GOP candidates not ready for prime time

Freedom New Mexico

The most-recent Republican presidential debate was a weary two hours of television, and not much help for any candidate.

Front-running Texas Gov. Rick Perry continued his streak of appearing not ready for prime time, and potentially offending his party’s base.

Sound-bite answers to complicated questions are offensive to begin with. What are we to make of a perfunctory reference to “regulatory reform,” such as many promised? And look out for vague Trojan Horses, such as Jon Huntsman’s desire to subsidize clean energy. Of course, he didn’t mention how much or how long government should pick winners in the market, an offensive idea on its face. Had he not read about the Obama administration’s scandalous $535 million Solyndra debacle?

The debaters’ goal seems to be how many times a catchphrase can be repeated, regardless of its relevance to the question. Even so, Perry fumbled repeatedly and almost incoherently with what should have been well-rehearsed sound bites. Each time Perry walks on the debate stage, his stock must be sinking with the party faithful.

Voters could have learned far more about these candidates by spending an hour on Google, visiting pntonline.com/opinion or even by checking each of their home pages. And we suggest you do, rather than replay this dreary telecast from last Thursday.

That’s not to say the debate was entirely without merit. It was good to hear Ron Paul explain that the president should veto any bill that violates the 10th Amendment. What a refreshing idea, even though it is 225 years old.

We were delighted the Fox News talking heads’ poll showed 47 percent prefer to abolish the U.S. Department of Education — about three times the number calling for the EPA’s banishment. We’d vote for both, of course. But it’s good to see common sense expressed by the electorate.

The premier attraction probably was the sparring between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Perry. If they continue the way they’ve performed through three debates, Perry soon could be reduced an also-ran. Romney, whose waffling and liberal-to-moderate track record should make him distasteful to the party’s core, is soundly drubbing Perry, even on meat-and-potatoes conservative matters. This doesn’t bode well for Perry, and the fact that an at-best “moderate” is doing it to him doesn’t bode well for their party.

When it came to mastery of core principles and understanding of campaign issues, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich elevated himself above the crowd. Not far behind was Herb Cain, CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, who added the charm of his personality and ingratiated himself as a cancer survivor. Alas, Gingrich probably missed his window of opportunity years ago, and Cain has about as much chance as New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, whose sole contribution Thursday was this joke:

“My next door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this president.” Funny, but not exactly a compelling reason to choose him.