This week was an important week for American democracy, as the GOP met in South Carolina for a grand debate, in which
all most some a handful of longshots and holographic screensaver of Tim Pawlenty, competed to win the GOP nomination make an impression with voters win the approval of Frank Luntz's focus group.
It was a wondrous occasion. The four Fox News moderators operated at a breakneck pace that ran in inverse proportion to the debate's importance, and there was a constantly dinging bell that kept us all wondering if we had finally come to "Final Jeopardy" at the appointed time when Watson the Computer was to be wheeled out on stage to take on all comers in the category of "Potent Potables."
The clear winner turned out to be Godfathers' Pizza magnate Herman Cain! He bowled over the Luntz focus group, and honestly, it was easy to see why. Cain's got one of the best speaking voices in politics -- a room-filling baritone that seems to escape from Cain's throat as if it were as easy as breathing. And his feel for clever ripostes compared well against the typical candidate blather.
Sure: most of his "plans" for America were to sit down and come up with "plans" -- something many critics found absurd, but I think it's definitely possible to overstate the extent to which politicians present "plans" at debates. And as far as Cain not having a fully-realized strategy for Afghanistan, I'm a little lenient in this regard, because it's not like the Joint Chiefs and the CIA are giving security briefings to dudes who own pizza delivery companies. (Or are they?)
The rest of the field competed for second place, and mostly lost to Rick Santorum. Ron Paul's full-throated supporters hooted and clapped for their man, but it didn't leave much of an impression on the pundits in the post-debate spin room. But so what? While everyone was talking, Paul's supporters were raising insane amounts of campaign cash for their hero. Gary Johnson mostly came off like a libertarian dude who likes to toke up and philosophize.
And the moderators were really adversarial to Tim Pawlenty. At one point they actually played a video clip to embarrass him, and it led to the weird spectacle of Pawlenty giving a cringing apology for what seemed like forever.
That's basically it! Begun these drone wars have! (Also, President Obama whacked some guy over the weekend? Can't remember the details, but everyone was telling me how important it was.) For all the rest of the vital campaign activity of the last seven days, please enter the Speculatron for the week of May 6, 2011.