Another 90 minutes, another GOP debate. This time the idea was to get them to debate the economy, and while I’m not totally sure that happened, we did find out some interesting things. I use “find out” loosely, but I’m trying to be optimistic.
Here are my winners and losers:
Romney: The man is good. Very, very good. Every question he was asked turned into a win for him. Most notably, Perry went after him about healthcare, and Romney used it to beat Perry down with comparative statistics about healthcare coverage between Massachusetts and Texas. Of all the people running, Romney’s state has the lowest number of uninsured. Perry’s is the highest. has For a visual representation of that, check this chart that Ezra Klein posted.
Herman Cain: Herman Cain doesn’t even have to say “9-9-9″ anymore, he just gestures to the audience and they say it for him. Regardless of whether this plan is a good idea (and I have serious doubts), he has made it a catchphrase. All of the candidates took a swipe at it (especially notable was Huntsman’s assertion that it wouldn’t pass and we needed something “doable, doable, doable”), none of them held water and the crowd didn’t react strongly to any of it. Cain has pinned his plan as the most “bold” of all of the plans, something that plays well in to the hands of the angry Republicans he is so good at attracting. The more attention Cain gets, the more that the not-so-top-tierers like Bachmann and Santorum become irrelevant. Tonight, with the hearty chants and big cheers, was no exception. He also let go of his go-to example of the “Chilean Model,” which always caused a few raised eyebrows. Overall, a solid job by our angry private-sector friend.
Tables: Tonight’s debate was a totally new format. All of the candidates sat in chairs around a desk and asked each other questions. Aside from it being a lot less confrontational than other debates, it was also pretty interesting to watch them interact with each other in such a way. This led moderator Charlie Rose to declare that he “[believes] in tables.” This led to a flurry of hilarity on Twitter, but I think he has a point.
Bachmann: After pondering why people still cared what she had to say, I listened. And what I heard was a bunch of self-aggrandizing and some use overshoots of facts. First, she got her facts wrong when she said “every year we are spending about 40 percent more than what we take in.” This is just wrong. I’ll go ahead and quote the Washington Post on this one: “But that figure fell to around 35 percent this year and is projected to drop even more sharply in 2012, to about 27 percent, assuming the economy continues to grow and tax collections continue to recover.” Then Bachmann said that the debt-limit deal gave Obama “another $2.4 trillion blank check to spend.” Also false. That money was for debts already taken on by Congress, not so Obama could go out and buy more shiny things. She also said Obama wanted to turn Medicare into Obamacare. The Washington post previously looked at this claim, calling it “nonsensical.” It still is. Looks like your team needs to do more fact checking and less writing of semi-heart-wrenching personal stories, Michelle.
Perry: Perry seems to just not matter in any of these debates. This time around his answers were worse, in my opinion, than any of his other debate attempts. Instead of answering questions, he awkwardly brought all of his answers back to energy. It didn’t work. It was also telling that Romney focused almost no energy on Perry, as though he were a non-issue. It did work. Surprisingly, Perry actually put the most thought into this debate, spending the most time preparing and getting his study on. But despite his extra preparation and extra sleep, his performance was much like a slow motion train wreck…powered by American energy…or something.
The heckler: Near the very end of the debate, some random heckler started yelling something. It wasn’t clear what it was, and he ended up looking silly as the moderators and the candidates awkwardly laughed it off. Next time you heckle, try to get within earshot of a camera.