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GOP Debate: Romney, Perry & The Underdogs

Submitted by on September 23, 2011 – 10:08 am2 Comments
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The big story of last night’s debate was the intense back-and-forth between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. But while Perry, Romney, and Michele Bachmann may still be considered the most likely candidates with a shot at the Republican Presidential Nomination, the other six (yes, six) candidates provided some of the most audience-pleasing moments in last night’s debate in Orlando, FL.

Ron Paul: Paul is this reason this group can’t be called “second-tier candidates.” As he noted, he places third in many current polls (Bachmann takes that spot in others, but they both trail significantly behind Romney and Perry). In the libertarian streak that runs through every candidate’s answers throughout the night, the debates continue to show that Paul has not changed to fit the Republican Party; rather, the Republican Party has come to him. In another stunning instance of Paul’s tenacity, he drew applause for defending an abortion policy that would have been trouble for most candidates.

Herman Cain: Playing the crowd like a seasoned entertainer, Cain is one of the few candidates who genuinely seems to be having a good time. His 9/9/9 plan made a big impact on the crowd at the debate and at home.

Rick Santorum: Santorum may have had a few strong moments and shows true passion, but he squanders any advantage on answers like his “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” response. While Santorum simply opposes homosexuality on biblical and ethical grounds, his answer was a rambling, confusing discourse about how “any type of sexual activity has no place in the military.” He contends that the DADT repeal gave unfair “special privilege” to a group. (What special privilege, Senator? The privilege to serve their country? And if the military discourages all sexuality, should heterosexual soldiers be kicked out for fraternizing or discussing their relationships?)

By the way, the question was submitted on YouTube by a gay soldier serving in Iraq, and it drew boos from a few members of the audience. That’s right, the flag-waving GOP booed an active duty soldier, and none of the candidates commented on that. Maybe they could draw some cheers by discussing the deaths of various American citizens.

Newt Gingrich: This man may have essentially no campaign and no prospects, but he can debate. His answer to a question on unemployment benefits was an excellent example of how to spin a direct attack into an opportunity for himself.

John Huntsman: Actually, Huntsman didn’t really bring much to debate. His one moment to stand out- emphasizing his superior experience in foreign policy during a debate on Afghanistan- was drowned out by a forceful and effective Rick Santorum. And his attempts at humor in the final moments were just kinda sad.

Gary Johnson: Gary “Big Hands” Johnson was a defensive tackle with the San Diego Chargers in the 70s and 80s. Wait, that’s not him? So who is this guy?

The relative newcomer to the Republican debates (he also participated in one in May), this Gary Johnson is a former Governor of New Mexico.

The Washington Post named him a winner of the debate, but I disagree. Yes, he’s gonna get some traction from the line he borrowed from Rush Limbaugh, “My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration. ”

But aside from that, Johnson really only repeated two things all night: “Balance the budget” and “reform taxes.”

This was particularly amusing when the debate moderator asked Johnson what he thought about U.S.–Cuba relations, and Johnson responded as if he hadn’t even heard the question: “I think the biggest threat to our national security is the fact that we’re bankrupt.” He then proposed to balance the budget and cut defense spending. (Is this meant to convince Fidel Castro that we are super confident in capitalism, and he should just give up?)

And while we’re on the subject, several fact-checking Web sites have made abundantly clear that the U.S. is not bankrupt by any definition.

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