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The purpose of this post is to provide a high level summary and personal opinion about the Republican Presidential debate held last night, October 18th, in Las Vegas.  The moderator was CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  The debate included: Speaker Gingrich; Governors: Perry and Romney; Senator Santorum, Representatives Bachmann and Paul: and businessman Herman Cain.

I prefer to not label people as “winners” or “losers” so I will define my analysis in terms of how candidates met my personal expectations.

Exceeded Expectations: 

Speaker Gingrich – As usual, Newt had the wittiest and most concise observations. More importantly, he chose to stay out of the mudslinging featured by the lower tier candidates.

Best Moment – After virtually every other candidate attacked Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax proposal, Newt was asked about the difficulty of selling that proposal to the people. Newt responded “You just watched it.”  Later in the debate, he also deftly addressed the serious problem that Republicans have with Latino voters.

Worst Moment – His answer on Yucca Mountain (as a nuclear waste storage site) was void of sensitivity to state’s rights.

Met Expectations:

Representative Bachmann – Michelle Bachmann had an overall good night. She regained an image of confidence and thoughtfulness that had been missing in recent debates.

Best Moments – When discussing tax policy “Every American should pay something.” Also, she made an effective passionate appeal to mothers facing economic hardship and home foreclosures.   I believe she was also the only candidate who had the courage to answer the question about the 14th amendment.  She said something needed to be done about “anchor babies”.  Whether you agree or disagree, she shows courage and honesty.

Worst Moment – Regarding helping mothers facing foreclosures, she really did not have anything specific to offer.  It’s not wise to raise a big issue without a big solution.

Senator Santorum – Rick Santorum has consistently had his facts right on a broad set of issues, policies and background facts about his opponents.

Best Moment – He was very powerful in attacking Governor Romney as having “no credibility” on the healthcare issue (as a consequence of signing “Romneycare”).

Worst Moment – He lost control of himself several times as he interrupted Governor Romney and others trying to respond to his charges.  As a two term Senator, he should be more respectful of the debate rules.


Failed to Meet Expectations:

Herman Cain – Herman Cain was under attack from the opening bell.  It appeared Anderson Cooper was targeting Mr. Cain from the outset.  The other candidates were prepared to enthusiastically pounce on the 9-9-9 plan.   Mr. Cain should have anticipated this attack after his surge in the polls.  He maintained a cool demeanor, but his answers were not compelling.  It may be true that 9-9-9 will compel more middle class Americans to pay taxes.  If so, he should have Representative Bachmann’s courage to acknowledge it and defend it.

Representative Paul – I thought I was a Libertarian, but after listening to Ron Paul, I have accepted that I’m just not fully in that camp.  Regarding 9-9-9, he says it was “dangerous and regressive” and that his solution would be to repeal the XVI amendment (Federal Income Tax), but that implies a reduction in the government of 80%-90%, which is not realistic.

I have written an earlier post agreeing with Ron Paul that it is time to withdraw from Afghanistan.  I agree with his views about rolling back the number of military bases around the world and focusing on defense.

Governor Perry – Boy, what a disappointment as a candidate.  He starts out by twice referring to Herman Cain as “brother”.  Did you hear that term applied to any other candidate?  He gets a question about the 14th amendment and provides an answer about energy policy.  He digs up an old debunked rumor about Governor Romney employing illegals and then interrupts Governor Romney as he explains the facts, which simply don’t support the charge.

Governor Romney – I thought he did a good job early in the debate about 9-9-9 of engaging Herman Cain with respect as he expressed his concerns about the tax proposal.  I’m not exactly sure why he decided to participate in the back and forth snide commentary with Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, both of whom gain valuable exposure when they extend an argument with a front runner.

Governor Huntsman – The Governor did not participate in the debate, but he wrote one heck of a good article featured today in the Wall Street Journal Opinion page:  “Too Big to Fail is Simply Too Big”.  I almost moved him up to “exceeded expectations” for skipping the event.


Overall Summary – My short term reaction was to conclude that President Obama won the debate because the tone of the discussion was too harsh and negative.  On further reflection, I think it is more important to have a full out airing of candidate backgrounds, principles and beliefs right now, before the primary voting starts.  The worst case scenario is to have a nominee unprepared for the all-out assault that they will face from the Obama political machine.

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