CNN hosted the latest Republican debate in Las Vegas Tuesday night and many are hailing it as the best debate yet. Perhaps it was the mere spectacle of debating in a city famous for excess, championship boxing events and gambling that inspired the candidates. At points the debate took on the feel of a sporting event with candidates shouting over each other and trading personal barbs. The audience responded with great enthusiasm to that atmosphere. Americans love a good fight!
Here are the highlights and lowlights from Tuesday’s debate:
- Anderson Cooper took time out from quest to be the next Oprah Winfrey to host the debate. Cooper is a liberal and it’s obvious he holds some disdain for the viewpoints of the GOP field, but he is one of the few liberal journalists who are able project a professional air through his biases. He is a lot like Brian Williams in that respect. Cooper was an adequate host and pretty much stayed away from the typical liberal funny business that tends to arise when they host events like this.
- In news that no one cares about, Jon Huntsman boycotted the debate. He claims his boycott was in protest to Nevada’s “leapfrog” of the primary process. However, rumor has it Huntsman was taking time out of the Presidential process to mourn the recent, tragic loss of Steve Jobs. Jobs actually created the original Huntsman prototype in his makeshift garage lab back in 1974. All production at the Huntsman assembly line has been halted until further notice.
- Michele Bachmann had a stellar night with her “sexy-librarian meets Isaac from Loveboat” terrycloth jacket. As usual the tiny, tea party tactician exhibited an experienced understanding of the tax system and the lethal effects of over-regulation on the American economy. She was one of the few candidates who actually called out Obama’s policies by name. She looked strong and confident. It was a good night for Mrs. Bachmann.
- Herman Cain put in another fine performance, although perhaps not his best. His meteoric, almost bizarre rise to the top of the field now puts him in the position of having a higher standard to perform to. He did not reach that standard in this debate. However, the most interesting thing about Cain right now is his 9-9-9 plan. There has been considerable debate over the merits of his plan – in the media and among conservatives specifically. Anderson Cooper started the debate with a question about 9-9-9. The candidates spent nearly 20 minutes grilling Cain about the plan. It was mentioned dozens of times in the first hour of the debate. It might not be the best plan in the world but everyone is talking about it. Everyone. Its classic, brilliant branding from the man who turned around Godfather’s Pizza.
- Rick Perry started out the debate with the energy of a man who had his first 5-hour Energy drink 20 minutes before the event began. It was refreshing to see him so energized, but he quickly faded back into the Perry of Debates Past, stammering and struggling to form his thoughts and responses.
- Mitt looked as solid as ever. As the media-proclaimed front runner he was the most obvious target for all the candidates. At times Mitt was forced to chastise his opponents for talking over him. His exchanges with Perry were particularly feisty. Romney is an experienced campaigner. He is nearly unflappable in debates, but a chink in the armor may have been revealed Tuesday night. He did seem agitated at having to answer question after question regarding Romneycare. His colleagues should note that pressing Romney continuously about the same issue seems to be the key to throwing him off his game.
- Newt is still super smart, but will Republicans vote for him?
- Ron Paul put in the typical Ron Paul performance. His supporters were out in full force, as usual. As a physician and man of faith, Paul is unparalleled in his rhetoric on healthcare reform and individual freedom. He’s the type of man who can have every person in the audience nodding their heads and cheering when he talks about the need for every person to take responsibility for their own decisions in life, and not wasting tax dollars trying to prevent people from making bad decisions. Then Paul starts talking foreign policy and makes it painfully obvious that he has very little understanding of the nuances of foreign relations. Republicans don’t like that.
- Rick Santorum probably had his best performance to date Tuesday night. He was strong and pointed. It is obvious Santorum is courting the family values vote. He spoke about faith and the family as the bedrock of American society. He was the only candidate who addressed the issue of eroding religious freedom in America. Santorum is so far to the back of the pack it’s puzzling as to why he continues to push forward. Could it be that Rick Santorum is actually running based on his own concerns, and not the polls? Gasp!
The GOP debate train rolls on with the next debate scheduled to be hosted in Michigan by CNBC, November 9th. It remains to be seen whether or not Jon Hunstman will be finished charging his batteries and updating his software in time to participate.