Herman Cain and Mitt Romney Survive Blitzes in Latest GOP Debate
Rick Perry scored no knockouts, but don't count him out, yet
Tuesday's GOP debate was about “apples and oranges,” not pizza; “illegals” “anchor babies” and “moms,” not Godfather’s; and about 9% unemployment not “999” tax plans. To put it plainly, Herman Cain was not the star of the show.
In CNN's Las Vegas debate, the first 20 minutes were all about pouncing on Cain.
Texas governor Rick Perry, the candidate with the most to prove tonight after dismal debate showings, told Cain “I’ll bump plans with you any day, brother” while pointing out that the 9% sales tax from Cain’s plan would raise taxes in states like New Hampshire where there is no sales tax.
Cain’s retort was a simple “that is not true” – a chorus he sang most of the evening – as well as saying that comparing his federal tax plan to state taxes was mixing apples and oranges.
“A state tax is an apple,” said Cain. “We are replacing the current federal tax code with oranges.”
Mitt Romney didn’t like those apples, and explained to Cain that he “was going to get a barrel with both apples and oranges in it because people don’t want to pay” both state and federal taxes.
always the salesman got so defensive that he demanded that every American go to his website and read his 999 analysis and “do the arithmetic on your own” – a directive that officially shut down his campaign site for a good 10 minutes.
But Perry brought it home, in one of the few bright moments that he scored all campaign season by replying “It’s not about 999, or 59, it’s about the 9% unemployment in America.”
Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul also attacked Cain on his plan, but Cain seemed to emerge unscarred mostly by simply saying his colleagues were “wrong,” even though almost every economist, and even the architect of his own 999 plan have been saying that actually the critics of the plan are right that it would raise taxes on most people.
As the debate shifted to healthcare, the attacks shifted to the other frontrunner in the GOP race, Romney. Santorum drew first blood saying Romney had “no credibility” on this case because “Obamacare was crafted after” Romney’s healthcare plan put in place when he was governor of Massachusetts.
But Romney simply deflected this by saying he would repeal Obamacare if he became president.
Gingrich cited news reports from Boston newspapers about Massachusetts citizens being left with huge healthcare costs because of his policies, and this seemed to wobble Romney for a moment. But Romney swung back when he pointed back at Gingrich saying he got the “individual mandate idea” – the center piece of Romney’s Massachusetts universal healthcare policy – from Gingrich, and the conservative thinktank Heritage Foundation.
Gingrich said this wasn’t true, though it clearly was. It also wasn’t true when Ron Paul said “there’s a lot of support for repealing Obamacare because it’s a Democratic program.” Well it was half-true. The fact that the squabble between Santorum, Romney and Gingrich exposed that Obama’s healthcare reform policy was crafted after Republican ideas showed that it isn’t actually a “Democratic program,” though it definitely was being attacked like one.
The debate got physical, though, when the topic of immigration came up. Perry was attacked for his Texas policy that grants in-state tuition for the children of immigrants – Romney called this a “magnet” for “illegals.”
Perry then started wilin’ out on Romney about a five-year old report that exposed the fact that the Massachusetts governor hired undocumented workers to landscape his house. Perry got so aggressive with Romney on this attack that – and here’s where it got physical – Romney had to lay a hand on Perry’s shoulder to calm him down and get a response in.
“You have a problem with allowing people to finish what they’re saying,” Romney said to Perry. “If you’re going to be president, you’ll have to learn to let both people speak.”
Cain electrified the topic by saying he would secure the border with the combination of a fence, technology and “boots on the ground,” as well as empowering states to come up with their own way for handling immigration. Right now immigration policies are the sole terrain of the federal government, and states like Arizona and Alabama are being sued right now for trying to usurp federal law by imposing immigration restrictions.
Bachmann let a lot of insensitive remarks fly on this topic not only by referring to immigrants as “illegals” (as the other candidates did also) but also talking about “anchor babies,” when referring to the children born to immigrants in the U.S., who are protected by the 14th amendment in the Constitution.
But when not indulging in bigoted name calling, Bachmann took a moment to recognize a voting constituency that has been largely overlooked by Republicans: women. On the issue of foreclosures, Bachmann looked into the camera and said to the “moms” out there, “When you talk about housing foreclosures you are talking about women at the end of their rope because they are losing their nests for their families and children. … Obama has failed you on housing… I will not fail you.”
Except for a hiccup on foreign policy, Cain had mostly a smooth ride the rest of the night. He fudged an al-Qaeda question, but he was somewhat protected in that he admitted that he wasn’t strong on foreign policy going in to the debate. He also admitted that he was wrong on formerly supporting the TARP bailouts – a rare occasion of guilt admission during a debate that was mostly about denial.
Cain denied that his 999 plan was flawed. Perry denied that his policies helped immigrants (both citizen and undocumented). Romney denied that his healthcare plan was the basis for Obama’s. Hell, even Ron Paul denied saying he would cut the budget of Department of Defense … in the same sentence that he argued for cuts to the Department of Defense.
There was plenty of flip-flopping going around, but this clearly stung some candidates more than others. Cain and Romney are leading the pack by far, so the early blows that landed probably did little damage. Cain’s plan is simple, and the attacks on Romney are the same attacks from years ago, so have lost power.
However, if this was supposed to be Perry’s comeback, he failed miserably. He stuttered, he paused, he agreed with his colleagues far more than he should have, and his flurry on Romney barely landed anything – leaving Romney looking like Floyd Mayweather.
But ultimately that may not matter. Perry had no knockouts, and he’s done consistently bad in debates, but if you recall, another Texas governor did really bad in debates in previous Republican presidential campaigns. That person was George W. Bush and he went on to become the President of the United States. Twice.