The 20th GOP Presidential debate tonight in Arizona was fairly standard in what each of the four candidates called for. The focus on fiscal conservatism and the desire to run the federal government like a business was a strong current in most of the contenders statements. However, tonight yielded some new things in terms of the conservative talking points.
Let’s begin with the nominal frontrunner Mitt Romney. Right now, he is in a bit of trouble as Rick Santorum has been surging for the last couple of weeks. Steadfast in his declaration on what he believes to be the wayward direction of the nation, Romney touts his business background. Repeatedly, he said that to run a business that you have to be a fiscal conservative. Or else, you go out of business. Running a company is not comparable to governing a nation. Period. Governments can spend to lift a nation out of economic malaise. But, that conflicts with the narrative of deficit hawks. Even the auto bailout was said to have been the wrong move to make.
Since this debate was hosted in Arizona, the issue of immigration was bound to be raised. Gingrich called for completing a fence, fully embracing border state politics with little concern for how it will play outside of the Republican core.
Gingrich took the anti-union rhetoric up a whole notch. He called for repealing civil service laws and moving to what he terms a “modern management system” As for what that means outside of Newt’s head, is anyone’s guess. With more than enough controversy around the issue of teachers unions and school reform being raised, Gingrich calls for destroying basic rights for workers in the public sector is a step beyond.
Santorum especially seems adamant about opening a front on the cultural wars. Whether its issues around women’s health, or out of wedlock births, he wishes to pick the fights that conservatives lost decades ago. Planned parenthood was attacked once again. Good luck winning a broad base of support with such a narrow outlook.
All in all, this last major debate before the contests in Arizona and Michigan on the 28th and Super Tuesday, (March 6th) were more of the same. With little else new to say, the only surprises ahead will be the gaffes and further missteps from the GOP field that are sure to come on the trail.
-Marc W. Polite