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CNN/Tea Party Express Debate: Winners and Losers

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney wasted no time getting at each other’s throats over Social Security tonight, but overall this debate was very substantive, all candidates got substantial time to answer questions and valid topics were covered. Here’s the break down.


Bachmann – Bachmann did well tonight, she had the moments she needed to get herself back in the “top tier” of candidates.  She was more aggressive and took advantage of opportunities to not only promote her record but to hammer the records of her GOP opponents and President Obama. Bachmann hit a home run with the crowd when she slammed Rick Perry for his Gardasil vaccine mandate, pointing out his association with the drug company MERCK when he signed the executive order forcing young girls to receive the HPV vaccine. She not only made the moral argument, but also made the connection of Perry to crony capitalism, which was crucial. She also gave a strong answer on ObamaCare, saying it can’t just be repealed with an executive order, saying this election is the election that will decide whether America will have socialized medicine. Bachmann also gave the best answer for illegal immigration, saying we cannot throw legal immigrants should be rewarded while illegal immigrants should not. It’s fair to say Bachmann made a comeback tonight.

Perry – Right out of the gate Rick Perry hit the federal government, saying his goal is to make “Washington as inconsequential in your life as possible,” and although he didn’t directly call Social Security a Ponzi scheme tonight, but mentioned that many before him have called it a Ponzi-scheme, he defended his position that politicians have been dishonest with young people about how broken the system is. Perry gave himself more credibility tonight on the economic front by pointing out the work he has done in Texas to Perry also hit Obama’s new $447 billion American Jobs Act, saying the previous stimulus plan created zero jobs and that the new plan will create zero jobs while he was able once again, point out Texas has created 1 million jobs under his watch on top of implementing tort reform and kicking trial lawyers out of the state.  

On the illegal immigration issue, Rick Perry gave a strong answer on border security, calling for boots on the ground to secure the border with Mexico, however Perry’s explanation of amnesty for illegal immigrants in Texas was indefensible. He even went so far to say, “It doesn’t matter how you got here.” He also crumbled when Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann attacked him for his executive order requiring 11-12 year old girls to receive the HPV-Gardasil vaccine.

Romney – Romney came off as more frustrated than usual tonight, but as usual, showed he has the best debate skills. He gave the most thorough answers when it came to how he would fix the economy while laying out a six point plan and also gave an excellent answer when asked about illegal immigration, saying we need to inspire skilled workers to come to America and enforce current immigration laws without rewarding illegal immigrants for breaking U.S. law. Romney’s negative points came when he was booed for not supporting the Fair Tax and for his defense of RomneyCare.

Paul – Ron Paul made a few good points when he said we should cut the Department of Education and the Department of Energy, but as usual, his delusional foreign policy stance and his blame America first mentality was ridiculous, especially just a day after the 10th Anniversary of 9.11.

Huntsman – Huntsman finally laid out his economic plan tonight, which has been endorsed by the Wall Street Journal. He also hit ObamaCare, saying we can’t go forward with the legislation. Huntsman was also the first candidate to bring up U.S. energy independence tonight. That being said, his condescending, rather than competitive attitude toward the other GOP candidates on the stage, was less than appealing and was off-putting.

Cain – Herman Cain received the largest applause during initial introductions tonight. Herman Cain gave the strongest answer on Social Security, pointing out that retirement programs in the private sector allow individuals grow their money while government Social Security does not; suggesting we give young people a choice. Cain nailed the question from that asked if candidates could be pro-business and pro-worker at the same time. Cain responded by saying yes, because not only did he come from a working family, but he worked his way from the bottom to the top of the corporate ladder and ultimately became a CEO. With all the tension unions have created between taxpayers and government these days, his answer marrying workers with business was perfect. Cain also laid out a plan to reform the tax code and hit the point home that government regulation is killing jobs and stifling economic growth.

Gingrich – Like I said in my preview post, Newt Gingrich didn’t come out swinging against his fellow GOP candidates, he pointed out that this isn’t about Rick Perry or Mitt Romney but about President Obama. Gingrich supported giving young people a choice when comes to Social Security, saying politicians shouldn’t control someone’s money for their entire lives. Gingrich also didn’t waste anytime holding the federal government accountable for bad policies, saying it is the absolute worst manager of money, “We pay out billions in Medicare and Medicaid to 'crooks.'” Gingrich also pointed out that the American people create jobs, not government, which is a point candidates don’t make enough, and a principle President Obama definitely doesn’t understand.

Santorum –Rick Santorum sung a different tune on Social Security, he was the only candidate to suggest the Social Security age be raised, rather than giving young people a choice to get off the system. Rick Santorum slammed Perry on his Gardasil mandate and also challenged Ron Paul’s foreign policy and blame America first stances. Santorum’s comments about Ron Paul’s website on the 10th anniversary of 9.11 essentially blaming America for 9.11 ten years ago were the most memorable from him of the night.

CNN/Tea Party Express – As I said in my earlier post, I want to give CNN credit for partnering with a tea party group for a major political debate, it shows the news outlet has moved beyond false accusations that the tea party is full of a bunch of hobbit, barbarian, racist, homophobic, terrorist, Nazi, hostage taking son of b*tches and sees the tea party as a powerful, credible force in U.S. politics. CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist reaffirmed CNN’s belief the tea party will have an impact on the 2012 election before the debate started.

“The tea party’s impact on American politics was absolutely undeniable,” Feist said. “We are thrilled to be the partners with the Tea Party Express.”

Moderator Wolf Blitzer started the night by asking Bachmann the first question, an unexpected but refreshing move. Blitzer didn’t ask inefficient “this or that questions,” and did an excellent job of giving each candidate equal time and questions so viewers could get policy positions from all candidates rather than two or three of them (like the MSNBC/POLTICO debate.) Because CNN moderated the debate well, candidates were able to get through a variety of topics including Social Security, national security, ObamaCare, economic growth, illegal immigration and tax reform. The style of the debate was original and effective. CNN combining questions from the moderator with multiple questions from the audience and from viewer parties around the country kept things exciting and more genuine. The questioning style felt more like a Town hall meeting. CNN choosing Tampa as a location for the debate was also a good move for two reasons: one because Florida is always an election battleground state and two, the GOP Nominee will be crowned here next Fall during the RNC convention.

Best question of the night: “Out of every dollar I own, how much do you think I deserve to keep?” –Napa Valley Tea Party Teen

Best line of the night: “I thought you were going to say GE who pays no taxes.” –Newt Gingrich in response to a Wolf Blitzer asking if oil companies making billions of dollars while receiving tax subsidies was fair.

So, who won?

I’m going to give winner status to CNN and Wolf Blitzer tonight. The layout, the moderation and the questions of the debate were outstanding. In terms of candidates, although Newt Gingrich won’t win the presidency, I think he won the debate tonight. He got in a few good jokes, was able to shift the focus onto President Obama and even called the current economic situation the Obama “depression,” which resonates with many Americans. He was also the only candidate to point out business creates job, not the government. Bachmann was a close second and she made the comeback she needed tonight. Romney did well with his usual debate style and won on the economic growth topic, Herman Cain also gave strong answers on the economy. Rick Perry, although he made a few good points on the Social Security topic, didn’t do as well as most had hoped, both in debate style and substantive answers. Perry got killed on his Texas DREAM Act comments and for his Gardasil mandate.


Let us know what you thought of the debate, winners/losers of the night etc. in the comments section.

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