A big, juicy debate with f-bombs and finger-pointing? Uh, no. The five hopefuls who gathered Monday to make their case for Republican National Committee chairmanship at the National Press Club were perfectly on message, delivering flawlessly timed talking points in dulcet tones. Their handlers must have been delighted.
The candidates oozed civility, and repeatedly thanked their hosts from Americans for Tax Reform, the Daily Caller and the Susan B. Anthony List, as if each group had brought a nice covered dish to a PTA meeting. There was barely a distinguishing squawk among the rivals, who each assured the audience that (a) they could raise money and save the party; (b) they stood for classic Republican values and could save the party; and (c) they were in touch with their inner conservative and could save the party.
The discourse was measured and tidy during the 90-minute event, even when someone -- oh, let's make it incumbent RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele -- ventured a jab of salad fork intensity. Should we be disappointed? Nah. The candidates were not playing to spectacle-hungry viewers and journalists but to the RNC's 168 member-voters who likely value executive attributes rather than rock-star appeal at this juncture.
"The debate sent a strong message to the pro-life grass roots that the next Republican National Committee chairman will be pro-life," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the aforementioned Susan B. Anthony List. "While there are differences in experience and approach, every candidate committed in both principle and operationally to promote the pro-life agenda."
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie's zeal to present final proof to "birthers" that President Obama was born in that state 49 years ago has become a dramatic tableau in its own right. Mr. Abercrombie's insistence that he is an old friend of the Obama family has inspired skeptics to parse the claim, checking public records and press accounts for evidence that Mr. Abercrombie was in the equation when "that baby was born," as he once described.
Other observers are vexed with the sparse press coverage regarding Mr. Obama's citizenship. They point out that news organizations were more than happy to endlessly examine former President George W. Bush's military service after then-CBS anchor Dan Rather used forged documents in 2004 to accuse Mr. Bush of compromising his Vietnam-era National Guard duty, aired in the pivotal weeks before the presidential election.
"Will Obama silence blundering Abercrombie?" asks American Thinker correspondent Jack Cashill. "Abercrombie's boasts about his relationship with the president's presumed parents have got to unnerve the president and his close advisers. Abercrombie is remembering a past that never happened."
"It's time to renew the pressure on Office of Personnel Management to pay attention to the backlog of retirement applications. I, for one, have been waiting for over seven months to have my retirement adjudicated.
"Outrageous. We were told 2-3 months. I retired in May of 2010. Take them to task, and the sooner and louder the better. The major function of OPM is in failure mode," declares a Beltway reader who tallied things up on New Year's Eve.
His New Jersey style has resonated. Gov. Chris Christie now leads the pack of hypothetical contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination -- and he is the only Republican who bests President Obama, according to a new Zogby Interactive poll of more than 2,000 likely voters, a group that included 746 Republicans.
Mr. Christie garners 27 percent of Republican support, followed by Mitt Romney (17 percent), Sarah Palin (16 percent) and Mike Huckabee (14 percent). In an Obama vs. Christie match, the governor leads 43 percent to 40 percent among all voters.
"Christie's blunt talk about public employees and his aggressive actions on the New Jersey state budget have made him very popular both within the Republican Party and with independents. His style and appearance would present quite the contrast to that of the president," said pollster John Zogby.
"He adds not only an alternative governing philosophy, but also real efforts at cutting spending. If he decided to run, Christie could quickly oust Romney as the favorite of establishment Republicans," Mr. Zogby adds.
JUST SO YOU KNOW
Yes, we still give our pets regular old human names, with Bella, Max, Lucy and Charlie leading in the canine, feline, and even the gerbil/bird/lizard categories -- this according to the Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., which based its conclusion on its database of 485,000 pet names. But wait. The database also contains more original entries that attest to American inventiveness. They include: Purr Diem, Cleocatra, Optimus Pants and Chairman Meow among kitties, and Dog Vader, Iggy Pup, Virginia Woof and Geez Louise among the dogs. See them all here: www.wackypetnames.com.
POLL DU JOUR
• 58 percent of Americans overall say 2011 "will be better" than 2010.
• 71 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans agree.
• 69 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 years, 58 percent of those 35 to 54 and 51 percent of those over 55 also agree.
• 42 percent of Americans overall say the nation will be "governed" better in 2011 than in 2010.
• 45 percent of Democrats agree, as do 48 percent of Republicans and 32 percent of independents.
• 38 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 years, 44 percent of those 35 to 54 and 42 percent of those over 55 also agree.
Source: A Gallup Poll of 1,019 adults conducted Dec. 10-12.
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