As always, we’ll be live blogging tonight’s Republican debate, which starts at 8 p.m. and will be televised on CNBC. As always, you are invited to join in with your comments, observations, critiques… .
Let the fun begin!
The ostensible topic tonight is the economy. But there are several subtexts to the debate. The biggest, of course, is how Cain and his opponents handle the sexual harassment charges Cain is facing. Does he confront them directly? Do the others raise the issue? I look for Bachmann to be the one to broach this topic, if the two moderators do not. A second subtext – can Newt Gingrich continue his steady climb in the polls. Finally, does Perry finally master this format? Note that they are debating in Romney’s third homestate (his father was governor here). Look for him to get strong audience support… .
And they begin…
First question is to Cain – and it’s not about sexual harassment!
Both Cain and Romney play it safe on bailing out Italy – it’s not a winning card to say U.S. taxpayers are “bailing out” foreign nations. Not sure this makes much financial sense, but it is safe politics.
(@Tarsi – I think he basically said no to bailing out foreign banks – a Cramer is saying, this can be construed as a rather shortsighted view, given the interdependence of the national financial system).
Harwood attacks Romney on another apparent flip-flop, this time on bailing out the auto industry. Romney seems to skirt the apparent contradictions as well, but Harwood is not convinced. Do you think the fact that Romney is married to the same woman for 42 years means he’s not a political chameleon? Let’s see if Perry has something to say about this…
(@Max – the audience is pro-Romney, but citing the length of your marriage as sign of political steadfastness isn’t going to do it.)
Gingrich’s anti-Bernanke line is an automatic crowd pleaser.
As is Bachmann on reducing corporate tax rates.
Meanwhile, where’s Santorum?
Ah, last as always – he must be fuming. Go get ’em Rick!
Uh, oh – here’s the Cain question! Boo! Boo Maria!
Well, it’s out there. Will anyone else follow up? Come on guys!
Romney punts – but he’s the frontrunner. Why not ask Bachmann?
That’s it? Sheesh! The crowd wants none of it, which partly explains why Cain’s popularity among Republicans is holding steady for the most part. They really think this is a media-driven narrative.
(@Biniyam – I think Cain agrees with you. He said character is important for leadership and he said he has the right character! But I agree that Romney’s nonresponse was the politically correct one, but largely because he’s leading the polls. )
Perry’s sense of debate preparation seems to be learning crowd-pleasing lines, and injecting them into the conversation whether it answers a question or not. Compare his answer to Gingrich’s….. Newt simply does better at these things…
Newt schooling Maria (or is he?) – she obviously was ready for his obligatory media-bashing line.
Is Cramer over caffeinated tonight, or is he always like this?
Here comes 9-9-9!
It is always amazing how candidates at debates avoid answering the question. Maria should follow up by giving an alternative definition of fairness – those who have more, pay more.
Romney is getting easy questions – let’s see if he picks upon the fairness issues by defending a more progressive tax rate.
And he does defend a progressive tax rate. This is actually an important debate, but I’m not sure the audience is getting it.
Bachmann joins in with her own version of fairness. Everyone should pay – in effect she’s asking to tax those who don’t earn enough to pay taxes . This is actually a good debate!
Sometimes Paul’s argument are so esoteric that it’s hard for the regular voter to really grasp what he’s saying. Arguing that the growth in the money supply of late is inflationary may be right, but it’s not what concerns Joe Sixpack right now. This is why he never gets beyond 10% vote, I think.
Tarsi – what’s the fact checker saying? Any whoppers as yet? I haven’t seen anything obvious…
This should be interesting – how do they propose to turn around the housing market? Gingrich points out the obvious – lower unemployment. Romney with an “atta boy”! But Steve is not satisfied with the “let’s rely on the markets” answer. Romney is undeterred. Rely on markets.
Perry doesn’t muff the answer, but it doesn’t sparkle either. he seems to scripted for applause lines.
So far there’s not much criticism of the candidates by other candidates. Lots of tweedle dee and tweedle dum here.
Reduce regulations, overhaul the tax code, fire Bernanke, repeal Dodd Frank….etc.
(@Zach – that’s Romney’s problem. He sounds presidential, looks presidential – but Republicans don’t want him to Be presidential! It’s the authenticity issue – he can’t surmount it as yet. Democrats don’t seem to get this.)
Health Care Reform – With What Would You Replace Obamacare?
Huntsman – free market
Paul – get government out. Cut intermediary out, implement medical savings account, rely on market forces.
Perry – Medicare – menu of choices, send Medicaid to states.
Cain – Don’t listen to Princess Nancy (applause line).
Mitt – Conspicuous by his failure to reference what he did in Massachusetts.
Newt – It’s a stupid question. And he’s right – can’t be answered in 30 seconds. Maria is undeterred (and she’s pissed). an d so Newt answers – and it’s the best answer of the night.
Bachmann is also strong here. Again, if you listen to them, given the time constraints, these are really good answers on how to replace Obamacare. It really gets to the heart of the difference between Democrats and Republicans.
(@Tarsi: Newt has floated his Lincoln-Douglas debate format several times previously).
Finally, Santorum goes on the attack. Mitt shrugs. Santorum is either smiling or grimacing at Mitt’s response. Why doesn’t someone take Mitt on here? Harwood has left an opening to take Mitt on – one of these second-tier candidates better do it.
Trying to following the logic of Paul’s complex responses can create a massive headache. But no matter what he says, he ends with a warning that we are on the precipice of disaster. He needs to lighten up. Come on, Ron, life’s too short!
So far, there has been some very interesting discussions, but nothing that will change the rank-ordering of the candidates, I don’t think.
Part Three: the Budget deficit.
Compromise with the Democrats! Never! Well, maybe. Santorum says he can work with Democrats.
Romney collaborated with Ted Kennedy – ooops! Romney makes it a joke (take notice, Ron….) Will someone please take Mitt on?
Well, Perry started strong but that finish….egads….@Tarsi – yes, he actually said “Oops”
Well, guess what – they don’t agree on everything! Bachmann is willing to stray from the no taxes nohow mantra to support an end to the payroll tax cut – along with Perry and, I think, Cain. Her argument makes fiscal sense. She’s had a good night. In fact, pretty much everyone has. I think this is partly a function of the moderators’ pushing them to clarify responses. For the most part, they are rising to the challenge.
(@Tarsi re: SNL – Yep!)
Let’s hear Paul say “no more bailouts for students! Make them work!” (Did anyone get his Homeland security cell phone reference? No, I didn’t think so….) And by the way, END THE FED!
Newt’s not much more empathetic to students. Let them eat cake, but no more loans! (I hope my students are listening to this! Tough love!)
Perry finally locates the third department to cut. It took him 12 minutes…
Note: Pundits are going to overreact to Perry’s latest debate gaffe, but you shouldn’t. He’s pretty much inoculated himself here based on his previous mediocre performances. I just don’t think this latest slip is going to matter as much as everyone will say it will.
Let’s see what Huntsman says about Chinese bridge building…
Good – he takes Romney on (with much prodding from Harwood). Although his answer that, in essence, is to keep on working, isn’t going to attract a lot of notice. But at least he realizes he drawing less than 1% of support in most polls. He has to do something.
Bachmann’s idea to stop borrowing from China sounds great, but to put it another way, she wants them to stop funding our debt. Not a good idea….
I take back my earlier claim that this debate hasn’t affected rankings. Cain has reestablished his mojo.
Is Rick Santorum still on the stage?
It’s over? Santorum has to be pissed – he was stiffed again in terms of questions asked….
Some quick thoughts:
Cain helped stem the bleeding and thus gained the most. Bachmann was very very sharp, but I wonder if anyone is listening to her anymore. Gingrich was his usual sharp self, Romney was solid in his typical unsatisfying manner, Paul remained lovably cranky (“No student loans!”). Huntsman and Santorum are facing the abyss.
Perry is an interesting case – as Tarsi asks, at what point do his debate gaffes begin to undercut supports from the donors? I’m not sure.
Increasingly, this is looking like a three-person race: Cain, Gingrich and Romney. Perry is in danger, I think, of dropping into second tier status. Of course, pundits will overreact to his debate gaffe – the real issue is how donors react. We won’t know that for a while. Pay no attention to things like short-term fluctuations in Intrade.
On the whole, a pretty darn impressive performance by both the candidates and the moderators – good questions, and better followups that really pushed candidates to flesh out their answers. Lots of meaty discussion that was very issue-focused.
Now, let the post-debate spin begin….
More tomorrow, as I walk down the Perry-is-done pundits from the cliff….