.

That was how long it took the Texas governor to concede he couldn’t recall the third federal agency he’d eliminate as president.

In what at first seemed like light-hearted self-parody, Perry grasped desperately for agency names: “Commerce, Education and the uh…..the third agency of government I would do away with… Education, the, uh, Commerce, and…I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

Moderator John Harwood interjected at one point with, “Seriously?”

Later, on a different question, Perry said he had been searching for the Department of Energy — an agency he has no trouble remembering when he gives his stump speeches.

But the damage was done.

Twitter lit up with mocking commentary, and Perry supporters emailed that they suspect his candidacy — already reeling from self-inflicted wounds — is now being removed from the machines keeping it alive. The damage was so clear that Perry himself went to the post-debate “spin room” to own the mistake with reporters and try to make light of it (he was glad he wore his boots because “I stepped in it.”)

Indeed. His campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan told reporters and interviewers that Perry was right on “substance” if not “style,” and he took a clear, if veiled, shot at Mitt Romney as a “robot.”

It’s conceivable that reports of his immediate demise may be overly pessimistic, in such a volatile year. And plenty of people on Twitter, amid the derision, expressed sympathy for a stumble that many people go through routinely, albeit not on such a big stage.

But Perry’s already been struggling to fundraise in recent weeks after his poor debate performances and sinking poll number. With the moment playing on a cable news network blooper reel, this won’t help.

Perry’s problem for weeks has been a sense that he can’t handle himself in a debate, can’t think on his feet, can’t illustrate depth, and can’t take the rigors of a campaign. Wednesday night’s performance will essentially cement that view for GOP primary voters, just as he was hoping to woo them back with a positive, “I’m-one-of-you” message in Iowa.

The brain bubble would have been problematic regardless, but it was particularly so because Perry has spent the past two week answering questions about whether he was on something when he gave an over-animated speech in New Hampshire.

His best hope, sadly, is that the cable TV nets focus so heavily on Penn State coach Joe Paterno’s child-sex abuse scandal that the visual of his brain freeze moment doesn’t get as much air time.

That’s not much to hang his campaign’s future on.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68047.html#ixzz1dJ191Hks

Is Medicare the elephant in the middle of the room?

Is Medicare the elephant in the middle of the room?

There’s a word that has become the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room for Democrats.  Medicare.  The only time it is mentioned is when President Obama uses it to scare the elderly into thinking the Republicans are going to leave them high and dry by eliminating benefits without a safety net.  With reports that the current Medicare fund will only last another 13 years, the current Medicare system needs to be reformed.  The question is not “if” but “how” and “when.”   It will be interesting to see how big a role Medicare plays in tonight’s Republican Presidential debates.  I like this article from the Washington Times for a preview of how the candidates may respond when asked about Medicare reform.  

Despite a national debt just shy of $15 trillion, President Obama refuses to put forth a substantive proposal tackling the single largest source of red ink: Medicare. Democrats prefer to use this program as a political club to scare the elderly and keep hold on power. Luckily, the potential future occupants of the White House in the GOP have shown political courage. They’ve rallied behind a common set of principles that would shore up the health care program for seniors.

Most Americans understand the problem. According to a Rasmussen poll released on Tuesday, only 33 percent are confident that they will ever see the benefits they’ve been promised. The worry is well founded, as the program’s own trustees have said that it will be totally bankrupt in 13 years. To address the imminent crisis, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced Friday that he would introduce private-sector competition. His idea is similar to, but less audacious than, the House Republican plan drafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

Mr. Ryan would slowly move those under 55 years old into a premium-support system so that they could pick their own insurance plans. Mr. Romney would offer the same choices to future seniors, but he would also add an option of buying into the existing, government-run system. Seniors would receive a set amount (determined by means) to spend on health insurance premiums. Mr. Romney is looking to blunt the predictable Democratic Mediscare attack. He realizes that market forces would likely make the bureaucratic government option more costly, driving most to private plans to save money. Mr. Romney would also gradually raise the eligibility age to shore up the program.

Newt Gingrich had already put forth virtually the same plan of optional premium support. The former House speaker is so confident that Americans would opt for Ryan plan that he said in a debate on Saturday with Herman Cain he would be “happy to try it out next year.” The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO added that Mr. Ryan’s plan mirrors the private-sector transition from defined benefit to defined contribution plans and that “ownership of those dollars will cause people to spend it more responsibly.”

Rick Perry is less specific, offering support for some type of private option though premium-support payments or a credit. The Texas governor also backs increasing the eligibility age and means testing. The moderate in the field, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, endorsed the Ryan plan in the spring. While Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann voted for the House budget, she seemed to back off support of the Medicare reform proposals in later statements. Texas Rep. Ron Paul voted against the Ryan budget, saying it did not go far enough.

House Republicans laid the foundation by boldly proclaiming the need to fix Medicare. This paved the way for the Republican presidential candidates to publicly support the concept. This is a remarkable achievement. The winner of the November 2012 election needs to be the leader who understands this crisis must be addressed now.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.