Republican presidential debate: Who won?(Read article summary)
The general consensus among pundits is that Mitt Romney did well, while Rick Perry might have a problem with his insistence that Social Security is a 'Ponzi scheme.'
Jae C. Hong/AP
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania were also there, and had their moments, but seemed less central to the action, given that organizers NBC and Politico placed them on the wings of the crowd.
Weâ€™ll get right to the important horse race question: Who won?
Well, everyone had their moments, and often with stuff like this it isnâ€™t apparent until weeks later what is resonating in voter minds. But the early read is that Mr. Romney did well for himself. Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post said Romney started slowly, but by the end was sounding â€śreasonable, and, dare we say it, presidential.â€ť Erick Erickson at the conservative blog, RedState, said Romney made no major mistakes and was â€śthe strongest of anybody on stageâ€ť.
Romney planted some obviously planned zingers on Governor Perry, such as the fact that job growth in Texas was greater when George W. Bush was governor than it has been under Perry. But as Mr. Erickson, pointed out, Romney has been running for president since 2007 â€“ he ought to be good at debates by now.
What about Perry? At the beginning he sounded strong, sidestepping questions as to the quality of Texas jobs and the low percentage of Texas residents with health care to emphasize the stateâ€™s strong job growth and overall economic health.
But he got tangled in an exchange on Social Security that could haunt him if he becomes the nominee. Romney defended the idea of the program, while Perry called it a â€śmonstrous lieâ€ť in regards to its promises to younger participants, and repeated his insistence that it is a â€śPonzi scheme.â€ť
Think those clips will show up in attack ads? We do. Perry seems to be wagering that there is a groundswell of voter dissatisfaction with Social Security thatâ€™s heretofore been untapped. Or he just is focusing on appealing to the GOP primary electorate first. Or something.
Erickson said Perry â€śstumbled several times.â€ť Liberals were gleeful â€“ Jed Lewison on Daily Kos said the Social Security exchange is a â€ścore differenceâ€ť between Romney and Perry and will be the only thing about this debate thatâ€™s remembered.
As to the other highlights, Congresswoman Bachmann seemed to orbit about the Romney versus Perry exchange, without joining in. She did point out that as a legislator she was well aware that Obamaâ€™s health care reforms could not be repealed with a simple executive order, as Romney and Perry implied.
As for Congressman Paul, he had a postal problem â€“ the Perry camp has been circulating a letter he wrote in 1987 in which he criticized the Reagan administration and resigned from the GOP. Paul pointed out the inconvenient truth that under Reagan, government spending and tax revenue continued to rise.
â€śThe [Reagan] message was great, but the consequence â€“ we have to be honest with ourselves â€“ it was not all that great: huge deficits during the 1980s,â€ť said Paul.
Then, during a discussion on whether the US should continue to fence off its southern border, Paul said that he did not believe that a barbed wire fence with machine guns is what America is all about.
Plus, he hinted that the fence could be turned around and used to control the US population.
â€śEvery time you think of a fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in,â€ť he said.
The best line? Weâ€™ll give that to Mr. Huntsman. Asked whether he would join the rest of the candidates in taking a pledge to not raise taxes, he sidestepped.
â€śIâ€™d love to get everybody to sign a pledge to take no pledges,â€ť he said.