Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum took on Perry for requiring female students to get an HPV vaccination. He said he was offended that Perry had overruled parental rights. Santorum also had a bright moment when he criticized a growing “isolationist” trend within the Republican Party. This will earn him support from foreign policy hawks, but it’s still difficult to see the rationale for his candidacy. He isn’t the only hawk or social conservative in the race, and the rest didn’t lose re-election by 18 points.
Businessman Herman Cain’s strongest moment was when he proposed the U.S. should follow the Chilean model in reforming Social Security. He is making a concerted effort to be a candidate of more substance, and is emphasizing states’ rights more frequently. His primary obstacle is setting his candidacy apart from the others. There is no issue, cause or strength that he can call his own. He originally had significant support from the anti-Islamist voters, but it will be difficult for Cain to recover after his visit to a Muslim Brotherhood mosque.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman vastly improved upon his last debate performance. He spoke articulately and came off as a credible presidential candidate. However, his criticism of other Republican candidates’ heated rhetoric and defense of the politicized science behind global warming and evolution likely damaged his candidacy. His goal is to make a strong stand in New Hampshire by winning support from moderates and Independents. This debate performance re-introduces him to the voters, but he will not be the darling of the average conservative.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul went after Perry, and hit the typical libertarian talking points. He had numerous applause lines, and spoke on economic issues with clarity and substance. His problem is that he’s probably reached the ceiling of his support. He is not the second choice of many primary voters. They either support his candidacy or staunchly oppose it.
There was no major shake-up in the race this debate, and Romney and Perry will still be considered the frontrunners. The second-tier candidacies will experience the greatest amount of shifting, and it is very possible that one of them will break through the pack to enter the first tier by the time this series of five debates is over. This is only the beginning.
Pages: 1 2