Des Moines Register Republican debate

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You can watch all of yesterday's Des Moines Register Republican debate in chopped-up YouTube segments at the paper's website.

The paper's political columnist, David Yepsen, thought Fred Thompson had the best debate:

But it was Thompson, the former Tennessee senator, who was specific, good-humored and exuded an executive persona during the low-key, 90-minute session that was sponsored by The Des Moines Register and broadcast by Iowa Public Television.

He had several high points. One of them came when he flatly refused to play the "raise your hand" game in answering a question about global warming. Another came when he said the biggest problem facing education was the National Education Association. (Bashing teacher unions is always popular with Republican audiences.)

Thompson also gets credit for being a stand-up guy willing to take on entitlement programs that threaten to bankrupt the country if left unchanged. He made it clear that wealthy, older Americans could no longer expect full Medicare benefits if he's elected. Thompson also teased Romney about his wealth and how the former Massachusetts governor is "getting to be a pretty good actor."

Yepsen also criticized his own paper's format:

The biggest problem with the debate was that it wasn't really a debate. Candidates got almost no opportunity to grill one another. Often they ran out of time and were cut off just as they started to probe an opponent.

The event would have been more nourishing had the format allowed for more back-and-forth.

Bizarrely, the DMR's editorial board complained that the candidates didn't spend enough time on the big picture. Don't they bear any responsibility for that, since their format didn't allow time for the big picture?

Many of the candidates' answers were only somewhat satisfying.

Indeed, the hour and a half spent with these nine men who aspire to lead the nation left us wanting to know more about their vision for America.

The real complaint becomes apparent as you read through the editorial: The candidates don't agree enough with the DMR's vision of America.

UPDATE: Jay Cost says the debate was a waste of time:

For how pompous the moderator seemed - shushing candidates left and right, and abjectly refusing to allow Fred Thompson to speak on global warming - you would think she was asking something better than these inane queries.

When the questions were not completely useless - the format impeded anything approaching an intelligent answer. The Des Moines Register took the same basic MSNBC format - where candidates are awarded for pithy one-offs and silly sound bite attacks - but did not ask the questions that facilitate those small-ball answers. This was the second big problem. The format. The Register wanted important answers compacted into the petty time allowances. That just was never going to happen. So, Mike Huckabee was given ten or so seconds to tell us something new about how his faith would inform not just his policies generally, but his health care and his education policies.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 13, 2007 8:03 AM.

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