Tales from the Trail

Just what is a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate?

Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich and long-shot Jon Huntsman say they’ll hold a “Lincoln-Douglas” debate in New Hampshire on Monday. So how will it be different from the usual debates?

During the 1858 race for U.S. Senate in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas and upstart Republican lawyer Abraham Lincoln held a series of seven three-hour debates in towns throughout the state on the day’s hottest topic: slavery.

The debates had no moderator, and the candidates spoke in paragraphs rather than today’s rehearsed 45-second sound bites. In each of the debates, the first candidate was given 60 minutes to make opening remarks. His opponent was given 90 minutes to respond, and the first candidate was allowed a final 30-minute rebuttal.

Today’s Republican voters will be spared a bladder-busting three-hour talkfest. Tim Miller, a spokesman for the Huntsman campaign, says Monday’s debate is likely to last just an hour and will focus on national security and foreign policy. The question of whether to have a moderator, and whom it might be, has yet to be decided, he said.

Both candidates have expressed annoyance with how the Republican debates have been moderated thus far. Until recently Gingrich’s debate performances had been most noteworthy for his attacks on the media. In a September debate in California, for instance, he told moderator John Harris of Politico: “I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other.”

from Political Theater:

Huntsman accuses Romney of flip-flop gymnastics in new ad

Jon Huntsman has published a new web ad hammering Romney for changing, if not his stance, then at least his tone on key campaign issues.

"What exactly did Mitt learn while running the Olympics?" the ad asks, before using a split screen to show Romney opining on various issues next to video of gymnasts doing flips on balance beams. Romney ran the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where there was no gymnastics competition, but the point doesn't seem to be a literal one. Whenever Romney is seen taking a typically conservative stance on an issue, the gymnast "nails it," and when he doesn't, the gymnast falls off the beam.

For example, one clip shows Romney defending the "tough gun laws in Massachusetts" -- "I support them, I won't chip away at them," he says -- as a gymnast tumbles. The next clip shows him saying he's "always been, if you will, a rodent and rabbit hunter," as a gymnast lands a back flip on the beam.

from Political Theater:

Five must-see moments from the GOP foreign policy debate

The Republican presidential candidates assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina, last night for a primary debate, the first to focus entirely on foreign policy and national security. In a dialogue that spanned assorted geopolitical challenges -- including Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, America's strategic relationship with Pakistan, and trade with China -- the eight Republicans outlined the approaches they would take to diplomacy if elected head of state. Here are five of the most notable exchanges:

1. Is torture acceptable under any circumstances? And is water boarding torture?

"I served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War," wrote a veteran in a question submitted via email that was posed to the candidates. "I believe that torture is always wrong in all cases. What is your stance on torture?"

Tea Party flavors Republican debate in Tampa

Maybe it was the Tea Party Express influence or maybe it was just being in Tampa where Republicans hold their presidential nominating convention next year.

But the atmosphere at Monday’s  Republican debate had the festive feel of a major sporting event and the stars of the game were the eight candidates vying for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.

The pregame show began with a video introduction of “tonight’s players”…

Huntsman in the ‘middle’ in 2012 Republican field

Jon Huntsman is counting on right-of-center politics to give him an advantage  in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination,   despite polls showing him trailing far behind  the favorites in a crowded field.

He says Democrat Barack Obama is too far to the left and the president’s other Republican opponents are too far to the right.

“This country is crying out for a sensible middle ground. This is a center-right country; I am a center-right candidate,” the former Utah governor said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.”

Republicans warm up in Iowa debate

Things got a little heated between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty during the Republican debate in Ames, Iowa.

Early on in the two-hour debate, the former Minnesota governor tried to knock the Minnesota congresswoman down a peg, saying her record of accomplishment and results “is nonexistent.”

Bachmann took aim at his record as governor, blasting his support for a cap and trade environmental plan and individual mandates in healthcare. “That sounds more like Barack Obama if you ask me,” she said.

Washington Extra – Long day

The longest day of the year probably seemed even longer for some.

Jon Huntsman started the day in New Jersey to formally throw his hat into the ring against the picturesque backdrop of the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the thing about backdrops and TV… Huntsman made it into every shot, but not Lady Liberty. And then he was off to New Hampshire for a rally.

At the Capitol, it was scheduled as a two-hour meeting, but the issues seem never-ending as Vice President Joe Biden and lawmakers negotiate on the deficit and debt limit. Some speculation swirling that perhaps a short-term increase in the debt limit may be an option if agreement is out of reach.

Not exactly a sunny day for the economy. Data out today point to a housing market still struggling to regain footing.

Huntsman’s big day out

Jon Huntsman knew coming into Tuesday that low name recognition was a problem.

But the former Utah governor might not have expected it in the heart of his campaign on the day he announced a run for the White House.

Media traveling with the just-hatched candidate in New Jersey were handed press passes which touted the “John Huntsman for President Announcement Tour” (that’s an extra H in the first name). Staff quickly scrambled to retrieve and replace the errant IDs.

By Huntsman’s second stop of the day, a rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, aides had opted instead for the generic tag of  “Governor Huntsman.” Less chance of a blunder.

Washington Extra – One more for the road

Jon Huntsman is in. Well, technically, the Republican announced that he will announce that he is in next Tuesday.

“I intend to announce that I will be a candidate for the presidency a week from today,” the former U.S. ambassador to China said at a Thomson Reuters event in New York.

He advocated “getting our own house in order” to improve ties with China. “As we have a very weak economic core, we are less able to project the goodness and the power and the might of the United States,” Huntsman said.

Who’s afraid of Mitt and T-Paw…

It turns out that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are the scariest pair of presidential prospects in the GOP field today, judging from a new Democratic ad and remarks by some Democratic Party hierophants.

Priorities USA Action, a political group founded by two former aides to President Barack Obama, targets Romney as a flip-flopper in a South Carolina TV ad that wields Republican Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms like a political cudgel.

The 30-second black-and-white spot begins with Newt Gingrich’s “Meet the Press” remarks opposing what he called radical right-wing social engineering on Medicare. The ad then recounts Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s defense of Ryan before turning finally to Romney: “Mitt Romney says he’s ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan … but with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder: which page is he on today?”