Tuesday night’s GOP debate: Everyone tries to hold steady, but did Newt just make a move?

Tuesday night’s debate was the last one until mid-November, and that’s a good thing. After last night, the candidates may well need a cooling-off period from one another.

Reagan’s 11th Commandment — never speak ill of a fellow Republican — was broken early and often. The candidates went after Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax-reform plan right off the bat, and it was at best a draw for the Georgian. He really does receive some unfair attacks when his reform plans are conflated with state taxes: His answer that the state taxes (particularly sales taxes) will exist regardless is true, and no one would argue that leaving income taxes higher than 9 percent is somehow unfair for those states that have income taxes.

On the other hand, his defense against charges that the plan is regressive isn’t working. He can’t simply say “not true” about the analyses that conclude it would lead to higher taxes for lower- and middle-income families, and expect people to believe him. More broadly, he struggled yet again with questions about foreign policy, seeming to say he wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists — except in those cases when he would. He has a month to bone up on such questions before the next debate, which will be focused on foreign policy.

Mitt Romney took his turn in the dunk tank next, and it was his own fault: He answered a question about jobs and the economy by mentioning his pledge to repeal Obamacare. Rick Santorum brought up Romneycare and said the former Massachusetts governor had no credibility on the issue, and the splashing began. It was the first time during these debates that Romney has seemed flustered — although that was nothing compared to what came next, when Rick Perry accused him of having employed illegal immigrants. Perry and Romney spent what must have been nearly a minute trying to shout down each other.

Perry was roundly booed by the crowd, which on several occasions seemed to be quite pro-Romney, but he made his most respectable showing in any of the debates so far. He didn’t appear tired and wasn’t tongue-tied. He won’t regain all the ground he’s lost in the past month, but his slide should halt for a while.

On the flip side, Cain’s rise may plateau for at least a few weeks. It wasn’t a bad showing by him, but nor was it as good as the last couple of debates,after which he began climbing quickly in the polls. He has to take his 9-9-9 explanation to another level, and he has to prove he can speak authoritatively about topics other than taxes, jobs and the economy. Given his penchant for making controversial statements, any national headlines he makes between now and the next debate could just as easily be negative as positive.

If Cain were to stumble, the candidate best positioned to take advantage after Tuesday night might be Newt Gingrich. The former speaker seemed to be hitting cleanup all night, taking his turn after a few other candidates had gotten to swing. He didn’t miss much, if at all. And he only took a couple of swipes at the moderator(s) and media in general, fewer than usual.

After months of troubles, there is a chance that Gingrich could allow the other candidates to bloody each other and then be the kind of elder party statesman who waltzes in and unites the sparring factions. It’s still a very slim chance, but that’s more than he had until recently.

Santorum negated his often good statements by, just as often, coming across as petty.

Ron Paul gave the kind of answers we’ve come to expect from him, and they will continue to earn him a certain amount of support, but he is not going to be the nominee (although his son, Rand, may stand a decent chance one day due in large part to the elder Paul’s efforts).

Michele Bachmann made a blatant attempt to pull female voters with an answer about mothers and foreclosed homes, and she generally brought the conversation back to President Obama — in a way that made me think she is seriously angling to be the running mate for the eventual nominee. Most memorably, she let Romney off the hook about Obamacare by arguing that the federal health reform is destined to be thrown out either as a whole or one piece at a time. Romney/Bachmann 2012? (Only if Marco Rubio turns it down.)

The next month will be a critical time. Candidates who are short on money will find out whether they can squeeze enough cash out of their supporters to make it to 2012. They will find out whether their messages are resonating in the early primary and caucus states, or whether they’re too far back too late in the game to make a surge. They will face ever greater scrutiny of the plans they lay out (Perry said Tuesday that he’ll have a new economic plan by week’s end).

The race is about to tighten in a meaningful way.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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147 comments Add your comment

Jay

October 19th, 2011
5:31 am

The only moves Newt has been making this election have involved stealing Ron Paul’s ideas.

No one believes Newt will be any more faithful in implementing those ideas than he has been to his wives.

Rona Paul is the most credible, capable candidate in the race.

Juan

October 19th, 2011
5:56 am

Hey Kyle Wingfield, thanks for looking into your magical crystal ball to tell us the future that Ron Paul “is not going to be the nominee”….

…I’m glad to have the media around to tell me what to think, otherwise I might actually waste time campaigning for Paul.

But seriously, if you think Newt has a better chance than Ron Paul, I can’t even take the other stuff you say seriously.

ColinCb

October 19th, 2011
5:57 am

Gingrich is unelectable according to most of the right-wing blogs I was reading after this debate though there was a lot of respect for him and his performance. Something about his past that people seem to think dooms his chances in a general election.

Karl Marx

October 19th, 2011
6:35 am

Why is Ron (Pork) Paul even running. He should be running as a Libertarian not a Republican. No matter how you add it up he is a 3% candidate which is the same as all Libertarian party candidates are.

jt

October 19th, 2011
6:51 am

“, but he is not going to be the nominee ”
.
Au contraire…Ron Paul will be MY nominee, regardless of who a bunch of frightened naive statists elect.

DeborahinAthens

October 19th, 2011
7:06 am

How could you even consider Newt as a candidate? He is a horror of a human being. What a hypocrite! Preaches family values and cheats on his wife. Preaches fiscal conservatism and is in hock for 1.1 million that he can’t pay because his plastic Barbie of a wife wants to live beyond her means. Can you really see Mrs. Newt as the first lady of this country? I have a theory that she has no brain, but is a very sophisticated blowup doll.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 19th, 2011
7:13 am

Deb, stop trying to impose your values on the rest of us.

With the condition the U.S. is in, we need someone smarter and with better ideas than the do-nothing loser we have now. Newt is superior to Obozo intellectually and on policy.

Skip

October 19th, 2011
7:31 am

Another turd floats to the top.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

October 19th, 2011
7:33 am

I was surprised at the amount and levels of boos coming from the crowd towards Perry. Not that he didn’t deserve them, but that a GOP crowd thought he deserved them.

Clearly, the location helped Romney with the friendlier crowd, and once again, he came up the winner overall. Kyle’s right in that Cain has to do a better job of dismissing criticism of the 9-9-9 plan, and shame on the rest of the field for going after it, given their own lack of meaningful reform ideas. Gingrich may move up into low double digits in the polls as others falter, but the rest of the country still sees him (rightfully) as unelectable in the general election. Santorum was busy whoring himself (sorry, but there’s no other term to describe it) to the social conservative crowd, and that’s all he’ll get to vote for him (which will finally put to rest the lie that you have to appeal to that small minority to get the GOP nomination – hopefully forever). Bachmann and Paul are quickly fading into obscurity. I was Paul’s worst debate format thus far, in fact.

In short, minor uptick in Romney’s numbers over the next few days, another drop for Perry’s, but no real changes in Cain’s. Romney and Cain will continue to go back and forth in the top spot for the next few weeks.

ragnar danneskjold

October 19th, 2011
7:36 am

Good morning all, as is my custom I skipped the exchange of bumper sticker aphorisms last night. Hope you all saw the essay in today’s WSJ, by the greatest economist residing in Tennessee, Arthur Laffer, explaining why my guy Herman is on the right track with 9-9-9.

rwcole

October 19th, 2011
8:28 am

Hilarious. Little Barry wants someone to stop imposing their values on everyone else. Want to bet he didn’t feel the same way when Clinton was in office??

carlosgvv

October 19th, 2011
8:38 am

These debates continue to show that none of these people is actually qualified to be President. Obama is no bargain either. So, as usual, our choices in the coming election will be bad and worse. I’m amazed the American people have yet to really demand a viable third party.

Kay Ebeling

October 19th, 2011
8:39 am

I think Ron Paul won the debate last night and it’s amazing how the media ignores him: The audience applauded and shouted a couple times supporting Paul, he says it like it is and I really liked him on health care: Get rid of the third party and let people deal directly with a doctor, wow, what a concept, eliminate a gazillion dollars of detoured cash in health care and start taking care of sick people, without a government running the program.

Even Anderson Cooper allowed Paul to go on and on, speak extemporaneously for long periods of time, as that is what Paul does well. I want Obama to have another term, so will not vote for any of these guys debating, but I DO listen to Ron Paul and believe he has the most insight of any of them.

And Al Sharpton has it right, these debates are like a reality show, and part of the process should be booting one off the island after every episode.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 19th, 2011
8:40 am

Who’s your dream candidate, carlosgvv?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 19th, 2011
8:42 am

Kay supports Obozo, but wants the government out of health care.

Amazing.

MrLiberty

October 19th, 2011
8:43 am

ragnar danneskjold – Hard to give any kudos to an economist whose greatest accomplishment was coming up with a way to MAXIMIZE government revenue through appropriate application of taxes. Personally I would rather support a great candidate like Ron Paul and the superior economists behind him at the Ludwig von Mises Institute who are proposing ways to minimize government taking, minimize government spending, and increase personal freedom and liberty. Ron Paul 2012.

carlosgvv

October 19th, 2011
8:54 am

Barry – 8:40

I have two dream candidates – Colin Powell and Sam Nunn. You?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 19th, 2011
8:59 am

carlosgvv…I guess it would have to be Mitch Daniels.

I do like about 80% of Ron Paul, but I’m not comfortable with his approach to foreign policy and the war on terror. Now if we could combine Paul’s domestic policy with Powell’s foreign policy…

Aquagirl

October 19th, 2011
9:00 am

but did Newt just make a move?

Guess he spotted a hottie potential 4th wife in the audience.

Junior Samples

October 19th, 2011
9:16 am

So which will Newt accomplish first, pull the nation out of debt or his own campaign???

I’m guessing neither.

Dumb and Dumber

October 19th, 2011
9:20 am

“but did Newt just make a move?”

Yes, its called peristalsis.

jconservative

October 19th, 2011
9:39 am

Perry is the last man in the US to criticize anyone on immigration.

If apples and oranges is the best Cain can do on defending his economic policy, well good luck on his book tour.

Newt has more personal baggage than any candidate in decades. And I am not talking about the Tiffany’s stuff.

Santorum does not really exist.

Bachmann made it through the night without looking like a fool. A first! Well, on second thought, maybe she didn’t.

Romney is still wearing the albatross of “the liberal Republican Governor of Massachusetts”. But he keeps picking up endorsements from members of congress and state governors. Can we say that Romney is on the “slow track” for the nomination?

Paul is not really running for president; he is pushing his ideology of small government. I find him refreshing. And I love the idea of small government. But we are saddled with two parties in love with Big Government and I see no change in sight.

The next President will be a lover of Big Government just like the last 13 presidents.

But the question on the table remains, who can carry the Independents in the 8 to 10 swing states?

SBinF

October 19th, 2011
9:52 am

The biggest winner in last night’s debate? Obama!

I’m not sure why these folks are debating so much. The way I see it, the more the public sees them, the less they like any of them. For goodness sake, booing gay soldiers, booing a hypothetical comatose person who’s about to die, booing the unemployed, these debates aren’t helping the GOP field at all. It’s almost as if a Democrat plant has planned all this out.

Kay Ebeling

October 19th, 2011
9:57 am

Barry Bailout, it’s called listening to all sides and having an open mind, that’s how an Obama supporter can like Ron Paul.

I think he’s too corporate now, but Obama deserves a second term with a Democratic House so he can get something accomplished. Repubs have shown they like ideology more than problem solving and have prevented Obama from carrying out any real work.

I want Single Payer healthcare, which eliminates third parties and Ron Paul wants to eliminate third parties from health care.

If you pay attention and listen to everything, you discover nothing is black and white and nothing else.

joe

October 19th, 2011
9:58 am

Paul does have good ideas, like cutting all those useless departments, stopping foreign aid, bankrolling the UN and cutting defense by 10%, but some of his stances, like foreign policy, just won’t afford him a real shot. At best, some of the others who stand to good chance of knocking off Obama, should incorporate some of his edicts.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 19th, 2011
10:11 am

Kay, believe me, I do pay attention. For example, I pay sufficient attention to know that Ron Paul most definitely does not believe in single payer, as you seem to think.

Just amazing.

Obama did have a Democrat congress, complete with filibuster-proof Senate. Tell us what he accomplished, other than Obamacare, which you clearly oppose. 9% unemployment? $1.5 trillion annual deficits? Record numbers of Americans on welfare? Not much in the way of accomplishments.

ragnar danneskjold

October 19th, 2011
10:22 am

Good morning, Mr. Liberty @ 8:43. “Hard to give any kudos to an economist..” A conservative or libertarian does not care about “who” says something, but does care about the idea communicated. Your post suggests you did not read Laffer’s analysis in the WSJ, otherwise you would be talking about 9-9-9 rather than Mr. Laffer. Throw off your shackles of cultism, and start learning again.

Rubes never get it

October 19th, 2011
10:34 am

Gee, I don’t know if Newt made a move, but then I did not bother to watch. Were there any young blonde interns around?

Rafe Hollister

October 19th, 2011
10:55 am

Kay, how can anyone actually like Ron Paul and pull for Oblamer to get reelected. Seriously bi-polar, Ron Paul is the antithesis (polar opposite) of Oblamer. You are saying you are for small government but want a big government liberal to win.

I started out excited when Perry got in the race. Now, I hope he is the first one to leave. He is the most bitter back biting charlaton on stage. With his stand on illegal immigration he has no chance other than to bloody all his opponents. He is doing severe damage and should get out of the race.

Herman needs to get with some financial experts and refine his 9-9-9 plan or learn to better explain it. The media elite will never do the work to learn the complexities, he needs to learn to answer their arguments with simple sound bites.

redneckbluedog

October 19th, 2011
10:56 am

Who moved up..!?!? Who move down…!?!?!? Who cares…!?!?! Keep up the good work, squidbillies..:-)….This is the most fun I’ve had since they cancelled Jed, Jethro, and Gomer Pyle, USMC….:-)…..and please bring back some of those old “Clinton era” Tparty folks…Bob Barr, Bill McCollum, etc…..:-)…….

@@

October 19th, 2011
11:00 am

He has to take his 9-9-9 explanation to another level, and he has to prove he can speak authoritatively about topics other than taxes, jobs and the economy.

Right now, there’s nothing more important to Americans.

Cain is being encouraged to present his 9-9-9 as a payroll tax. It’s not that his plan (as it stands) is without merit. It’s that people aren’t getting it.

Dick Morris does a pretty good job of breaking it down. He admits it will impact lower-income families when it comes to essentials. Not a problem. Remove the tax on groceries for those who qualify. Prohibit increasing the tax on utilities and such.

One commenter over at dickmorris.com sees it the way I do.

Even if congress decided to raise the taxes, it would be completely transparent. Without deductions, credits, blah blah blah, the tax code can’t be used to control behavior of people and businesses. That’s another enormous benefit. It’s an incredible transfer of power from the government to the people.

And, another?

It would take away their principle source of income/campaign funding from lobbyists.

@@

October 19th, 2011
11:25 am

“Let’s not even deal with the facts right now. Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride — and loyalty,” Joyner wrote on his BlackAmericaWeb.com blog. “We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man.”–Tom Joyner

Were I black, I’d find ^^^ that HIGHLY insulting. It’s what Bush called, “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

But the focus on sticking together has prompted criticism from some who call it an overly simplistic view that shuts off dialogue about Obama’s achievements and his failures.

“It truncates vibrant conversation in the black community,” said Eddie Glaude Jr., a professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University. “What I hear them saying is, ‘Black folk need to get in lock step because we don’t want Republicans to take the White House.’ There is a kind of disciplining of the black polity that doesn’t lend itself to a vibrant and detailed consideration about political issues.”

Heaven forbid they should allow a black conservative to lead them out of the dem’s “promised land.”

schnirt

Tom

October 19th, 2011
11:28 am

The best moment of the evening was when Bachmann noted that first Obama went into Libya and now he’s ALSO getting us involved in Africa.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 19th, 2011
11:30 am

From a recent ABC interview with Obozo:

Tapper: Just to change the subject from the economy, the “Fast and Furious” controversy. Aside from some of the more wild charges out there, this is a big scandal. The Justice Department, the ATF was moving guns and some of them were tied to crime scenes. what was your response when you first heard about it?

Obama: Well I heard about it from the news reports. This is not something we were aware of in the White House and the Attorney General it turns out wasn’t aware of either.
——————-

So there were some murders, an investigation was done by the Mexican government, and it was the media that figured out the guns were walked across the border by the Obama administration? How does that happen?

Obozo is a liar.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

October 19th, 2011
11:32 am

You gotta love the numbskulls in the media and on both sides disparaging Cain’s 9-9-9 plans with the question, “What happens if Congress increases the (sales portion of the) tax?”

Well, what happens if Congress increases ANY tax? As if magically they’d increase a sales tax over an income tax.

GT

October 19th, 2011
11:43 am

I actually notice Rick Santorum for the first time. He had to carry the fight to the others to get noticed and I liked his energy. I thought Cooper did a horrible job as the moderator, losing control, sometimes on purpose hoping for a Jerry Springer moment. He tried randomly, after several minutes of free fall to regain the reins, from Perry, who I am sure he thought was the weakest debater on stage. Perry shot back at him, “your job is to ask the questions and I can answer them anyway I want to.” The first sign of a take charge kind of guy I have seen from him.

Newt really did look like the peacemaker and he said at the end this will not get the Republican Party into the Whitehouse. Somehow the guy in the shadows on these things comes out looking like the winner every time. The real winner was O. The world is getting a little taste how sausage is made in Washington. I think Bush told Obama on his tour of the Whitehouse after winning the election, “your enemies are not all outside your own party, beware.” The public which is larger than the Republican Party will not like this kind of show, progress was made last night only not for Republicans. Huntsman may be a genius.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 19th, 2011
11:47 am

The show Americans might like to see would be Newt debating Obozo. Americans are ready to dump their loser pResident and watching Newt destroy him would be quite entertaining.

HDB

October 19th, 2011
11:48 am

@@
October 19th, 2011
11:25 am

“Heaven forbid they should allow a black conservative to lead them out of the dem’s “promised land.”

The problem that black conservatives have can be summed up here:

http://www.blackcommentator.com/154/154_thindwa_black_conservatives.html

Black conservatives have to quit being parrots….and have a better tone of voice! I’ll listen more to Colin Powell than I would Herman Cain!!

UGA 1999

October 19th, 2011
11:50 am

I went to a local restaraunt that had a dedicated room that showed the debate. Almost movie like. It was great there was cheering and clapping throughout the debate. There were actually a few Democrats in the room that agreed that Obama will not get reelected.

@@

October 19th, 2011
11:52 am

GT:

Let me remind you that some of the most fierce campaign battles were between Obama and Hillary. Then, Obama was untested…he could afford to portray himself as “above it all.” His history in Chicago’s corrupt political machine should’ve indicated he wasn’t. The entrenched media ignored his history. Likewise, his first term has proven him, not only corrupt, but incompetent (enough) “to boot”.

@@

October 19th, 2011
11:56 am

HDB:

Collin Powell lost my respect when he whined after the fact (U.N. testimony).

He made it obvious that he can be pushed to go against his better judgment, and then whined as though it was someone elses fault.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

October 19th, 2011
12:01 pm

Bottom-line, last night’s debate means little to the primary or general elections. I still believe that the GOP will have a brokered convention (no clear winner beforehand) and that Romney will eventually win the nomination but somebody, probably Cain, is going to keep it close all the way through. Romney will attract enough moderates who will vote in GOP primaries to offset the social conservatives and Tea Partiers from getting a clear win.

In the general, he gets the moderates that a traditional conservative usually won’t attract, and likely wins in November.

@@

October 19th, 2011
12:02 pm

And HDB:

I read your link. Don’t try to sell me on the “harsh words” garbage. The left wants to hold everyone but themselves to political correctness.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

October 19th, 2011
12:04 pm

Newt was great but he sat on a park bench with Nasty Pelosi, just sayin…

And as far as Cain and 9-9-9 goes, read the Opinion Journal today, specifically Art Laffer’s column.

And from now on please address Herman as President Cain, yo.

@@

October 19th, 2011
12:07 pm

Andy:

Newt may have sat on that bench, but he didn’t mention how he would address global warming. Did he ever endorse Cap & Tax?

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

October 19th, 2011
12:08 pm

In historic visit, Clinton says U.S. wouldn’t mind seeing Gadhafi killed (if we ever, ever find him, just sayin…). Secretary vows more aid amid fight for freedom.

TRIPOLI, Libya — In a historic visit punctuated by celebratory gunfire and cries of “God is great,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Tuesday to continue U.S. support of a government struggling to consolidate control over the war-ravaged country.

Aaaahh yes, allah akbar indeed.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

October 19th, 2011
12:11 pm

@@- That’s the scary part, what’s he got on his mind?

GT

October 19th, 2011
12:16 pm

UGA 1999 they cheered Hitler on cold drunk night in Berlin, too. Somehow you drink where you feel comfortable. Maybe the fear of passing out with a bunch of progressive voters does not appeal to your sense of safety.

So old Dumpy G is going to tear the head off of O. Many a baseball player has come from the minors; many a high school recruit looked all American till they got on the big stage. They actually let real normal people into the presidential debates that measure response by intelligent answers and not approval of a hang em high crowd pleaser that ended up being a one night stand. PeeWee Herman would do well on that stage last night and obviously we don’t worry about Republican’s private lives with Newt so why not.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

October 19th, 2011
12:18 pm

Gotta love Bookman over at the Children’s Table trying to debunk the 9-9-9 plan using a liberal think tank’s analysis which deliberately leaves out two majors points in the plan; the reduction in the cost of goods with the lower corporate tax and the percentage of net new sales vs. resales (one is taxed and the other is not).

Typical liberal argument. Don’t argue the merits if they don’t fit your conclusions – change or omit the acts.

UGA 1999

October 19th, 2011
12:18 pm

GT…hmmm so you are comparing people watching the debate to Hitler? HAHA that is hiliarious, just shows your extremisms. Nice job. You continue to prove our case.