GOP DEBATE Winner: ‘None of the above’ – Campaign 2012
GOP debate winner: ‘None of the above’
By Philip Klein Senior Editorial Writer
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, businessman Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, stand together before a Republican debate Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
If tonight’s Republican debate did one thing, it exposed the weaknesses of the entire Republican field. Texas Gov. Rick Perry received the brunt of the attacks tonight, and had an uneven performance overall. No huge gaffes, but he continued to raise questions about his command of details, and faced his toughest criticism yet from the right on immigration and the HPV vaccine.
Mitt Romney was his usual smooth self, but he also hurt himself by going too hard against Perry on Social Security, accusing him of scaring seniors by accurately describing the program as a Ponzi scheme. Romney also dug in on his irreconcilable position on health care. On the one hand, he said “I’m happy to stand up for what I did,” yet on the other hand, he said that what he did in Massachusetts isn’t really relevant, because he’s running for president, not governor.
Perry, meanwhile, missed chances in both of these exchanges. While he came off better from the conservative perspective, he said that candidates needed to have the courage to present ideas for changing Social Security, even though he himself hasn’t backed up his talk with a plan. On health care, he made the same mistake as Tim Pawlenty, by citing President Obama to back up the claim that the Massachusetts plan was the inspiration for the national health care law, which gave Romney the easy response — that we shouldn’t trust anything Obama says. Perry would have been better off explaining how they’re the same.
Perry was also battered by Rep. Michele Bachmann on immigration and the HPV vaccine mandate. She hit him not only on the liberty issue, but also on the crony capitalism angle — that he did it to benefit campaign contributor Merck. Perry’s response, that he only got $5,000 out of the $30 million he raised, is not the best defense.