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September 8th, 2011
 

Republican Debate Winners and Losers

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Michele Bachmann: Bachmann had a solid debate performance, but it was clear from the beginning moments of the debate that she is no longer the center of the media’s attention now that Rick Perry has joined the race.  Bachmann had a couple of good moments, but she failed to land a shot against Mitt Romney or Rick Perry.  While she is now relegated to the same status as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, Bachmann did have an opportunity to attack Perry on immigration but failed to score any points.  It was a missed opportunity.

KEVIN HALL:

Michele Bachmann:  She has disappeared.  Bachmann shined in the New Hampshire debate in June when she first entered.  Now, she is just another candidate.  It was good for her to jump into the debt discussion and relate it to Reagan, but that was the only real bright spot for the Minnesota congresswoman.  Bachmann’s campaign is losing steam in a big way, and she needed to do something to regain the momentum.  It did not happen tonight.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Herman Cain: Once again Herman Cain had a solid debate performance but didn’t use his time on the stage to distinguish himself from his opponents.  Cain’s charming personality and clever answers will score him points with some viewers, but that’s all style points.  Cain needs to score points on substance, not just style.  Cain had some solid answers, especially on immigration, but unless he’s willing to take on the others on the stage, he’s not to gain momentum.

KEVIN HALL:

Herman Cain:  Like Bachmann, he has disappeared.  Cain sounded good with the time he had, but as usual, there was little depth, and his answers weren’t much different than the first three debates.  He was the strongest Fair Tax advocate in the race, but his new “9-9-9 plan” does not include the Fair Tax.  As Craig wrote in our live chat, it sounds like a pizza deal, instead of an economy fix, from the ex-Godfather’s CEO.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Newt Gingrich: If Gingrich’s campaign operated as smoothly as he debates, he would be a real contender.  Gingrich has shown an ability to shine in the debates without having to be confrontational with the other candidates.  His understanding of our nation’s history and his ability to relate it to the issues of the day is unmatched.  The question that Gingrich needs to answer is not whether he belongs on the debate stage, it’s whether he can run a legitimate campaign.

KEVIN HALL:

Newt Gingrich:  Another great performance from the former House Speaker.  Newt shines in debates.  He took on the moderators again and scored.  He was authoritative and clear in all his answers.  Too bad his campaign performance cannot match his debate efforts.  Based on the debates alone, Gingrich should be a frontrunner.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Jon Huntsman: For the first two-thirds of the debate, I was impressed with Huntsman.  He finally seemed to find his voice as a serious candidate in the race, no longer did he seem like an afterthought.  Huntsman’s problem is that he didn’t finish as strong as he started.  His defense of the global warming theory fell flat.  His compete embrace of evolution was well received by the MSNBC moderators, but it will not sit well with people of faith.

KEVIN HALL:

Jon Huntsman:  Much better than the Iowa debate last month when he was barely noticeable.  Huntsman made himself noticeable, and not just with his odd looking, orange, spray-on tan.  He still will not appeal to conservative voters and has no chance of winning, but Huntsman did much better this time.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Ron Paul:  Ron Paul did not have a good debate performance.  It was obvious early on that he wanted to challenge Perry, which he got two cracks at.  The problem was that candidate Paul is not as good at taking a shot at Perry as his campaign team is with their new video ad.  There is a reason why Paul’s TV ads never feature the candidate himself, and we saw that first hand in the debate.  Paul is at his best when he is talking monetary policy.  That didn’t happen last night.  Paul’s attacks may be valid, but they were ineffective due to his delivery.

KEVIN HALL:

Ron Paul:  It was typical Ron Paul.  He was all over the place and at times not very coherent.  His fans will love him no matter what.  His detractors will continue to be his detractors.  He neither gained nor lost anything in this debate.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Rick Perry: Perry performed better in the debate than I expected.  Perry was the one with a target on his back last night, and multiple candidates took their shots at the newly minted frontrunner, but nobody was able to break skin.  Perry shrugged off the attacks by Ron Paul.  He wisely defended his position on Social Security.  The only bruise he received last night was from Santorum, who landed a hook on Perry’s executive order requiring girls in Texas to be vaccinated against certain strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer, among other things.

I thought Perry made a couple of mistakes when he opened the door to let Ron Paul bash him for supporting Al Gore in 1988 and later when he opened the door for someone to attack him on the immigration issue.  The fact that nobody touched him on the immigration issue has to have the Perry campaign smiling today.

KEVIN HALL:

Rick Perry:  It wasn’t great, but it did not need to be.  Perry is the frontrunner and walked away mostly unscathed.  He stood his ground on the Social Security “Ponzi scheme” stance and earned points for that.  There were some awkward silences at times where Perry was searching for the right words.  He’s not as smooth as Mitt Romney.  That might not necessarily be a bad thing, but he needs to sharpen up his answers.

It was a bad decision to go after Ron Paul on his letter to Reagan.  No need to punch down to a candidate way behind you in the polls.  Overall, Rick Perry entered the debate as the frontrunner and nothing that happened tonight changes that.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Mitt Romney: Romney seemed more engaged in this debate than the previous two he participated in.  If anything, this debate proved how difficult it’s going to be for Romney to attack Perry.  Romney went after Perry on this issue of Social Security, and while that has members of the media and the Democrats salivating, he’s on the wrong side of the issue in a GOP primary.  It’s been said numerous times that Romney doesn’t want to be the one that has to go after Perry, but that’s mainly because Romney would be attacking Perry from the left, which might hurt Perry if he’s the nominee but could also make it impossible for Romney to win the Republican nomination.

KEVIN HALL:

Mitt Romney:  Very solid performance for Romney.  He was polished and smooth.  Romney didn’t lose any ground, but he also failed to gain on Perry.  Much like Perry, Romney entered as the #2 guy in the polls and nothing happened to change that.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Rick Santorum: Once again Santorum shows that he’s a good debater.  When given the opportunity to differentiate himself from his opponents he typically does a good job.  His comment that he would expect someone like President Obama, not a so-called conservative governor, to mandate HPV vaccines for girls in Texas was deadly.  That was the only painful shot that Perry took to the jaw throughout the debate.

Like Bachmann, Santorum missed an opportunity to land another blow on Perry when answering a question on immigration.  Santorum could have easily used the question to attack Perry’s stance on the issues, but instead, chose to highlight his grandfather’s legal route in becoming an American.  Santorum’s answer was a good one, but he needed to score points and gain attention.  He could have accomplished both by challenging Perry’s position on immigration.

KEVIN HALL:

Rick Santorum:  Another solid performance, but also kind of got lost in the shuffle.  Santorum landed the best blow against Perry on the HPV issue, saying that’s not what you would expect from a conservative governor.  Santorum continues to add substance to the debate, but he his performance in Iowa last month was better.

CRAIG ROBINSON:

Overall Winner:  Rick Perry

For the most part, Perry came away from the debate unscathed.  Romney’s decision to attack Perry’s position on social security will have the reverse affect that Romney’s campaign was hoping for.  The primary electorate agrees with Perry – Social Security is broken and needs to be fixed, not preserved.

Overall Loser:  Mitt Romney

Romney’s trajectory is now going in the wrong direction, and thus, he is forced to engage the new frontrunner in the race.  The problem is that Romney is now forced to attack Perry from the left, which only entrenches Perry’s support among the Republican base. Romney’s appeal is going to be limited to moderate, establishment Republicans.  The last I looked, that didn’t work out so well for Rudy Giuliani, who not surprisingly focused on New Hampshire and Florida just like Romney.

KEVIN HALL:

Overall Winner(s):  Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.  Gingrich wins on performance and substance.  Perry wins because of the impact, or lack thereof, of this debate.  Nothing changed in the overall race, so Perry wins by default.

Overall Loser:  Michele Bachmann.  She has fallen back to single digits, even behind Ron Paul, in some polls.  Bachmann needs to staunch the bleeding quickly.  She did not do that tonight.

 

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheIowaRepublican.com. Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.




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