Sunday, November 13, 2011

Granite State Patriots "Constitutional Conversation"

Let me say first that I enjoy new formats at political events. After announcing plans to hold a typical presidential debate and repeatedly switching venues in the past weeks, the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC (wordy, huh?) finally held their "Constitutional Conversation" at a conference center in Hampton this past Thursday.

In attendance were Buddy Roemer, Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. Combined these men garner under 10% of New Hampshire GOP support in recent polls; remove Gingrich from the equation and that number couldn't be more than 3%. Two at a time, the candidates nestled into large green leather armchairs and asked each other questions.


Sure the lighting was awful (no surprise for an event designed to be broadcast on the radio) and the energized personalities of the New Hampshire didn't turn up (it would have been interesting to see the likes of Huntsman or Ron Paul try their hand at the crowd), but my takeaway from the event was how utterly unenergized New Hampshire Republicans are despite professing to be so angry at the President and determined to unseat him.

Asked by the moderator what was the single biggest failing of the Obama Administration, Newt Gingrich paused before dryly pronouncing: "Where do I begin? We could be here all night." The crowd worked itself up into a standing ovation, and it struck me: the 2012 Republicans think that the mere mention of Obama will send voters the country over into an ecstatic rush to the polls.


But a long general election will require a sustained energy as the Republican nominee goes head to head against Obama, articulating exactly why each of the President's policies really is the rebel-rousing assault on the average American the current crop of candidates seem to believe. I don't doubt that a candidate like Gingrich could perform well in this capacity, but a party that assumes rhetorical questions and the supposedly self-evident destructive nature of Obama's legislative accomplishments needs to come to terms with the fact that independent voters view such a style of campaigning to be amateurish and oppositional.

All the while, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer have been with sparse crowds while they energetically articulate exciting new visions of how the Republican Party ought to position itself in the decades ahead. Having spent a considerable amount of time with Democratic candidates the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd in 2007, I know what it's like for talented politicians to languish in relative obscurity, but there's no equivalent of a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton frontrunner espousing a complete and sustainable platform for the 2012 Republicans.


And so Newt Gingrich rises in the polls and his quips at debates become more and more a part of the Republican articulation of the 2012 election. At last night's CBS "Commander in Chief" Debate, Gingrich deflected a question concerning what he would do to fix health care once Obamacare had been repealed. "In thirty seconds?' he retorted, begging the audience to follow him in evaluating the supposed absurdity of such a question, maligning the media all the while for injecting a degree of practicality into the debate.

Mr. Gingrich, find an answer. You'll need to make it good and say it often if you think you've got the chops to get into the game. The longer Republicans dither around with candidates who assume they can hit a grand slam in the general election with so little effort, the more the intellectual upper hand becomes Obama's.

[View my complete gallery of photos from this event HERE]

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