LOS ANGELES, December 28, 2011 ― On this final day of Hanukkah, the epilogue of a proud Jewish holiday is fused like melted candle wax to the epilogue of the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum.
Presentations were made by Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann.
Businessman Herman Cain was scheduled to present but ended his presidential campaign only days before the event.
The keynote speaker at a gala lunch involving Ambassador Sam Fox was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
What made this forum so valuable is that it was not done in a debate format with 90 second soundbites and snappy rebuttals. Each candidate made a presentation for approximately twenty minutes and then took questions for another fifteen to twenty minutes. This allowed for candidates to put aside their tired stump speeches and canned rhetoric, and actually give the audience (and the world watching on C-Span) real insights into who they are, what they believe, what they want to do, and how they would it. Banal generalities would not cut it. The candidates had to offer specifics.
What also made this forum valuable is that the candidates took such different approaches to issues. This led to the audience focusing not just on what the contenders said, but what they left out.
Rick Perry focused virtually 100% of his remarks on Israel, while Jon Huntsman focused almost solely on economics.
Rick Santorum spent significant time discussing Iran while Mr. Huntsman did not mention Iran at all.
Michele Bachmann approached Israel from an emotional standpoint, discussing her childhood experiences. Newt Gingrich came at the subject of Israel from an intellectual standpoint because he is an historian. Israel is a strategic partner.
Mitt Romney had an evenly balanced presentation, mixing his business experience with his foreign policy views.
Just like the RJC event four years earlier, some candidates were not in attendance this time around. In 2007, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and Sam Brownback all spoke. Mike Huckabee did not. Critics of the RJC will point out he won the Iowa Caucus. Others will note that he did not win anything else, much less the GOP nomination.
This time around, several lower tier candidates did not attend. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, gay rights activist Fred Karger, and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson were not part of the program. Texas Congressman Ron Paul did not seek and was not offered an invitation.
Success at the RJC forum certainly does not guarantee success at the polls, since Jewish people are a small slice of the GOP electorate. However, many Evangelical Christians support the beliefs of the RJC, and they are a significantly larger portion of the party.
In 2007, Giuliani, Thompson, and Romney all gave outstanding presentations to loud applause throughout. Sam Brownback spoke, but dropped out of the race the next day. He went on to easily win election as the Governor of Kansas. John McCain gave the worst speech. He is a fine man, but he had an off day, coming across as dour and depressing. He still won the nomination and many Republican Jews were comfortable with him. Because he was such a known commodity, people were able to look past his speech and respect his record.
In 2011, the familiar face was Mitt Romney. His stands were well known. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have both spoken at RJC events many times over the years. Michele Bachmann has spoken to the RJC with less frequency, but often enough to be known in Republican Jewish circles.
The two candidates who were really making their case for the first time were Rick Perry and John Huntsman. The audience truly did not know enough about them, and this forum was their chance to make a first impression.
When Perry only focused on Israel, questioners asked him about healthcare and other domestic issues. When Huntsman focused only on domestic policy, questioners wanted to know why he did not even mention Iran.
Outsiders who were upset because anti-war views were not represented are mistaken. Jon Huntsman was very calibrated in his remarks, but he certainly offered a break from the other candidates.
Five of the six candidates did a good job.
Mitt Romney is funny, engaging, and clearly able to express in an articulate manner his views on domestic and foreign policy.
Newt Gingrich remains a policy heavyweight. He can explain not just what matters, but why it matters. His mastery of domestic policy is off the charts.
Rick Santorum is serious, intelligent, and thoughtful. He understands foreign policy better than most, especially on Iran.
Michele Bachmann is warm, kind-hearted, and charming. As an accomplished tax attorney, she can break down Obamacare better than virtually anyone.
Rick Perry is plainspoken. There is not one particular area that defines him, but he is highly regarded in his home state for creating jobs while the rest of the nation sheds them.
Jon Huntsman was disappointing. He has sensible economic ideas, but on foreign policy he does not offer specifics. He avoids answering questions. People know as little about him when he is done speaking as they did when he began. He needs to give a more substantive presentation that simply levels with the audience.
All six of the candidates have strengths and weaknesses. Outside of Mr. Huntsman, they all show leadership skills necessary to succeeding in the Oval Office. Mr. Huntsman needs to offer more clarification. Like John McCain four years earlier, Mr. Huntsman needs to show he is better than the man on stage at this forum.
So for those wondering who I am supporting so they can confirm my hidden agenda, the answer is that I am torn. Between Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, I have not narrowed it down to one candidate. I could support any of them enthusiastically.
A major winner at this forum was the Republican Jewish Coalition. By any measuring stick the 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum was successful. A rich, diverse group of contenders showed why they are the best person to fire Barack Obama and move the country on a more conservative course. This was done not with rancor or cheap insults, but with rich policy presentations every voter should see. Thanks to C-Span, they still can.
More importantly, they should.
The last moment of Christmas ended as the clock struck Midnight on December 26th. The last Hanukkah candle burns out the night of the 28th as the festival of lights concludes at sundown on the 29th. December 31st, 2011 leads to midnight, and January 1st of 2012. The year starts with the final week of the NFL regular season and several college bowl games. Yet the time for revelry will be very brief. The evening of January 3rd is the Iowa Caucus. The first step in choosing the next leader of the free world will be undertaken.
The general election is just over 10 months away. Everyone should follow the examples laid out at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum. Study the issues very closely. Ask questions. Most importantly, keep an open mind. Listen. Process information carefully and with logic, not emotion.
Then do what I have yet to do. Make a decision.
The future of the country depends on it.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian.
Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. After years of dating liberals, he has finally seen the light and now only dates Republican Jewish women. His family is pleased over this. Republican, Jewish women, you may contact Eric above.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS
Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.