It was a substantive debate night here in South Carolina as GOP candidates battled it out just days before voters head to the polls to cast primary votes. Fox News and the Wall Street Journal managed to keep candidates on topics that affect every day Americans and covered everything from Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, foreign policy, illegal immigration, Social Security, education, voter identification laws, unemployment benefits and even gun control. Here’s the break down:
Newt Gingrich: Gingrich is the winner in my book tonight. Although I don’t think his debate performance will win him any new voters, his answers as usual were candid and to the point. He had the exchange of the night with Juan Williams when he wouldn’t apologize for suggesting poor children work in their schools to build character and a work ethic. On the issue of poverty in America, Gingrich knocked it out of the park, reminding Americans that the Obama Administration has put more people on food stamps than any other administration in history. He meticulously pointed out that Obama’s big government policies have done nothing to help poor communities, but instead have further destroyed them. On the issue of attacking Mitt Romney for his record at Bain Capital, host Bret Baier pointed out Gingrich had been citing liberal news outlets like Salon.com and the New York Times to back up his statements. Gingrich did a poor job in defending and justifying his attacks against Romney’s record and didn't do the free market any favors in the process.
Mitt Romney: Romney had a so-so night. He dodged the question about whether or not he would release his tax returns after a week of attacks on how he really made his money during his time at Bain Capital. But regardless, Romney did a flawless job in defending capitalism and the free market system, pointing out that companies he invested in now employ hundreds of thousands of people. On the foreign debt crisis, he advocated for new markets, not bailouts for drowning European countries. Romney was used as a punching bag at the beginning of the debate, but then dropped out of the spotlight. On the issue of gun control, Romney successfully dodged a question about him signing a permanent assault rifle ban into law in Massachusetts after the national Clinton-era ban expired. On the Super PAC issue, for which Romney has been attacked non-stop, he suggested we get rid of super PACs and allow people to donate as much as they want directly to campaigns so campaigns can take responsibility for their own ads. He said McCain-Feingold was a disaster, ironically just days after Senator McCain endorsed him in New Hampshire.
Rick Santorum: Santorum had an okay night, but gave a lot of answers where he citied big government policies and legislation as solutions to problems. Being in a fiscally conservative state, those answers probably didn’t go over so well. In an effort to combat charges that he is a big government, big spending Republican, Rick Santorum said he should not have voted for President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind. Santorum took on Romney regarding Romney's Super PAC running an inaccurate ad against Santorum about whether felons should vote. On entitlements, Santorum made the argument that we should be using Social Security payments to pay down the deficit -- but last time I checked, Social Security payments were supposed to be saved for people’s retirement, not used as a slush fund to make up for big spending polices.
Rick Perry: Perry represented the 10th Amendment well tonight. He had a strong showing against the federal government and made great arguments for states’ rights to control the NLRB, voter identification laws, illegal immigration and said the Justice Department and EPA should not intervene with state's decisions to take on those issues. He threw a bone to the Evangelical vote by repeating his belief the Obama Administration is waging a war on religion. He also defended the Marines who were reprimanded for urinating on dead Taliban solders, saying what they did was wrong, but that what the Taliban does to Americans and others is much more despicable. Perry also slammed President Obama for his disdain and gutting of the U.S. military.
Ron Paul: As usual, Ron Paul made some good points about domestic economic policy but the moderators spent the majority of the time asking him about national defense and foreign policy. He lectured moderators, telling them they “just don’t get it,” that there is a difference between defense spending and national defense. At one point, he even defended the Taliban. Before the debate, Occupy Myrtle Beach protestors were chanting his name outside the convention center.
Tonight’s debate was the first of any so far with an extensive amount of time dedicated to each candidate's stance on the Second Amendment. Questions were asked with specific details of the gun control debate mentioned: gun manufacturing regulations, gun control laws, assault rifle bans, trigger locks, etc. Considering the Obama Administration used Operation Fast and Furious as a way to push gun control “under the radar,” I am baffled that the issue of gun control was discussed tonight without a single mention of the lethal program. GOP candidates should be more than familiar with the scandal by now but fail over and over again to mention it.
Social security was a big topic of debate between candidates, each differing about the difference between government savings accounts and giving young people the option to choose a private savings account. It was surprising voter identification laws and labor laws weren’t debated more considering South Carolina has been ground zero in the fight against federal power grabs both of those issues.
So what do you think? That I’m a moron? Think I’m somewhat right? What’s your take? Tell us in the comment section.
Katie Pavlich is the Editor at Townhall.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiepavlich. She is a New York Times Best Selling author. Her latest book Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women, was published on July 8, 2014.