Political analyst Doug Schoen tells Newsmax that the real winner of Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa was a candidate who wasn’t even there — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who won’t formally launch his campaign until Saturday.
Schoen also says neither Tim Pawlenty nor Michele Bachmann “looked presidential,” and while front-runner Mitt Romney dodged attacks, he “didn’t distinguish himself.”
|Political analyst Doug Schoen.
Schoen is a Democratic pollster and co-author, along with pollster Scott Rasmussen, of the book “Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System.”
In an exclusive Newsmax interview on Friday, Schoen declares: “The big winner in Thursday’s debate was Gov. Rick Perry, who wasn’t even there.
“He’s the heavyweight because he appeals to social conservatives, he appeals to the tea party, and 40 percent of the jobs we’ve created in the last couple of years come from Texas. It’s an economic engine. He has stature. He has credibility. And so far he’s above the fray.”
Asked if the nomination is Perry’s to lose, Schoen responds: “I wouldn’t say it’s his to lose, but he goes into the race, not having campaigned one day, as a virtual front-runner with Mitt Romney, and that’s a pretty good place to start.
“If I was a betting man I’d say it’s 50-50 between Romney and Perry, and if you put a gun to my head I would put my money on Perry.”
Fellow Minnesotans Pawlenty and Bachmann sparred during the debate, but “it was effectively a technical knockout where they both lost and the winner was Rick Perry,” Schoen says.
“They both lost because Michele Bachmann looked just as nasty and angry as Pawlenty. They went back and forth. Neither looked presidential. Neither had stature, and by engaging in tete-a-tete combat they both reduced themselves in my opinion.”
Bachmann did show that she can take a punch, Schoen acknowledged, “but Muhammad Ali is getting in the ring this Saturday, and to be bloodied before getting in the main event is not a wise move.
“Politics is not just a boxing or sports metaphor. It is a vision, a direction for America, and none of the candidates offered direction. None of them offered a vision. Hence the winner is Rick Perry.”
Pawlenty, he adds, “didn’t get on the board” to keep his candidacy viable. “I think he may have fought to a draw with Michele Bachmann, but there were six other candidates up there, and Mitt Romney emerged unscathed and Tim Pawlenty outlined neither a vision nor a direction for America. His candidacy will inevitably and inexorably suffer as a result.”
As for Romney, he “dodged a bullet but didn’t distinguish himself,” Schoen opines. “The only candidate who I thought cut through was Newt Gingrich, and he’s taken so many body blows at the very least he’s a flawed messenger.
“I’m still waiting for Romney him to outline a vision, a direction for the country. He dodged the attacks on [his former investment firm] Bain Capital and on Romneycare, but the bottom line is I don’t think he did anything to give people a reason to believe that he is a compelling alternative.
“Romney is still the front-runner, that’s for sure. But he’s a front-runner running about 25 percent in the polls, not much more. He does have liabilities, and given those liabilities and given Perry’s entry, this was a bittersweet victory for him.”
Commenting on other candidates at the debate, Schoen says Rick Santorum is too narrowly focused to win the nomination.
“He spoke to social conservatives, and I think if we were electing an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage president, and those were the top issues facing America, he’d be the front-runner.”
Herman Cain “did a credible job, but [displayed] no particularly distinguishing characteristics.”
Ron Paul seemed to have a noisy cheering section when he spoke about puling American troops out of foreign wars.
“Republicans are isolationists. He speaks to libertarians and isolationists and he got a lot of response and a lot of enthusiasm,” Schoen says. “A lot of people are skeptical about Iraq and Afghanistan, especially at a time when we’re having trouble paying our own bills.
“But that’s not going to get him nominated, much less elected.”
Regarding Paul’s “cheering section,” Schoen adds: “The libertarian wing of the Republican Party is small, vocal, and always engaged, and raises a lot of money too. But there’s a difference between galvanizing a small fraction of the electorate and getting elected.”
Asked how much traction Jon Huntsman gained from his performance in the debate, Schoen tells Newsmax: “Zero. I thought his conclusion, which was gloom and doom, spoke to the absurdity of his candidacy.”
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