Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan takes heavy fire, and Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney spar over health care. Watch video of the best moments of the CNN GOP debate in Las Vegas. Plus, Howard Kurtz, Michelle Cottle, and more Daily Beast contributors grade the debate.
Mitt and Rick's Vicious Fight
The gloves are off! Perry pivoted off a question from host Anderson Cooper about the state of health care in Texas to talk about border security. He said “those who hire illegals ought to be penalized” and then attacked Romney for hiring illegal immigrants in his home. Romney laughed this off. Then the two yelled at each other. As the audience booed, Romney appealed to Cooper for order. Romney explains that he fired the immigrants when he discovered they were here illegally and calls for E-Verify. When Perry tried to speak over him again, Romney chides, “you have a problem with letting other people speak.”
Hey Rick, Is Mormonism a Cult?
The moment we all were waiting for. Rick Perry fumbled over his words while addressing the controversial remark one of his evangelical supporters made at last week’s Values Voters Summit. Texas pastor Robert Jeffress had introduced Perry as a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ” and proceeded to label Mormonism a cult. In a roundabout way, Perry managed to conclude that he didn’t agree with Jeffress’s statement. Romney remained level-headed, saying he’d “heard worse comments about my faith.” He said it was a “dangerous thing” to select candidates based on their religion. Santorum and Gingrich delivered their own mini-sermons on the role of faith in selecting a presidential candidate. Santorum took a more secular stance, emphasizing that voters “should pay attention to the candidates’ values and what they stand for.” Gingrich said faith “absolutely” matters, arguing that one can’t have sound judgment if he has not faith.
Cain’s 9-9-9 Under Fire
The underdogs wasted no time in piling on Herman Cain, seizing on the first question to attack his 9-9-9 plan. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum accused him of essentially calling for a value-added tax that would raise taxes on low-income Americans. Moderator Anderson Cooper pointed to new figures from the Tax Policy Center saying 9-9-9 would raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans. Rick Perry joined in, saying that, for example, Cain would be adding a sales tax to New Hampshire. Perry then promised a new plan at the end of the week and told Cain, “I’ll bump plans with you, brother.” Cain accuses them all of comparing “apples and oranges.” Mitt Romney, who has abstained from the frenzy so far, asks whether the state sales tax will go away; Cain called it an orange.
Hold on, Moms, It's Not Too Late
Michele Bachmann really came prepared for this debate. Well, sort of. She took a question about the foreclosure crisis to say that “when you talk about foreclosures, you're talking about women who are at the end of their rope because they're losing their nest for their children and their family.” Turning to the camera, she says, “President Obama has failed you on this issue of housing and foreclosures. Hold on, Moms, it's not too late.” She goes on to say that she will turn the economy around and that's how you hold on to your house. For someone who many pollsters counted out of the race, she sure had a lot to say.
Santorum Goes After Romney
Fight! Santorum and Romney went at it over health care. Santorum said Romney “lacks credibility” because his Massachusetts plan was the model for Obama’s health-care plan and his advisers helped craft it. Romney dismissed the attack, saying the plan was right for his state but not for others. Santorum interrupted (a common theme at this debate), and they tried to discuss. The audience, once again, began to boo. Romney, gaining the upper hand, reiterated his intention to repeal Obama’s health-care plan if elected.
Santorum and Perry Spar Over TARP
This Rick isn't supposed to have that much to say. Asked about the foreclosure crisis, Santorum turned to TARP. He accused Perry, Romney, and Cain of supporting TARP, which he said bailed out people who acted irresponsibly and hurt innocent homeowners whose houses have gone down in value. He singled out Perry, saying he wrote a letter urging Congress to pass TARP. Perry disputed it, saying he wrote a letter asking them to cut regulations but not to pass TARP.
Bachmann and Cain Squabble
Asked about foreign aid, Perry called for defunding the United Nations. Responding to Paul, who called for cutting all foreign aid, Bachmann made an exception for Israel and accused the Obama administration of not being sufficiently supportive of Israel. Bachmann also attacked Cain for saying he would consider negotiating with terrorists. In an interview with CNN before the debate, Cain said he would consider releasing Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for hostages, along the lines of Israel's deal with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit. Bachmann says such a move would be “naive.” Cain then backtracked on his earlier comment, saying he believes we shouldn't negotiate with terrorists—and that he wouldn't release “hostages” in Guantanamo.