Acton Institute Powerblog

Samuel Gregg: GOP Candidates Must Debate Better

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Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, has contributed his thoughts on last night’s debate to National Review’s roundup. He was disappointed by the candidates’ performances: “with the exception of Newt Gingrich, substance did not feature highly in this debate.” These debates tend to be about talking points and about subtle digs at your opponent, not the kind of serious debate we had at the Palmetto Freedom Forum, but Gregg says,

It’s too easy to say that such formats as Thursday night’s don’t lend themselves to that type of presentation. Whoever runs against President Obama is going to have to articulate, in very similar settings, a vivid, powerful, and content-rich contrast to the present administration’s economic policies.

Though none of the candidates was able to offer the “serious, public, and substantial reflection” on our economic problems that Gregg was looking for, he’s not expecting to hear it from the incumbent in debates with the GOP choice:

Angry voters (especially independents), disillusioned with politics and politicians in general, aren’t going to buy in to messianic 2008 hope-’n’-change rhetoric in 2012. Yet while anti-Obama sentiment will take the Republican candidate a long way towards victory, it won’t be enough in the current economic climate. Substance — and the ability to communicate it — will matter.

Read his full commentary here.

Kenneth Spence


  • Roger McKinney

    Ron Paul has the most to say, be he is a very poor public speaker. The rest just simply have nothing to say.

    • I’ve been thinking about Ron Paul’s lack of public speaking abilities and I have a theory.  Could it be that his philosophy is so deep that everything being debated is connected.  He has said that he thinks in economic terms and his foundation of political beliefs is rooted in liberty.  Maybe he just has too much to say when asked a question because there is so much to say about it that he stumbles over where to begin.  Being a superficial thinker like most of the other candidates allows for better public speaking as you only have to limit yourself to talking points which aren’t necessarily rooted in any underlying philosophy.  

  • Lcmeehan

    I too am dissatisfied with the quality and substance  of the GOP debates so far…I would like to hear more from Rick Santorum .