10.19.11 1:54 AM ET
GOP's Fight Night
Mitt and Rick had their most vicious fight yet. Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 was an enormous target. Howard Kurtz, Paul Begala, and more Daily Beast contributors weigh in. Plus, watch video of the 7 best moments.
Cain was less than effective at playing defense, and Perry kept interrupting Romney. Howard Kurtz on why the ex-Massachusetts governor beat the odds in Las Vegas.
Herman Cain quickly found himself being pummeled at Tuesday night’s CNN debate, even as his rivals preceded their punches with words of praise, and his “read my plan” defense was strikingly weak.
But after those opening moments, it was Mitt Romney who took over the event with a series of toe-to-toe exchanges—with Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and, most vociferously, Rick Perry—in which he stood his ground and refused to be talked over.
Not a single candidate came out ahead in last night’s Vegas slugfest—Romney looked petty, Perry looked desperate, and Cain was obviously lying to himself about his 9-9-9 plan.
When a big CNN debate that’s supposed to focus on America’s future concludes with an utterly irrelevant dispute about a 25-year-old scandal that tarnished the reputation of a conservative saint, then you know it was a terrible night for the party. One of the savviest political observers I know (who’s been working for Republicans since the Nixon era) sent a terse text message offering an appropriate reaction to the Destruction Derby: “GOP, RIP.”
The bottom line: Cain trod water, but his plan sank. Santorum excelled at forensics but probably shouldn't be touting his skill at winning swing states when he lost Pennsylvania the last time around by 16 points. Ron Paul outdid himself by bringing up Iran-Contra. Bachmann seems to have one decibel level, around 11, and seems to assume that it is now a given that an incumbent president equally polling his major rivals is already a dead electoral letter. Gingrich made sense on Yucca Mountain, I think. Perry gave petulance a whole new universe of meaning, and was so personal with Romney he lost the crowd. I wonder if Romney will appeal to Western Republicans more than Southern ones. But this felt to me like a settling. On Romney. And learning to like it.
Romney had some good moments, but at many others he sounded
like he wanted Anderson Cooper to fight his battles for him, says Paul Begala.
Here's what I saw when he dropped the mask a bit. Someone who is understandably contemptuous of the simplistic Cain tax plan. Someone who is justifiably frustrated that his central public accomplishment, Romneycare, is now an albatross. He was eloquent in defense of religious pluralism when asked about the prejudiced pastor who attacked his Mormon faith.
When Bachmann declared with passion and empathy, “hold on, moms, it’s not too late,” she just might have earned herself another day or two in the sun, says Michelle Goldberg.
If my Twitter feed is any indication, most liberals assume last night’s debate went badly for Michele Bachmann. After all, many of her answers were pure Daily Show bait, full of ignorance and absurdity. Speaking of Obama, she said, “First he put us in Libya, now he’s put us in Africa.” In one of the night’s tawdriest moments—which is saying quite a lot—she attacked the president for having a “problem with illegal immigration” because “[i]t’s his uncle and aunt that have had immigration problems.” She promised to increase taxes on poor people and said Iraq should reimburse the United States for the cost of “liberating” it. In response to a question about birthright citizenship, she went off about anchor babies, implying she’d try to penalize the American-born kids of immigrant parents, or something.
He’s to the left of Cain on taxes, to the right of Netanyahu
on terrorism—and he lands body blows in debate. Rick Santorum may be about to have his moment, says Michael Tomasky.
As one who thinks every one of these Republicans would destroy America, I now confess myself most interested by far in the particular way in which Rick Santorum would destroy it. This is at least the third debate in a row in which he has shown himself to be the most cogent of the bunch. His riff toward the end when he bragged about winning three times in a blue state just might have been the kindling. Whether he’s spread enough gasoline to get the fire going, I have no idea. But something tells me he’s about to get his 15 seconds.
Cain talked too much about ‘apples and oranges,’ Perry won the best-improved award, and Romney was the most reasonable person onstage, showing why he remains the real frontrunner.
Sin City brought out the devil in the GOP candidates tonight, delivering the most pugilistic Republican Party debate to date. There were policy punches and personal attacks, with no love lost between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. With the debate just minutes over, here’s my play-by-play take on each candidate tonight.
And Cain didn't do as badly as you think he did. Michelle Cottle on how the bloodletting in Vegas rejiggered the race.
Ouch. This one is going to leave a mark.
Right out of the gate, tonight’s Republican showdown in Vegas was heated, personal, and unrelenting. The first 20 minutes were all about dog-piling on “It” candidate Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Then there was the group assault on Romneycare. And more than once the scene degenerated into a one-on-one shouting match between combatants looking to show that the other guy was not only a shameless liar but lacked all respect for the debate rules.
Romney was on the defense from Perry, Cain, and other candidates, but stood his ground and refused to yield in a debate that did little to change the 2012 Republican equation.
Rick Perry attacks. Mitt Romney parries. Herman Cain juggles apples and oranges.
Perry got the message. He had a strategy. More energy. Attack Romney. The problem is, he doesn't have the skills to pull it off. Everything looked forced and unnatural. Perry looked like he came for a gang fight but forgot to bring his gang.