Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 4, 2011

QUITE A LINEUP IN SOUTH CAROLINA.... Exactly eight years ago this week, the field of Democratic presidential candidates assembled for their first debate of the 2004 cycle. It was held the same weekend as the release of the second X-Men movie, prompting Jon Stewart to draw a parallel, describing the Democratic debate as a "saga of a small group of misfits -- 'mutants,' if you will -- shunned by human society."

If the Dems' 2004 field was characterized as misfits and mutants, I can't wait to hear how folks describe the participants in the first debate for Republican presidential candidates.

Republicans are holding their first presidential debate tomorrow in South Carolina. The state Republican Party just released the complete list of contenders:

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Congressman Ron Paul, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and pizza guy Herman Cain.

It's a list you could just keep reading to yourself all day.

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (R) reportedly wanted to participate, but has been excluded, apparently because every national poll has his support below 1%.

Romney declined without explanation; Gingrich won't set up an exploratory committee until next week and is therefore ineligible; Huntsman is in a similar boat; Bachmann hasn't made any formal moves; Daniels is still figuring out what he wants to do; Roy Moore falls into Roemer's category; and Palin and Huckabee are still on the Fox News payroll.

And that leaves Pawlenty, Santorum, Johnson, Paul, and Cain. I'd call this a clown debate but I don't want to insult clowns.

One of these five, former two-term Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, obviously stands out as the most credible of the group -- though that's not saying much -- and probably hopes to take advantage of the situation.

Indeed, Pawlenty probably sees this as an opportunity. He'll shine, the argument goes, against fringe, unknown, and unelectable candidates with no credible shot at the nomination.

That's certainly possible. But there's also the problem a 15 year old experiences when he's told he has to sit at the little kids' table at a family gathering -- being dragged down is embarrassing. Pawlenty may tower over the other four, but does he seriously believe his stature will get a boost standing alongside Herman Cain and Ron Paul?

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Comments

I can't wait for all the crazy soundbites that will surely be generated from this event!

Posted by: Trinity on May 4, 2011 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

And this is the best that the COCK BROTHERS could come up with ..........

Posted by: stormskies on May 4, 2011 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

a pathetic comment on the state of the Republican Party. That's all I have to say about the "debate" (which is simply an Obama-bashfest)

I do have something to say about the Bin Laden thing.....it is a pathetic comment on the state of the general condition when a United States president can't/won't be taken at his word that Bin Laden has been killed. Can you imagine, had George W. Bush managed to kill Bin Laden, that the Media would suggest that unless he show's the mutilated body, he might be lying about the whole thing? Of course, in Bush's case, he may well have been lying.

Posted by: T2 on May 4, 2011 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Clowns are too respectable to be compared to this collection of fools and buffoons.

If we want to stick to a circus analogy, my I suggest "Freak Show."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 4, 2011 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "I'd call this a clown debate but I don't want to insult clowns."

Not clowns.

Stooges.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 4, 2011 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

or CORPORATE AUTOMATONS ...

Posted by: stormskies on May 4, 2011 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

where's the donald?

Posted by: jharp on May 4, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

where's the donald?
Posted by: jharp on May 4, 2011 at 1:00 PM

He's still in the self-exploratory stage, gazing at his own navel, but has no exploratory committee. Apparently, that's not serious enough for the organisers of the SC debatable event.

Posted by: exlibra on May 4, 2011 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait to hear how folks describe the participants in the first debate for Republican presidential candidates.

If by "folks" you mean MSM, they'll probably say things like "serious," "sober," "statesmanlike," "bold," "new," and -- just for good measure -- "serious" again.

IOKIYAR.

Posted by: bleh on May 4, 2011 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I can see why Romney declined-- too many 'former' this and that in one room... But seriously, I'm betting on the pizza guy-- at least he has a job.

Posted by: MattF on May 4, 2011 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Given the media frenzy Trump created with his slimeball conspiracy theorizing, don't be too quick to dismiss this event. Yes, it caters to the drooling base but just like those crazy e-mails you sometimes get from out-of-state relatives, the message finds a way into our dumb-as-rocks discourse. The GOP D list can do that as well as Fox and Friends, so expect the worst and don't be surprised when Romney starts honing his own Dogpatch vaudeville routine.

Posted by: walt on May 4, 2011 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I've heard that Bachmann wasn't born in the US, so she's not eligible .

Posted by: G.Kerby on May 4, 2011 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

What's our gripe with Johnson?
After all, he's for letting potheads out of jail so there's room for, you know, dangerous people that should be kept away from civilized folk (and potheads.)

I might have appreciated seeing Ron Paul spar, as I favor Libertarianism in general, except he did a LOUSY job of defending Libertarianism against an Obama impersonator on the John Stossel show. In front of a friendly crowd, he floundered. I thought Paul would be a more formidable opponent. Now I think Obama would clean his clock in a debate (not that debates ever weigh much on the population's whims that we call Election Day.)

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on May 4, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

And that leaves Pawlenty, Santorum, Johnson, Paul, and Cain. I'd call this a clown debate but I don't want to insult clowns.

Agreed; clowns are (provided they have talent) actually funny and entertaining. This motley collection of hacks, low rent buffoons and snake oil salesmen are anything but that (and the ones that aren't appearing are little better, and in Trump's case, even worse.) They are, however, a very sad commentary on the decrepit state of our electoral system and the need to start requiring some kind of competency exam before being able to run for the presidency. Can anyone imagine one of these sad sacks trying to negotiate with foreign leaders, or with their finger on the nuclear button? Oy vey!

Posted by: John on May 4, 2011 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect most South Carolina repubs will be very disappointed there's no Palin, no Bachmann, no Huckabee, no Newt, nobody named Bush, no Romney (was his dad REALLY born in Mexico?), and especially no Trump (birtherism WAS pretty big down here). Unless Rush tells them to care, they probably won't care. They would probably rather see Minnesota's Jesse Ventura than Pawlenty.

Posted by: MuddyLee on May 4, 2011 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Bad night coming for T-Paw. It will be interesting to see if the two libertarians defend the torturers. And it should be noted that Paul has a fair amount of experience in this setting and can deliver the soundbites. Then you have Santorum dragging everything over to the theocratic right. T-Paw is likely to come apart at the seems trying to bridge the gap between Santorum and Paul...

Posted by: Mark on May 4, 2011 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

"What's our gripe with Johnson?" asks toowearyforoutrage.

I lived in New Mexico during his 8-year reign. The man's a loose cannon, unserious, and less interested in doing his job than GWB. The NM Legislature meets once a year - ONCE! - either for 30 days or 60 days, alternating. Every session, Johnson would be out of town, skiing or doing his triathlete thing. (The one exception was when he went out jogging at the beginning of the session, slipped on the ice and broke his back, and spent the session in a Santa Fe hospital. After his fall, he had insisted on first completing his run.)

After the session ended, Johnson would be back to run through the bills, vetoing most of them, apparently out of spite. Even bills that the Republicans - including his wife! and himself! - had promoted frequently ended up vetoed.

In his final year, he kept vetoing the state budget, for no apparent reason. Finally, the legislature called itself into session for the first time in NM history and passed the budget over his veto. Oh, and that year, he went kayaking alone, capsized, and had to be pulled from The Toilet Bowl (no kidding!) by a passing tour boat.

So Johnson is pro-drug: for everyone else. People too weak to resist are welcome to maim themselves, by his "libertarian" point of view. But he didn't even stick by that after his election. He basically did nothing to push his drug legalization idea, other than talk about it.

I've never voted for him, and can't imagine ever doing so.

Posted by: zandru on May 4, 2011 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm no Ron Paul fan, but I wouldn't be surprised if he puts Pawlenty back on his heels on a few issues. Santorum is an idiot and per Zandru, Johnson seems to be the same, but Cain may be a wild card (I have no basis for that, FYI).

That said, I wouldn't waste the energy to push the button on my TV remote to see it.

Posted by: bdop4 on May 4, 2011 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

T-Paw is likely to come apart at the seems trying to bridge the gap ...

Using Pawlenty and "bridge" in the same phrase conjures up some distant memory. What oh what could it be ???

(NYT: MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 6 2007 — In the past two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota twice vetoed legislation to raise the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation needs. Now, with at least five people dead in the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge ...)

Posted by: G.Kerby on May 4, 2011 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK
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