Rick Perry seemed much more confident and lively and got off to a good start by calling himself the “authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience.” As the debate progressed, he became more inarticulate and lost his momentum, but he improved enough that some feel he won. His biggest moments were when he mentioned that the U.S. is sitting on 20 years’ worth of energy resources and declared energy independence a priority, and when he called for a discussion of whether to defund the United Nations.
Newt Gingrich climbed into third place nationally and in Iowa and in Florida before the debate. As usual, most of his lines won a huge applause. His biggest moments were when he called for holding three-hour, Lincoln-Douglas-style debates with President Obama and explained why he’d be concerned if a president didn’t have faith and didn’t pray. Evangelicals will like his answer, but it’s doubtful they will overlook his marital history.
For the first time, Gingrich criticized other candidates, specifically Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. He made a point of applauding Cain for proposing a bold and specific idea and said that it is incorrect to equate Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts to Obama’s. However, he said that Romney’s plan was still a form of big government. Romney replied that he got the idea for an individual mandate from Newt Gingrich, which he angrily protested as being a falsehood. Gingrich did admit that he supported an individual mandate, and that could stunt his growth.
Michele Bachmann appeared very intelligent and substantive. She had the strongest answer on foreign policy, criticizing President Obama’s deployment of 100 special forces to Uganda and involvement in Libya. She said that the Iranian terror plot and Iraq’s refusal to grant immunity to American forces were direct consequences of the U.S. not being respected. However, she still came off more like a cheerleader at times by proclaiming the inevitability of President Obama’s defeat, rather than a presidential candidate.
Rick Santorum did serious damage to his long-shot candidacy. His unprofessional badgering of Mitt Romney caused the audience to sympathize with his opponent, and put him in a very unfavorable light. His biggest moment was when he talked about the importance of protecting the family unit and the importance of faith in government.
Ron Paul had a big applause when he told the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters to demonstrate against the Federal Reserve and said that his rivals were erring by talking about replacing the income tax. Instead, he would replace it with nothing. His proposal to cut $1 trillion in spending was cheered, but the fact remains that Ron Paul represents a specific niche that will not grow any further during this campaign.
The debate will almost certainly bring down some of Cain’s support. The key question moving forward is where that support will go, and whether Cain can win it back. The next debate is on November 9, and with Iowa setting its caucus date for January 3, it’s likely to be just as feisty.
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