Each Republican presidential debate seems to produce a new story line, and that was certainly true Tuesday night. Front-runner Mitt Romney took some hits, his main challenger Rick Perry scored some points, and Herman Cain stumbled, according to Politico
. Here are its nine takeaways from the debate.
1. “Mitt Romney is not a Teflon candidate”
The former Massachusetts governor didn’t perform poorly, as Politico sees it. But he also didn’t do as well as in previous debates. Texas Gov. Perry made inroads when he attacked Romney for hiring illegal immigrants at his home. Romney didn’t handle it well. First he relied on the point that technically it wasn’t he who hired the works. And then he said that he told the company that did hire the workers: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.” That’s not exactly a principled stand against illegal immigration. And Romney almost lost his temper against Perry.
2. “Rick Perry’s back in the ring”
Perry’s successful immigration attack against Romney, turning what had been an issue of weakness for the Texas governor into one of strength, crystalizes his comeback performance in the debate. In the last three debates, he barely appeared to be awake and had some trouble speaking coherently. But his effort Tuesday represented a sharp turnaround. And that could make a difference for him with both voters and donors.
3. “Herman Cain likes fruit, if not details”
The stakes have risen for the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO since he placed first in several national polls. While he didn’t bomb out in the debate, Cain didn’t do particularly well either. He had difficulty explaining the details of his 9-9-9 tax plan, which received plenty of attack from his rivals. He urged listeners to see his web site to learn about the plan’s savings, but the web site was down. Cain also stumbled over a foreign policy question.
4. “Ron Paul wants to cut funds from an early state”
That state is Israel. Most of the Republican candidates have expressed strong support for the U.S. ally. But Texas Rep. Paul said U.S. aid “teaches them to be dependent.” He undoubtedly alienated many Jewish voters.
5. “Michele Bachmann is back to talking points”
At first, the Minnesota representative did well attacking Cain’s tax plan. But she faded later on. Bachmann killed the argument over Romneycare, shifting the focus to Obamacare. And her call to “the moms” who were watching was a bit odd.
6. “Rick Santorum is sticking with family values”
The former Pennsylvania senator focused on those issues as much as he could. Santorum was likely trying to appeal to conservative voters in Iowa. He was forceful in hitting Romney over healthcare.
7. “The field is struggling with the tone on immigration”
The candidates have been taking a hard line on the issue, creating concern among some Republicans, especially Hispanic ones. Romney added a voice of moderation, citing the difference between legal and illegal immigration. But no one chimed in with agreement.
8. “TARP is still an issue”
That’s the bank bailout — the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Supporters of it may lose credibility with Republican voters. The candidates seemed unsure of how to deal with the issue. Cain says he supported the bailout, and then changed his mind. Paul’s camp launched an ad on the issue before the debate even ended.
9. “Even in Nevada. the calendar is not debate fodder.”
The primary calendar that is. The dispute over caucus/primary dates between Nevada and New Hampshire didn’t come up. That was good news for Romney, as he has taken heat for declining to participate in the boycott of Nevada’s caucuses.
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