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1.  Romney is getting away with murder on his answers distinguishing Obamacare from Romneycare.  Romney’s biggest advantage is that the other candidates don’t really make arguments about Obamacare.  They just strike poses about how much they hate it, how fast they’ll repeal it, how they’ll rip Obamacare’s head off and dance down its tonsils - by executive order if necessary.  So when Romney says the two programs are different, the audience doesn’t have much context and it is basically Romney’s word against Pawlenty or Perry or whoever and Romney has been practicing his evasive answers for years.  Nailing Romney for Obamneycare means making the case against Obamacare in some detail.  The similarities are clear if you just take the time to mention them:

“Governor Romney, your law in Massachusetts kept in place a rule that insurers had to offer health insurance to all applicants regardless of health status. That was in the President’s law too. Your law kept in place a rule that forced insurers to charge premiums based on a person’s age and residence rather than their individual case. That was in the President’s plan. Your law imposed over two dozen mandates that told insurers what to cover and banned insurers from giving people the option of buying cheaper insurance that didn’t cover Chiropractic services. The President’s law also included significant coverage mandates. Under your law, consumers had to purchase a government-approved health insurance policy or pay a fine. Same thing with the President’s law. Why does your law look so much more like what a Democrat-dominated Congress and President Obama have enacted than what conservatives like Paul Ryan have proposed?”

You can also throw in stuff about rising health insurance premiums and longer wait times.   This is not an impossibly complicated argument.

2.  I remember some guy (can’t remember who) saying that political journalists are fight promoters.  The promoters of yesterday’s debate made sure that Bachmann was kept far away from the main event.  They didn’t ask her a lot of questions.  The question they asked her about HPV was along the lines of “So about the HPV thing, are you going to apologize for linking it to mental retardation or are you a total nutjob?” 

3.  Gingrich sounded good.  But listen to his answer on the question of how to balance next year’s budget without tax increases.  Next years deficit is projected to be over a trillion dollars.  When pressed about how to make those cuts he said we needed to change how Washington works.  When further pressed he said that if we don’t think it can happen then we all ought to buy Greek bonds.  The tough budget choices that would have to come from balancing next year’s budget without tax increases disappeared behind tribalist rhetoric.  He doesn’t have to specify the cuts because he’ll change how government works and if you want to know the consequences of over a trillion dollars of spending cuts in one year you just want a Greek bankruptcy.  Or something.  So Gingrich got the cheap applause line for balancing the budget and another cheap applause line for avoiding talking about the cuts it would take to balance the budget.  Give Gary Johnson credit. He is less cynical and more crazy than Gingrich.  Johnson understands that balancing next year’s budget will require enormous and consequential spending cuts and he spells them out.  Now I think Johnson’s plan to cut everything by 40% is a mindless way to achieve an undesirable goal (balancing the budget in one year rather than transitioning gradually to a sustainable budget) but he is walking the walk.  Gingrich is just shoveling manure.  But since Gingrich knows that he is never going to be President and so he knows it doesn’t matter if things never add up.  People will remember his combination of big talk and belligerent evasion as visionary.  Maybe it will translate to higher book sales down the line.  The other candidates seem to know the score.  As long as he isn’t attacking them, they let him alone so he can rebuild his brand after the fiasco of calling the Ryan budget right-wing social engineering.

4.  I would like to see someone come up with the revenue projections for Cain’s 9-9-9 plan as well as a study of the plan’s distributional impact. If we don’t have that, we don’t know if the plan is good policy or good politics.  If Cain were higher profile, someone with the skills would run the numbers.  So, if only for that reason, it is too bad Cain isn’t higher profile.

5.  Cain argued that if Obamacare had been in effect in 2006, he wouldn’t have gotten the timely treatment that saved his life because he would have had to use the timetable of government bureaucrats.  Cain was 60-61 during the period that he describes in 2006 when he was diagnosed with and treated for cancer.  Cain presumably financed his treatment through a combination of health insurance and out of pocket payments.  Obamacare was enacted in 2010.  Does he think that, under Obamacare’s current provisions,  a holder of private health insurance or someone able to self-finace their care has to get government permission before they can get a CT scan and chemotherapy?  You could argue that IPAB would deny or fatally delay treatment, but IPAB is currently for Medicare and Cain wasn’t a Medicare recipient. You could argue that Obamacare will, over years introduce changes that will push the government to enact a new law that will force just about everyone into a government-run and heavily rationed health care program.  I guess you could argue that the expanison of coverage under Obamacare would lead to greater health care consumption and produce shortages and increased wait times (though of chemotherapy and cancer surgery?).  But those weren’t the arguments Cain made.  If Cain ever got to the general election, the President would throw the problems with Cain’s argument back in Cain’s face.

6.  The consensus is that Romney won.  I agree, but William Kristol is having none of the soft bigotry of low expectations.  His description of Romney (“a technocratic management consultant whose one term as governor produced Romneycare”) is too true for comfort.

7.  Removed by me.  It was mean and flip and I’m not totally confident of my uncharitable interpretation of Perry that used to be here.

8.  Like John said, Perry choked really bad on the question of what he would do if he were President and he learned that a Pakistani nuke was about to fall into the hands of the Taliban.  There are no easy and reassuring answers to that question, but Perry’s confused babbling about having a relationship with India and selling F-16s to India made the worst of a bad situation.

9.  Perry also didn’t have much of an answer on the question of Texas’ high rate of uninsured.  He could at least have given us something forward-looking about tax credits for catastrophic health insurance or something.  “Washington ate my Medicaid waiver” isn’t good enough.  I’m sure Yuval Levin and James Capretta could help and probably explain the weak points of Romneycare (though Levin seems to like Romney - and Perry - well enough.)   

10. There is a learning curve when it comes to national issues and Perry’s performance is showing how tough it is for a late entrant to catch up.  I think this argues against a late Chris Christie entry.   Still . . .

PS.  Yeah, I snuck in a Dusty Rhodes reference.

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