Live Blogging the Republican Debate

We’ll be on at about 7:50.  Stay tuned…

7:53. Update on the Senate jobs vote – Olivier Knox notes that there are now 2 Democrats who have voted no.  My early projection was it would probably lose 4 Democrats in addition to the Republicans.  Note that this is a vote to invoke cloture – not a vote on final passage.   Since the outcome was a foregone conclusion (Democrats were never going to get the 60 votes need to end the threat of a filibuster), many Democrats who might have opposed the jobs bill have in effect a free vote, knowing that voting with the party won’t really matter in this case.  Behind the scenes, many Senate Democrats were not keen on going on record supporting any legislation that raised taxes.

7:59  Charlie Rose will modeate this tonight.  Note the different format – the candidates are seated around a table, rather than standing behind a podium.  It will be interesting to see if this changes the dynamics regarding how candidates interact.  Note that Rose is prone to going off the deep end in terms of questions, so look for some unusual  queries – look for lots of touchy/feely type inquiries.

His co-inquisitors are Tumulty, from the Post and a Bloomberg correspondent with whom I am not familiar.

And we are off…. first question to Cain, and he trots out the 9-9-9 plan faster than it takes to deliver pepperoni on cheese.  Let’s see if Perry and Romney take Cain on directly….

2nd question to Perry – and he reminds us that he’s the only candidate not to release an economic plan as yet.

3rd question – Romney.  Rose starts with the big three, as measured by the polls.  Romney appeal to crossing the aisle to work with Democrats will play well in New Hampshire.

4rth question – back to Perry.  There other five Republicans twiddling there thumbs.  Perry takes a jab at Romney’s 6-year quest for the presidency.

Tumulty’s on.  5th question is a softball to Bachmann.  First wasted question of the night.  She’ll use it to attack government – no one is going to say arrest bankers.  Sheesh…..Strong, detailed answer by her.  It may be too late.

6th Questions – Tumulty is pushing the Wall St. protest angle.  And Gingrich links some of them to the Tea Party movement.  And he too pivots to use the question to attack Democrats and the government.  Jail Frank and Dodd?  Newt’s on a roll – and the first applause line of the night.  Go, Newt, Go!

7th question – Newt has stolen some of Paul’s thunder with his attack on Bernanke. Still, there’s room to pile on the Fed, and Paul doesn’t miss the opportunity.

8th question – Bloomberg to Santorum.  How to bring back the jobs?  Santorum – lower corporate taxes, manufacturers bring jobs back, we get to tax them.  It’s so easy!   And Santorum takes a shot at Cain while pushing his own jobs bill.  Basically says Herm is unrealistic.

9th Question – Finally, poor Jon Huntsman is brought in.  Can you spell “last”?   Huntsman cracks a good one – first time I’ve ever heard Bachmann laugh!  It’s only one question, but Huntsman looks on his game.  He’d better be….

10th question – this is a potentially tricky one, that could elicit cheers for letting old people die.  Let’s see how Newt handles an end of life question.  Careful Newt… And he turns it around to attack those faceless bureaucrats sitting on Palin’s “death panels.”   My sense is Newt is not talking to the New Hampshire audience, but instead is focusing on the southern states – South Carolina and if he’s still in the race, Georgia.

11th question – Bachmann one up’s Newt on the death panel.  Not necessarily going to play well in New Hampshire, but perhaps it will in Iowa?

12th question – to Huntsman.  who do you go to for economic advice?   This is a classic Charlie Rose question.  Huntsman segues into praising government service.   Rose presses – and Huntsman launches another joke!  He’s definitely amped up for this.   And he takes a shot of Cain’s 9-9-9 pizza plan – and the Herminator jumps right in to protect his pizza…er… his economic plan.

13 th – Who does Cain go to advice?  Who are these mysterious economists that Cain went to?

14th – Romney gets a “hypothetical” and gets testy about it.  Answer the question Mitt.  He does – but not very well.  If the system was going to collapse, he would take action.  Swell, Mitt.   followup – would Mitt support another bank bailout?   Of course not.    Mitt trots out his economic advisers.

How  confident does it make you feel to know most of these candidates have trained economists advising them?  As a ph.d., I can tell you it scares the heck out of me!

Newt jumps in to gang up on Obama, his advisers and the bank bailout.  Part of the problem with this debate is that the Republicans agree on more than they disagree on when it comes to the economy.  Paul piles on….


Biggest loser so far?  Rick Perry.  He’s been too passive – he needs to interject himself into this format the way Cain and Gingrich have done.

Ok, part 2 – throwing Reagan’s words back at Republicans on the need to compromise.  Perry is given the unenviable job of saying the Gipper is wrong.  Perry trots out the red meat – a balanced budget.  Gets some applause, but otherwise not a great answer.

I’ve lost track of questions, but Tumulty is trying to bring Romney back to earth by forcing him to choose.  He doesn’t bite – his answer is animated, but lacks any specifics.  Rose pushes – only cuts?  No revenue raised?

Once again Gingrich interjects himself into this fight by attacking the supercommittee and Congress abrogating its responsibility for making hard choices.  Gingrich, as always, is on his debate game.

Bachmann’s answers by this point seem tired – if I hear one more time that she was a lone voice in the Washington wilderness, I’ll pay to fly her to some real wilderness.

Second clip: Some free pub for Cain, but let’s see if the others rise to the bait.  Instead, “Bloomberg” goes after Cain – and he’s not buying it.  Cain is, so far, up to the front-runner challenge.  I think he’s solidifying his support so far.  He insists his plan will be revenue neutral.   Julie “Bloomberg” is not buying it – won’t beer prices go up?   (Dartmouth students gasp!)

Finally, some disagreement!  Bachmann attacks the sales tax portion of 9-9-9.   Game on!   Uh oh – did I just hear Bachman compare Cain to the antichrist!!!!!   is this a subtle (or not so subtle) appeal to the evangelical vote?

Huntsman clearly sees that Romney is his primary concern, and he has to take Mitt down.  Let’s see how Mitt responds.  Mitt stands strong – intellectually, Huntsman may have the best of this exchange, but Romney stand tall approach on rectifying the trade imbalance is politically the better approach.  Huntsman needs to respond….finally, Perry jumps in.

(Is Rick Santorum still here?)

Perry mangles the language, but eventually get his point out, but I don’t think it is all that effective.  He’s still tongue tied.  He has a record to run on, but he just doesn’t sell it well.

Santorum hammers the Herminator on the sales tax and on his income tax.   His appeal to NH voters is a nice touch.  and he takes time to jump on Mitt too – this is a desperate candidate whose time is running out.

Cain sticks to his persona as the “non-politician” at the table.

Huntsman attacks Mitt again!  Says Mitt is wrong that he can repeal Obamacare.

Wow, somewhere a real debate has broken out!  This is a great format, and promises to get better with candidates questioning one another.   Can Charlie maintain control?  stay tuned…

Ok, here’s what we have so far:

Huntsman is targeting Romney.  Cain and 9-9-9 have become everyone’s target (that’s what being a frontrunner will  do).  Paul and Santorum are not getting face time, and Santorum in particular is ready to pop.  Perry remains strangely subdued – he’s not doing much so far to resuscitate his campaign.  And Romney remains his annoying self – not quite pulling off the presidential demeanor.  gingrich continues to sparkle, but does it matter?

Bachmann targets Perry – interesting choice of targets, and a great question that plays to his weakness: he has a record and he had to work with Democrats to get things done.  But he handles this pretty well, for once.

CAin – does he have a question?  Naturally, he targets the other front-runner: Romney. Hmm…did Romney just call Cain “simple”?  There’s something vaguely patronizing by how he responded to Cain.  I can see why Cain’s support is growing – he’s a straight talker who doesn’t waffle.

Gingrich also takes on Romney’s economic plan – this time taking a capital gains tax break to those who barely earn capital gains.   Romney turns this into a defense of the middle class.  Not great economics, and not a great answer substantively, but may it works politically.

Huntsman – another joke!  (no one laughs) and he also targets Romney!  Huntsman basically says Romney isn’t electable.

Romney…private sector,  job craetion, blah blah blah.

Paul to Cain: why not audit the Fed?  (Cain used to be in the banking business as part of the Federal Reserve system).  Is Paul going to ask a question?   Cain isn’t shy.

Perry, naturally, also targets Romney.  Finally, someone brings up Romneycare.   Romney has to have an answer ready.  Nice touch in bringing in Christie endorsement.   Ooooh testy exchange with Perry.  If Perry doesn’t get his dander up after this exchange, nothing will energize him.

Romney is very strategic with his question – he targets Bachmann, who is no threat at all.  Very nice choice.  Why give your real opponents a platform?  Very Reaganesque touch in trying stay above the fray.    It’s too bad Perry didn’t get a chance to respond to Romney – let’s see if he comes back to this.

Santorum – very effective “use” of his question.   Really a statement, and then a question targeting Cain’s lack of experience and support of TARP.  Cain ignores the question, and touts 9-9-9.  This guy knows marketing techniques and how to stay on message.

Where’s Newt?  The problem with this question format is it simply reinforces the implicit hierarchy among candidates since everyone asks questions of the perceived frontrunners.  That simply gives  them more free air time, and reduces the opportunity for second tier candidates to break through.  They really needed to open this segment up to a free for all.

Good.  Rose gives Perry a chance to respond to Romney’s attack on his health care record.  This may be the last opportunity for Perry to make an impression.  And he gives a decent response, but really misses the opportunity to respond to Romney directly.  Maybe he doesn’t want to give Romney more airtime?   This is actually turning into a pretty decent answer.

Cain’s favorite fed chair? Greenspan. And who would replace Bernanke?  Ah, the mystery candidates – who might they be?   The Herminator isn’t saying.   Paul is horrified that Cain likes Greenspan.

Romney once again is skating through this melee largely untouched.  If history is any guide,  he’ll get no boost in support but will remain the front-runner.  Is Romney going to get the nomination by default?

Bachmann riffs on Dodd-Frank, and this is largely an effective riff.  Score points for her – except everyone else wants to repeal Dodd-Frank as well.   Again there’s alot of agreement on this panel.

Perry’s turn to hit a softball – except it’s a trick pitch designed to trap him on the Texas’ version of the Solyndra scandal.  Perry parries it pretty well, but he’s still not doing so with the passion one might like.

Gingrich channels his inner Reagan – praising his fellow Republicans and talking up America’s future.

Cain gets a chance to defend his “get a job” statement.  He was ready for it.

Romney is a master at evading answers by speaking in platitudes, attacking Obama and touting his private sector experience.

Santorum  has the energy that Perry lacks, but Perry has the support Santorum lacks.

Final Question and this is a Charlie Rose special – touchy feely time:  Show me you feel my pain.

Bachmann: 23 foster kids

Cain: I was “Po” before I was “poor”.

Gingrich:  spouts the 11 the commandment (speak no ill of fellow Republicans).

Paul: liberty is caring.

Santorum:   upward social mobility.

Huntsman: family business, state government that says jobs=dignity.  (and don’t forget the shoutout to NH!)

Perry:  poor parents, military service, and job creator.  Likes apple pie too.  With a sprinkling of texas drawl on top.

Romney:   bellicose answer – interesting twist on a closing statement.

Ok, foks.  Thoughts?

My initial reactions:

Perry didn’t do enough to make up lost ground.

Romney held his own, but didn’t break out of the pack.

Cain didn’t falter, but didn’t show a lot of depth suggesting he could climb higher.

Huntsman was at his best, but it’s probably not enough.

Gingrich was sharp, but also surprisingly (given his standing in the polls) avuncular toward his opponents.  Does he want to win?

Santorum was passionate, but did it help?

Paul was Paul.

Bachmann was stronger than she’s been, but it’s not clear people are still listening.

It will be interesting to see how the media spins this.

I’ll be on tomorrow with an analysis of the after-spin.

Thanks for all your comments…..



























  1. Santorum is still there, but judging by the commentators, he wont be there for long, especially if he is going to war with China.

  2. I think the debate is finally getting heated can’t wait to hear the questions for each other.

  3. Yep – he wants to skip the “trade war” and instead go directly to all out war. This is what happens when you get two questions and are trailing the field.

  4. Biniyman – Agreed. A real debate has broken out and the next segment should be fun. This is where Perry has to step it up, and Bachmann needs to interject herself into a male-dominated exchange.

  5. What is Gringrich thinking? The question was targeted to those who are still after the “american dream” and yet, he does not say that it is still possible and he speaks about China. I felt that this question was wasted and it was definitely an opportunity for him to appeal to many people in the middle-class who are after their piece of the pie.

  6. Why did Santorum try to give a morality talk about keeping families together in attempts to solve the poverty problem? Has he put the final nail in the coffin?

  7. Patrick,

    That’s Santorum’s selling point -he’s trying to appeal to the social conservatives who turnout in Republican primaries in South Carolina, Iowa and Florida.

  8. Well, he’s hoping that he will come out of Iowa as the conservative alternative to Romney, so he’s really fighting Bachmann and Paul. At least I think that’s his strategy.

  9. Professor,

    Is it possible Newt is stumping for a potential VP position by always complimenting all the other candidates… perhaps he thinks that’s his best shot given the poll numbers. Plus, I think a lot of Repubs would love to see him debate Biden one on one.


  10. Professor Dickinson,

    I’m confused as to what Ginrich’s strategy is. Sure he’s showing his grasp of the issues and historical perspective with eloquent debate responses, but by avoiding confrontations with other Republicans and lacking specific policy proposals, it seems to me like he’s getting overlooked, and not only by just the media. Cain made such a splash with his 9-9-9 plan and Perry is floundering partly because of his lack of a job creation plan. It seems to me like Ginrich is simply playing the role of Republican Party elder and making sure the other candidates and the media don’t harm the Republican brand too much. Is all this pro-Republican party rhetoric (as opposed to pro-Ginrich rhetoric) more of an attempt to make sure that any Republican wins in 2012 (and maybe a Republican Senate takeover)? Or does his campaign actually see a scenario where GOP primary voters would decide to vote for him because he sounds smart and acts like a Republican?


  11. Tom,

    I suppose it is possible, but it’s not clear to me what he would bring to a ticket as VP. Typically a VP is chosen to compensate for a president’s perceived weakness. I suppose Newt’s selling point would be his knowledge of Congress. But given his baggage, I think getting selected as VP is a long shot. Either Newt is playing a long game, or he is in it for the free pub.

  12. Owen,

    Great question (and see Tom’s query along similar lines). I confess that I’m not sure what Newt is doing here. As you point out, his grasp of policy details is second to none, as are his debating skills, and yet he seems reluctant to engage fellow Republicans in a negative sense. Tom speculated that he’s angling for the vice president shot, although I think that’s a long shot. All I can think of is that he’s playing a deep game in which his positive demeanor and stay above the fray approach pays off in a slow but steady way. In his defense, he has been making incremental inroads in the polls. Maybe he knows something we don’t?

  13. Hello All,

    If I was a republican and I had to choose one of these candidates to be a president would be Mitt Romney. I just felt that his responses were sincere and the people were able to relate to him more. When asked by Gingrich about the fact that if a person makes less than $200,000 that they get a tax break and asked Romney whether or not he agrees with this. Romney was able to confidently answer this question not to Gingrich but to all of those middle-class families who were at home possibly watching this debate. He said that it was indeed the middle-class that needs the tax cuts and he is going to make sure that this happens. The rest of the time he did stay away from the view of the public because the other candidates did not want to give him any chance to appeal to even more people. I must say I do agree with you Professor that he will be the republican candidate just by default while the rest are tearing each other up. His closing statements were very powerful as he talked about himself and what this country needs. I guess they did save the best for last. My prediction: MITT ROMNEY is the candidate.

  14. Biniyam,

    You may be right. For what it’s worth he has consistently led the polls, and is the frontrunner among investors on InTrade as well. I was less enamored than you regarding his response to Gingrich, since it didn’t really address Gingrich’s concern that the middle class does’t pay capital gains taxes, but as you point out his shout out to the middle class will probably play well.

  15. Also, is there actually any chance that the 9-9-9 plan (or some variation) could pass in Congress? If not, doesn’t that discredit Cain’s whole campaign right now? Why are the other candidates taking the plan so seriously instead of just calling it for what it is… a publicity stunt. You would think someone like Perry, who lost top tier status to Cain, would go after the guy a little bit more. Very surprising to me.

  16. Good question. It depends, of course, on the composition of Congress – if Republicans are in charge come 2012, which is likely, they would at least give it a hearing. But passing it in its current form? Not likely, since most analyses suggest it will reduce government revenue and increase the deficit. But for Cain’s purposes, this should be viewed primarily as a marketing device designed to gain him attention. So far, it has worked. Even if his opponents attack it, it still means they are talking about him.

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