Inside the presidential debate: A missed opportunity for the voters

cain-profileFirst, let’s clarify some of the media noise about my campaign and my intentions.

I am running for president, seeking the Republican nomination. I finished 5th in the Iowa straw-poll last Saturday ahead of six other candidates. The candidates who finished ahead of me spent millions on TV and radio advertising, and we spent $0.

We have no debt beyond travel and other expenses, which we settle within 30 days after the end of the month. We are raising money at a rate ahead of expenses. We are running the campaign like a business. What a novel idea, and it’s working!

With a national name ID of just 46 percent, I have no intentions of dropping out of the race. All of those predictions of the demise of my campaign are all self folly.

Now, last week all media eyes were on Iowa with the latest presidential debate and the Iowa straw poll. Both events are barometers of knowledge of the issues and their respective solutions, presentation, communication skills and how well a candidate can get his supporters to turn out for events. But neither event is a predictor of who will ultimately win the Republican Party’s nomination.

On most of the really important issues, the other candidates and I are not that far apart. We all generally agree on not raising taxes, reducing federal spending and the size of the federal government, and that the current administration has the nation headed in the wrong direction.

The differences in how we would each change that direction is what the public wants to know. But that was not easily apparent due to the way the questions were structured, and the disproportionate amount of time each candidate had on camera in front of a national Fox News audience. Most of the questions were directed at the politicians about what they had done, or not done, or said, or not said in the past to put them on the defensive – or to them against one another to spice up the exchange.

The fiery exchange set up between Representative Bachmann and Governor Pawlenty did not achieve a substantive outcome for the viewers. Both candidates were simply trying to hold their ground against each other over differences they had back in their home state of Minnesota. It was counter-productive.

During the break following former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s challenge to Chris Wallace about gotcha questions, I thanked him for doing so because gotcha questions were also counter-productive. Newt’s long political career gave him more inherent authority to do that without being perceived as a whiner.

And then there were the three questions from Chris Wallace to me, which I was suppose to answer in one minute, which was the time we were allowed to give a response – or we get that annoying bell indicating that we have gone on too long. During the following break, I pointed out to Chris that answering three questions in a minute was not practical. He vaguely agreed.

But I did manage to salvage part of that packed minute to point out my four-part solution to the immigration problem: Secure the border for real, enforce the laws that already exist, empower the states to enforce those laws, and promote the current legal path to citizenship. It’s called legal immigration.

As the lone businessman problem-solver, I had my hands full up against eight politicians in a tightly structured format. I was actually only on air for about 7.5 minutes of the two hour program, against the eight politicians who were all on camera longer except for one. Although Mitt Romney was a businessman early in his career, his tenure as a governor, as a previous presidential contender, and his on-going defense of RomneyCare makes him more of a politician.

One of the most rewarding moments for me was when I had the opportunity to distinguish myself as the candidate most focused on economic growth and jobs. I took advantage of two opportunities to give some specifics about my previously released economic vision for America (Commentaries on June 27, July 4 and July 11, 2011). Feedback from various sources suggested that the response connected with the audience.

Another enjoyable moment was when I responded to a question about being serious about securing the border with a moat with alligators and a barbed wire fence. Spontaneously, I simply said, “America needs to learn how to take a joke.”

Upon reflection, the American people do have much more of a sense of humor than a lot of media people, because people at rallies and town hall meetings get the joke. They laugh! Media people want to know if I’m serious. That’s a joke!

Although former Gov. Pawlenty has announced that he is ending his race after last Saturday’s Iowa straw poll, he was one of the most genuinely nice opponents in the race. I wish him well in wherever his future takes him.

Whereas the debate gave some people a chance to learn about some of the candidate’s ideas for solving problems, different people have different ideas about who won. So pick your favorite candidate and declare them the winner.

But clearly, the American people lost an opportunity to learn more than they did.


2 thoughts on “Inside the presidential debate: A missed opportunity for the voters

  1. I’m working hard for you here in Indiana. I teach economics, and may I suggest that you use your experience to touch on the fact that at the 8/12 hearing on the debt Ceiling, Ben Bernake announced that he would seriously consider Round 3 of Quantitative easing.

    As you know, about 70% of U.S. Treasuries are bought – by the FED! My wife was in banking for 15 years, and when I described how the Treasury sells T bills to 18 primary purchasers, including Goldman Sachs, and then marks them up to sell to the Fed, she said it sounded a lot like check kitting!

    You can credibly raise this issue. You can make the case that it’s not so much the Chinese who are now buying our debt, it’s US. With a little research, I should think you’d be able to find out how much some of the top brokers of these T-bills make in commissions, and whether or not they are “friends of Obama”.

    You can call for an end to Quantitative easing. Michelle Bachman can say all she wants about leading a failed charge to block a rise in the debt ceiling. YOU can lead the charge to neuter that effort and end the practice of creating funny money out of thin air and geneating huge bonuses for members of “The Ruling Class”.

    Here’s a blog post I wrote on the topic:

  2. Mr. Cain, Your campaign is most refreshing since you speak clearly and forcfully without the politicians usual dodging and hedging. We like hearing real answers to questions and issues. One person commented that it would be helpful if you were to use graphics to illustrate the specifics of your plans and show the differences between them and current economic conditions. I recall Ross Perot using visuals and he won a lot of support with that technique. Presidential primary debates probably don’t lend themselves to that format but there are other venues where seeing the results you predict when you are president will sway a lot of voters. “One picture is worth a thousand words.” I wish you success in your bid to lead this country out of its malaise.

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