I had a serious dilemma trying to figure out whether to watch the GOP debate or the baseball game last night.
No, really. I did.
Technically, I shouldn’t have cared about either thing. The Phillies are out, their hopes dashed in five games by Jack’s beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Pfft. Whatever. And the debates may now officially be an exercise in futility, because despite the fact that Herman Cain has surged, nobody is talking about Rick Perry anymore, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie body-slammed the right with two major announcements:
- He is still not running for president… no really, he means it.
- He is endorsing Mitt Romney.
The first thing wasn’t a surprise, because he’s been saying all along that he’s not running, but he gave a speech at the Reagan National Library and Nancy Reagan was there and some people were all “You should run” and so out of respect for the former first lady he said he would reconsider.
There are lots of reasons he answered correctly, by the way. For example, and in no particular order: his style works in New Jersey, but wouldn’t work nationally; he is far, far more moderate than some of the people who were calling on him to run realized, particularly on illegal immigration, climate change and gun control; and he doesn’t offer anything that the other guys (namely, Mitt Romney) don’t offer. He’d be a redundant candidate, and he knows it. Any run from him this year would have been only to gain national exposure to run for either the Senate or the presidency down the line.
But Tuesday, when he came out and endorsed Mitt Romney, he pushed momentum very clearly in Romney’s favor, and wasted no time doing it. It’s sort of like Game 2 of the NLCS when the Cards brought out the bats in a big way in the fourth through sixth innings. Sure, things could change, but if you wanted to beat the traffic home, you were probably okay to leave early.
That got me thinking: baseball and political campaigns are kind of similar. Both can sometimes be overly long and tedious processes. Both contain their share of change-ups and even sliders here and there. Both need good pitching to come out a winner. In either sport, a match-up can be won or lost on a single error. In either sport, there are some spectacular meltdowns and some teams that just peak early and fade.
There’s even a little bit of a financial comparison. Herman Cain and the Tampa Bay Rays both proved that they can pull off an impressive surge without having the funding that the big guys have. And both wind up sitting in the bleachers for the championship run. (Cain is too green to get the nod from the GOP.) Still, it’s fun to watch and it reminds people of why it’s sometimes so much fun to root for the underdog.
I found a way to watch both events, by the way. Hooray for the internets.
This debate was only about the economy. I hope you’ll forgive me for not giving you a real play-by-play. Nobody said anything new, and since part of my multitasking was also that I was trying to get some work done, I didn’t get to watch the whole time; I was just listening to a lot of it. So instead of giving you platforms, with which you’re familiar if you’ve read my previous debate posts (check out the Political Snark category for a comprehensive review), I’m going to break this down into baseball terms.
Herman Cain, for all his momentum recently, still can’t stop talking about his 9-9-9 plan, and in this debate, a couple of the candidates got to expose it for the overly simple problem it would likely be. In fact, this translated to my favorite Rick Santorum Moment, in which Santorum questioned Cain directly and asked him, with his lack of governing experience, how the American people could trust him not to allow that tax to be raised. Cain’s response was that there are three deterrents to that:
- He would ask Congress to include a 2/3 majority vote before raising the tax;
- His simple, visible and transparent plan would allow the American people to hold Congress’ feet to the fire;
- He would be president and wouldn’t sign anything that raises that tax.
Under his breath, Santorum groused, “You wouldn’t be president forever.”
And I agreed with Rick Santorum. And then the world shifted on its axis. But I digress. Point is: Cain put up a pop fly everybody would cheer for, but Santorum easily caught it and Cain was out.
A moderator asked Rep. Michele Bachmann if it was right that no Wall Street executives have gone to jail for the damage they did to the economy. Her answer was that the problem could be traced back to the federal government, not Wall Street. She said it was the government that pushed subprime loans and community reinvestment and housing goals, pushing banks to lend to those who were not qualified and withholding business merger possibilities if the banks didn’t make the loans. She said Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae created artificially low mortgage rates and lower credit qualifications for the first time in history.
Republican home run.
But later she blew the run when she championed her stance on insisting that Congress not raise the debt ceiling and give President Obama “a $2.4 billion dollar blank check.” She’s said this several times before. You know what makes me nuts about it? If there’s an amount written in, it’s not a blank check. Error. Then she said she’s a federal tax lawyer: “That’s what I do for a living.” Wait. I thought you were a congresswoman. Error #2. And then she said that if you take Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan and turn it upside-down, you’ll find the devil is in the details. I don’t think she’s wrong about the flaws in the plan, but what’s with the kitsch? You just sort of called the plan evil, and called Herman Cain Satan by association. Bad throw. Error #3.
Newt Gingrich continues his codgerly rant against all media, which makes me write him off as a sore loser arguing a call with an ump, with or without spittle. I had to chuckle at his characterization of the Occupy movement: he figures they’re basically two groups – either left-wing agitators who would happily show up at whatever movement springs up next week, or sincere middle-class people who are much more like the Tea Party. Gingrich says the difference is that the decent people pick up after themselves, and the activists trash the place and walk away.
I think Newt Gingrich might be the out-of-touch, once-great old manager in this campaign. He grumbles in the dugout while scratching himself and occasionally looks up and notes accurately that someone has just completely screwed up on strategy and cost the team. You don’t know what to do with a guy like that.
Meanwhile, if there’s an umpire in this bunch, it’s Mitt Romney. He’s the guy who doesn’t like being argued with or interrupted, but he’s also the guy with the good eye who tends to know all the rules and stays on message. He generally sees what questions are coming and knows how to call the play. He doesn’t get them all right, but if somebody gets in his face, he calmly points at the dugout and sends them on their way.
And Rick Perry is starting to strike me as the owner who has no real idea of how baseball works. (This, from the woman who just realized yesterday that, in 34 years, she has never asked anyone what the catchers’ signals to the pitchers actually stand for.) He’s still horrible in debates. His moderation does still show here and there, but mostly he’s struggling to find a way to word his answers.
Jon Huntsman is the fan who scores the game obsessively. Finally, he’s started talking about China, and man does he have useful knowledge. But now he has to find a way to make it understandable. After a question about China’s manipulation of currency and its effects on pricing and exports, he started talking about quantitative easing, parts one and two. He eventually figured out how to be social, but at the moment, nobody wants to sit next to him.
And I’m not even sure Ron Paul suited up. He didn’t blow anything. He just didn’t really get any hits or force any outs.
I’m learning a lot about baseball lately, watching the signs and thinking through the plays. And I’m starting to wonder if this bunch of candidates is doing that, or if they’re just taking the swings that will make the crowd cheer. In the major league playoffs, if you want to win the game, there’s a delicate balance. Play it right and you’ll get the crowd behind you. Play it wrong and you could be going home to watch the big games with everybody else. Or you could be the team that comes from relative obscurity and wins it all, without anybody ever really understanding how.