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New Hampshire GOP Debate Report

Not only did this presidential campaign start awfully early, but it seems to be chock full of debates and town halls and candidate forums way out of proportion to any previous election that I can recall. In past elections, it often seemed like the candidates had to be dragged to debates and did everything they could to control their exposure to actual questions and potential confrontations. Every word they uttered was scripted and every situation they got into was handled to make sure that not one controversial word slipped out.

In this election it seems like the wheels are off and things are getting wilder by the minute. The candidates are hammering each other with unprecedented enthusiasm and the media is conspiring to create a circus atmosphere and involve the public in new and creative ways. They're getting debate questions from YouTube and interviews with people on the street and they're giving more coverage to the also-rans than I've ever seen before.

A lot of this seems to be the democratizing effect of the internet. People have more access, candidates want to use the new medium to their advantage and bloggers and partisan websites are driving the media to put on more of a show and often follow their lead in order to compete for attention. Some of the candidates are using the internet very effectively as a vehicle for building grass roots support, and that's making it difficult for the front runners to just sit back and let their bigger advertising budgets speak for them. It also helps that there are some potentially controversial and unconventional candidates in top spots in the polls.

This carnival atmosphere has started to infect the major televised debates, which are getting more contentious and more confrontational and in many ways more substantive than is traditional. Certainly this week's Republican debate in New Hampshire was a lot more raucous and a lot more entertaining than I would have expected. There were some heated exchanges, some pointed questions were asked and we got to see some substantive answers on important issues. There was still some dodging and misdirection, mostly from the top-tier candidates, but even they seem to be realizing that the campaign is a lot more wide-open than they expected and that they can't get away with offering nothing more than a bright smile and some platitudes. The people are demanding more and the candidates are starting to oblige.

New Hampshire is a state which leaned Republican in most elections until fairly recently, with a strong libertarian element in the population. It's the target state of the Free State Project and thousands of libertarians have moved there in recent years to exercise political influence in a receptive environment. It's a very politically active state with a lot of free-thinking Republicans. As one of the early primaries a lot of attention gets focused on it, events there get coverage and it helps set the tone for the rest of the primary season.

The most recent Republican debate generated some real heat. One of the high points was when Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) made a very cogent statement in opposition to gay marriage and was then soundly and thoroughly booed by the mostly Republican crowd, which had been vocal throughout the debate, but mostly in a much more positive way. Apparently the views on this and some other issues among Republicans in New Hampshire are quite different from those of Republicans back in Kansas. I'll admit that Brownback sounds good, but his message really isn't very appealing.

A big hit with the crowd – not surprisingly since he brings his own crowd with him wherever he goes – was Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). The debate moderators actually gave him a lot of time and let him get his points out pretty completely. He said the usual things and added an interesting point about guns on planes. The video to the right is edited to make Paul look as good as possible, but watch for the exchange between Paul and Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) about 5 minutes into it. It plays like a real debate, with both candidates clearly defining their positions and pulling no punches. Huckabee continues to come off as refreshingly honest and self-possessed. Of the lower tier candidates these two are the ones to watch. They're taking the risks and staking out real positions on the issues while the leaders just sort of sit back and watch.

About Dave Nalle

  • NH

    This is for David Nalle…

    First of all just having this video on the website could be considered libelous since RP does not ascribe to the 911 inside job theory and has said so very clearly.

    Secondly, I WAS IN the focus group and McCain did NOT win by any means, Luntz made his own interpretation after people said they liked how he honored our soldiers. (Big deal, who could disagree with that?) The Luntz focus group was totally contrived and none of my comments were aired and I had plenty to say.

    Hear this: Out of 29 ‘mainstream Rs’ 3 of us were RP supporters and that there alone is 10%. Add to this the I’s, L’s and D’s that support him and now you can see why he got 33% on the cell phone poll.

    Mitt is so scared of an RP win in independent NH that he sent Lamar Smith (R-TX) to stump for him. Lamar whispered to me that Ron was his good friend and a good man.

  • NH

    Wow I read further here and I really don’t think you want me to expose some of Hillary’s fringers do you? Or Obama’s?

    This is the USA where everyone has a right to vote.
    Why is it you concentrate on who you think is fringy for RP but no one else?

    Makes sense that he who has the biggest following would have the most fringers, especially people like Hillary who will draw from the inner cities and vote for who will promise them the most welfare.

  • NH

    Wow this blogger just gets worse and worse with his nonsense!

    NO PERSON can call themselves a ‘libertarian’ if they ascribe to the CFR like Fred does.

    To me, associating with that group is worse than having any Weaver-type as a supporter. There is no weaver ‘group’ but this CFR is a huge destructive force against the republic and Fred is one of them..

    Fred even claimed not to know what the NAU was! Stupidity or lying?

    You be the judge.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Wow I read further here and I really don’t think you want me to expose some of Hillary’s fringers do you? Or Obama’s?

    Why would I care? There’s no chance I’d ever vote for Hillary and virtually none that I’d vote for Obama.

    This is the USA where everyone has a right to vote.
    Why is it you concentrate on who you think is fringy for RP but no one else?

    Because I’d like to be able to vote for him.

    Makes sense that he who has the biggest following would have the most fringers, especially people like Hillary who will draw from the inner cities and vote for who will promise them the most welfare.

    Selling your vote for welfare doesn’t make you a lunatic fringer, it makes you a victim.

    NO PERSON can call themselves a ‘libertarian’ if they ascribe to the CFR like Fred does.

    The CFR is a large organization with a diverse membership. Many of the members are perfectly reasonable folks, and not all of the group’s policies are dangerous. In fact, if you actually bother to investigate the CFR you’ll find that it’s mostly harmless and has been set up as a bogus bogeyman by paranoid conspiracy theorists.

    To me, associating with that group is worse than having any Weaver-type as a supporter. There is no weaver ‘group’ but this CFR is a huge destructive force against the republic and Fred is one of them..

    I think you may be one of the fringers I’m concerned about.

    Fred even claimed not to know what the NAU was! Stupidity or lying?

    You be the judge.

    How about good common sense? There is not and has never been a plan for a NAU as you would describe it.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Despite Dave’s very well reasoned and reasonable point-by-point answer to this comment of Irene’s:

    “PLAN B: 1)work FOR Ron Paul’s campaign 2) get rid of the Unconstitutional IRS 3) keep the guns to defend whatever kind of household you have against tyrannical government and small fry criminals 4) tell the federal government that they are YOUR servants, they don’t tell YOU who you can marry and who you can’t (I’d be among the FIRST to rip up my state-issued marriage license) 5) Pay ZERO dollars income tax.”

    …The fact is, NONE of the Presidential candidates (Republican, Libertarian or Democrat), can make ANY of those ideas (admirable as some are) happen without the cooperation of Congrees and the Senate.

    IF a Republican is elected president (a BIG if, IMO) he will NOT have much cooperation from the Democrat-dominated Congress and Senate, so the likelihood of most of those items actually being enacted as law is VERY low.

    And the final point is that of all the Republican candidates currently declared (this year you have to have that qualifier), Ron Paul is the least likely to get the nomination, let alone to win the election.

  • Irene Wagner

    Dave Nalle: And how do you feel when they start talking about the zionist conspiracy, the Bildebergers, putting illegals in concentration camps, Christian Identity and the US government’s collaboration with Israel to blow up the WTC?

    How do I feel? First of all, Dave, the subjects don’t come up that often. My biggest challenge so far has been holding my peace (or choosing my battles) when a fellow Ron Paul supporter described all prolifers as YUCKYYYYY! (She was young, I let it go.)

    About conspiracy theories, I’ve heard them discussed, but I usually make a comment to the effect: There’s enough trouble that we KNOW about that we need to be addressing, without borrowing troubles.

    One of my favorite answers, I might use it again soon, is “I heard an old man say, ‘I’ve lived many years, and seen many horrible things. Most of them never happened.’” I’m not really as combative with Ron Paul supporters as I am with ALMOST Ron Paul supporters. :) Not my yob, because…

    …for every “out there” Ron Paul acquaintance I’ve heard “holding forth”, there are four or five (usually guys, who are way bigger than me) explaining that no, Minidoka is still only a deserted field in Idaho with a small plaque dedicated to Japanese-Americans. No bunkers at the ready.

    On the other hand, I try not to be too disparaging of people who MAY BE at the cutting edge of revealing some formerly unimaginable new offense by some of the scoundrels who are running the country. Some whistle-blowers are actually right, Dave. Who could have imagined the truth about Gitmo, about the extent to which our country uses torture to gain information?

    I have to admit that a lot of people know a lot more than I do about a lot of subjects. I don’t always know which people, which subjects, and how much more. Do you ever have that problem, Dave Nalle?

    As for Koresh’s 12 year old brides, et al. I wouldn’t have sung at their weddings, but I don’t think they, or the toddlers who lived at the Waco compound, should have been firebombed. Do you??? Do you think people who’ve a full head of steam worked up over the matter (we all have our trigger issues, don’t we Dave?) should be deprived of the right to vote? What were YOU thinking when you saw the place go up in smoke, Dave? What if the building being firebombed was a place where atheists were known to be having a potluck dinner, and the “evangelicals” you’re so afraid of getting into power were at the back of the firebombing?

    “They came for the Jews, but I wasn’t a Jew…and then they came for me, and there was no one left to help me.”

    Clavos–right you are, and Ron Paul would be the last one to want to work independently of Congress. But whether Ron Paul wins or not, he’s getting his ideas OUT there. Maybe he won’t take the presidency–perish the thought–but he’ll definitely have an impact–IS having an impact, on politics at the local level.

    Maybe the Congress of Ron Paul’s dreams will be sitting in DC within an election or two, all in place and ready to work with a Ron Paul-ish president then.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    And the final point is that of all the Republican candidates currently declared (this year you have to have that qualifier), Ron Paul is the least likely to get the nomination, let alone to win the election.

    Which, of course, leads to the unpleasant question of whether every bit of effort put into supporting Ron Paul just helps assure that the most bland of the GOP candidates can go and lose to a Democrat in 2008. A vote for Paul might very well turn into a vote for Hillary. Sobering thought.

    Dave

  • NH

    So now Nalle is calling ME a ‘fringer’.

    “I think you may be one of the fringers I’m concerned about.”

    FYI I’m a lifelong GOPer and well into the mainstream and have even run for office myself…And I’m much older than you are. I had a distintguished 35 year career in a very mainstream job.

    “How about good common sense? There is not and has never been a plan for a NAU as you would describe it.”

    I suppose Lou Dobbs is a fringer? If so, Ron Paul is a fringer, so I guess you better not vote for him. After all, for him to want to keep an eye on our borders, from invasion to merger, might be too harmful a thing for you to cope with.

    I’m sorry you’re so delicate and fearful.

  • NH

    Also, you are trashing Birchers who have done lots of research apparently are correct because no one has sued them.

    They are an excellent source of information to expose how the elitists are working against us.

    You don’t have to agree with everything they say…so other than that, there is nothing wrong with ‘Birchers’.

  • Clavos

    “I suppose Lou Dobbs is a fringer?”

    Lou Dobbs is a demagogue, which is decidedly not mainstream, so yes, he’s a fringer.

  • http://www.libertyrepublican.com Dave Nalle

    On the other hand, I try not to be too disparaging of people who MAY BE at the cutting edge of revealing some formerly unimaginable new offense by some of the scoundrels who are running the country. Some whistle-blowers are actually right, Dave. Who could have imagined the truth about Gitmo, about the extent to which our country uses torture to gain information?

    There’s a HUGE difference between a Whistleblower who is by definition someone who HAS secret information and chooses to reveal it, and a conspiracy theorist who is someone who has nothing but guesses based on public information and claims to have figured out the secret truth.

    I have to admit that a lot of people know a lot more than I do about a lot of subjects. I don’t always know which people, which subjects, and how much more. Do you ever have that problem, Dave Nalle?

    Absolutely. And in those cases I do research, ask questions, or just avoid commenting at least until I know more.

    However, secrecy and the government are something I do know a bit about. I was raised in Washington DC with one parent who was a diplomat and another who was ‘in the intelligence community’. Plus I lived in the Soviet Union and that’s a crash course in government conspiracy.

    As for Koresh’s 12 year old brides, et al. I wouldn’t have sung at their weddings, but I don’t think they, or the toddlers who lived at the Waco compound, should have been firebombed. Do you???

    You miss my point. As far as I’m concerned Janet Reno should be tried for crimes against humanity. But the Branch Davidians were still a creepy cult who engaged in criminal activity, and from what I’ve been reading from Ron Paul followers they or someone like them might be sitting next to you.

    Do you think people who’ve a full head of steam worked up over the matter (we all have our trigger issues, don’t we Dave?) should be deprived of the right to vote?

    Of course they should have a right to vote, and a right to free speech. Just as I have a right to speak out to oppose them.

    Dave

  • http://www.RLC.org Westmiller

    They are perceived as fanatics … effective response to the Ron Paul Spammers.

    Fanatic, as in “insane”? I don’t think so. Some weird “fans” to be sure, but Ron Paul has clearly stated that he does not believe 911 was an “inside job”.

    As for “spammers”, since when did the word refer to tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters expressing their opinion? There’s no evidence whatever that any gimmicks were used to win on-line or cellphone polls. Of course his supporters communicate with each other … isn’t that what all of the candidates encourage?

    Bottom line, it is all to Ron Paul’s benefit that you believe what you believe. You won’t be ready or able to oppose his ideas when the time comes.

  • http://www.libertyrepublican.com Dave Nalle

    I first ran into the use of the term ‘ron paul spammers’ on another thread here on BC and subsequently found it in much use on YouTube. Some of the Ron Paul supporters are not all that articulate but are very enthusiastic, and their contribution to the cause is to mostly post the same few links to relevant websites to every YouTube thread where Paul or any of the other candidates is mentioned. They’re the ones who the term ‘spammers’ is being applied to, not to the kind of intelligent and participatory supporters we see on this thread or some of the other Paul-related discussions we’ve had here.

    As several people have pointed out, Paul has attracted a diverse following. Like any diverse group it has its share of strange people and perhaps not terribly bright people. You can’t judge the whole group by the worst behaved examples.

    That said, as I’ve mentioned before, I do think Paul has attracted more than his share of political extremists, and while he has supposedly claimed not to believe there was a 9/11 conspiracy he has endorsed an investigation, giving them hope and stringing them along, which I think is a mistake.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Wow, Dave, are you on tranquilizers tonight?

    That’s the most accommodating and conciliatory comment I’ve seen from you in a long time!

    Positively mellow, mate.

  • http://www.libertyrepublican.com Dave Nalle

    So now Nalle is calling ME a ‘fringer’.

    You appear to be a Dobbsian, you think the CFR is a vast internationalist conspiracy and you think the John Birchers are just like happy little bunnies. I don’t NEED to call you a fringer, it’s self-evident.

    I suppose Lou Dobbs is a fringer?

    Lou Dobbs is a dangerous propagandist and blatant liar. He spreads disinformation and fills the heads of a horde of followers with arrant nonsense.

    If so, Ron Paul is a fringer, so I guess you better not vote for him.

    You may be right. Paul has some very good ideas and also some bad ideas. But that’s true of every candidate. I like the fact that he wants to protect US sovereignty, but I don’t like the fact that he sees threats to it where they don’t really exist. I like the fact that he supports the constitution. I don’t like the fact that he seems not to understand certain parts of it.

    After all, for him to want to keep an eye on our borders, from invasion to merger, might be too harmful a thing for you to cope with.

    I’m all for keeping an eye on the border, so long as it’s to make sure that enough guest workers come in with full documentation and jobs waiting for them.

    Also, you are trashing Birchers who have done lots of research apparently are correct because no one has sued them.

    Actually, they have been sued for libel and lost.

    They are an excellent source of information to expose how the elitists are working against us.

    They are racists, nativists and think that the Pope is storing weapons in catholic churches to overthrow the US government. Hell, their founder even thought that Ike was a communist.

    there is nothing wrong with ‘Birchers’.

    I’d say that stands as a testimony to your ignorance. How you can be as old as you claim you are and not know the history of the John Birch society and their connection to the most dangerous and destructive forces in our society is beyond me.

    I actually agree with the JBS on opposition to communism, but I think it’s a lot more effective to oppose it where it actually exists rather than going after fanciful conspiracies.

    Dave

  • http://www.libertyrepublican.com Dave Nalle

    Wow, Dave, are you on tranquilizers tonight?

    That’s the most accommodating and conciliatory comment I’ve seen from you in a long time!

    I was pretty kind to Joel Hirschhorn earlier tonight on his 9/11 conspiracy report, though he apparently didn’t see it quite that way.

    Anyway, as I’ve said before, I’m not against Ron Paul in any sense. I think he’d make a great VP.

    Dave

  • 4 Ron Paul

    I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but I do believe in the constitution.

    Ron Paul hits home because of his honesty and incorruptible reputation.

    All the other candidates owe someone a favor. They’ve been bought off and are political prostitutes. Ron is the ONLY politician that’s owned by the PEOPLE – that’s why we’re so enthusiastic about him.

    Ron Paul 4 President!

  • 4 Ron Paul

    By the way, We’ve all heard this a thousand times:

    “The world doesn’t hate Americans, just the foreign policies”.

    Americans want to take back our country and reverse the hegemony. We want to restore our good will through good deeds. Bring our troops home!

  • Willem De Wit

    I think Paul’s online support may indeed be doing more harm than good, but only in that that support has served its purpose by now, and in that that support should be taken to the streets instead.

    Dedicated Paulites may have been able to get him some free publicity by having voted in the Fox News text poll en masse, but the sad reality is that Paul is still polling margin-of-error numbers in the “established” national polls. Sure, those polls are flawed (they generally only poll people who have recently voted in GOP elections, and call only landline phone numbers), but a large percentage of voters will use the results of those polls to influence their support for the different presidential candidates.

    “I agree with most of what Paul has to say, but he doesn’t have a chance.”

    Until Paul starts polling higher than 5% in the established polls, he indeed doesn’t stand much of a chance. Too many voters that share his ideas will give their (financial and emotional) support to other candidates, believing that they stand a better chance at beating the Democratic nominee. If he can just break that 5% barrier, the people that currently think he “doesn’t stand a chance” are going to start to consider him “electable”. Contributions to his campaign will increase, and as more and more people start telling the pollsters that they will vote for Paul, the snowball effect will finally have been set in motion.

    Posting supportive comments online won’t do the trick. To get Paul over that 5% hurdle, we need to take the message he represents to the streets.

    Willem

  • http://www.dminator.blogspot.com Dmitri

    Hi Dave.
    Good article, and great comments.

    I understand your position and think it is mostly correct.

    I also agree that some supporters are overreacting and should slow down just a little. It just may scare some people.

    The supporters are really excited, because this is something they haven’t seen before and it has become really personal to them. That’s why they are so passionate about it. Aren’t you passionate about something? You know that feeling right ?

    About not supporting the candidate because of his supporters. I don’t agree with that, does it matter who supports him ? You aren’t putting the supporters to the office :)

    Dmitri.

  • Baronius

    Dave, I thought your original article was a bit obsequious toward Ron Paul. Then again, I didn’t see the debate, so maybe he deserved it.

    What I didn’t expect was the response. Paul supporters never used to annoy me but they do now. A few of the comments sound like old Marxist rhetoric: you’re standing in the way of history, et cetera. That’s going to bug people. The Paulers have to remember that any campaign is a long uphill climb.

    Also, someone commented that the press isn’t covering the great Paul groundswell. DUH! First of all, every campaign looks like a groundswell from the inside. But even if Paul is taking the country by storm, of course the press isn’t going to cover it. They never report on the next big thing. The real question is, why aren’t the media in love with Paul? He’s an anti-war Republican. The NYT staff should be sitting on his lap feeding him peeled grapes.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    What I didn’t expect was the response. Paul supporters never used to annoy me but they do now. A few of the comments sound like old Marxist rhetoric: you’re standing in the way of history, et cetera. That’s going to bug people. The Paulers have to remember that any campaign is a long uphill climb.

    This is exactly the concern I was trying to raise and got so abused for. They’re getting more and more shrill and intrusive and bombastic and that’s not doing them any good at all.

    The real question is, why aren’t the media in love with Paul? He’s an anti-war Republican. The NYT staff should be sitting on his lap feeding him peeled grapes.

    I think it’s because Paul himself isn’t a good interview. He’s shrill and relatively uncooperative and has little or no sense of humor. Plus he tends to be sort of hostile to the media. He just doesn’t play their game well and they resent it.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Anybody see him on O’Reilly tonight?

    No? You didn’t miss anything.

    Paul was, as Dave says, shrill and humorless, and O’Reilly, as usual, didn’t let the guest (Paul) finish a single response.

    Crapola.

  • REMF

    “Paul supporters never used to annoy me but they do now.”
    - Baronius

    I never thought I’d be rooting for Paul supporters.

    —————————

    “This is exactly the concern I was trying to raise and got so abused for.”
    - Dave Nalle

    Oohhhh, poor little you!

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Anyone looks good when they’re being badgered by O’Reilly, of course.

    Dave