Exhibit 1.4.1

Debate Thoughts

Because you didn't ask.

* Perry was Perry. He's strong on the economic stuff where he's got his talking points down, but anyone watching through the end could see his obvious weaknesses on, well, everything else. He's just not good at speaking off the cuff and his best bet in the general is to achieve something like a Kerry-Bush dynamic and cast the president as an out-of-touch blowhard. Man, that's a steep hill as Obama isn’t Kerry and we’ve already had a Bush. So it remains: Perry is really, really bad when he leaves his comfort zone. His comfort zone, by the way, seems to exist between him and the coyote he's currently hunting in his mind.

* He’s got a huge problem with Social Security, by the way. Rather than back down from the ideas in his stupid, stupid book, he doubled down. Someone needs to work up the spine to tell the governor that the only problem people have with Social Security is that it might not be there. “Fixing” it is one thing, saying it shouldn’t exist is another. And by another I mean insanely unpopular.

* Most telling moment of the night was one that most probably didn't stick around for but will surely get a lot of play on the left: the crowd’s kneejerk cheering Perry's execution total. I wouldn't overreact to this--we could probably come up with some pretty terrible applause lines that would fly at a Democratic primary debate--but that there will be no rightwing repudiation of this is one of the things that has to have mainstream Republicans worried. I mean, where can you go from there? Unless the Republicans are willing to go full on The Running Man, you’ve got to think they’d rather this not be a party plank.

* And that’s really the underplayed narrative of their field (if it’s possible to have such a thing in this political climate). They aren’t just for killing 234 murderers—another terrible, out-of-date but not entirely unjustifiable position—they applaud it. Without prompting. In the middle of a sentence. Spoken by a journalist. We should recognize what they were really applauding was their support given what they suspected was going to be (something they would perceive as) a “gotcha” question. But that’s what makes this so problematic and the party’s prospects so dim as long as they pursue this path. Suspicion of the media. Suspicion of what are quickly becoming mainstream values. And, this is the problem, suspicion of anyone who would deviate from those values. Honestly, if they’d followed up that question by asking all the candidates, “Do any of you have a problem with governor Perry’s execution record?” would any have been brave enough to raise their hands? Of course not. But that’s not the bad part. The bad part would be if someone asked why the other governors hadn’t executed more.

Because here’s the thing: once you’re so paranoid that you can’t accept any deviation from a set of beliefs without it being a threat, you start to form a cult around those things you believe. Some tax cuts are good? Then all tax cuts are good. Government spending is bad? Then government shouldn’t spend on anything. Executions are good? Government should execute as many as possible.

And this, actually, isn’t that unusual of a position for the extremes of either party (though I think it’s a little more typical of rightwing thought whereas the left usually has some level of perceived [if not entirely real] nuance), it’s that this thought has somehow become the norm of the party in the last two cycles. It’s actually hard to overstate how impossible seeming this would be for modern Democrats. Imagine if Bernie Sanders suddenly got to dictate the terms of the debate the way Jim DeMint does? We' be thrilled right up until we started losing every election. Then we'd be less thrilled, I imagine.

Anyway, it’s fascinating here because of what it will mean for the general election. Conventional wisdom says these ideas can’t possibly win a national election, electoral college or no, economy or no. Conventional wisdom says these are fringe candidate ideas. And yet here we are cheering them before they can even be spoken.

* I’m writing this while playing online chess in a coffee shop. It’s amazing nobody has looked at my computer and punched me in the face.

* So, quick summary: any Republicans concerned with actually winning an election have to be moving to the Romney camp about now. He looked good and, to be honest, I was a little afraid of how he might match up with Obama given the president's considerable struggles. Which is not to say Republicans wouldn’t happily settle for Perry, just that those electability questions loom nearly as big for him as they once did for Bachmann.

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