It's hard to meet a candidate in person, especially if you don't live in a battleground state or a state that hosts an important primary (I'm looking at you New Hampshire), and watching candidates give stump speeches doesn't reveal too much about their personalities. That's why I was pleased when Diane Sawyer asked the candidates during the debate at St. Anselm's what they would be doing on a Saturday night. Even if a candidate tries to fake an answer to a question like this, it's pretty easy to tell which answers are genuine and which are not.
Rick Perry said that he would be at a gun range practicing his marksmanship, which amplified my embarrassment at the candidate from my home state of Texas. First, Perry had just come from a gun range in Austin before going to the debate. Would he really go twice in a single day? Weird. Also, would a gun range even be open on a Saturday night? Red's Range, the place Perry shot at earlier, closes at 9pm, so it was closed when he mentioned his Saturday night plans.
Not only weird, but also not the best political answer that could have been crafted. Shooting may count, in some way, as particularly American, but I don't know if many people who own guns necessarily go to ranges to shoot. People I know shoot on their property if they want to shoot their weapons at all (P.S. Red's Range where Perry shot is apparently kind of expensive, so another strike against his attempt to be so man-of-the-people). Furthermore, New Hampshire isn't really that much of a gun state. Even if gun ownership is in fact connected with “Americanness,” New Hampshirites are not likely to be very susceptible to that message.
After Perry came Gingrich who said he would be watching the college basketball game that was being played, until someone corrected him and told him that it was a football game. Whoops. I wouldn't have guessed Gingrich would be so awkward actually, but that came off badly. Nothing is more American than football.
The other candidates were pretty uninspiring, just reiterating the football answer. Mitt Romney especially came across woodenly – he seemed happy to have a safe answer to copy. Ron Paul said he would read an economics textbook and Huntsman said that he would be talking with his son in the Navy. A noble answer, but definitely one that seemed contrived.
What's funny is that under the bright lights of the debate, most of the candidates missed the point of the question completely. Sawyer obviously used the wording about “what would you be doing tonight if you weren't debating” to ask the generic question “what do you do for fun?” and most of the candidates took it literally, to mean what would you be doing on this Saturday instead of just naming something they like to do. Good thing the game was on, otherwise I'm not sure what their answers would have been.
Last, in a race of men, does it strike anyone else that none of the candidates said they would spend time with their spouses? No mention of their better halves, not even by Santorum, who values heterosexual families more than anything else.
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