Politics

02.22.12

Daily Beast Contributors Weigh In on CNN Republican Debate in Arizona

Santorum was forced to play a lot of defense, but did Romney land any punches? Daily Beast contributors weigh in on who was left standing at what may be the last Republican debate.

Santorum Defuses Time Bomb of Social Issues
by Howard Kurtz

Rick Santorum dodged a political bullet on the birth-control controversy at the CNN debate Wednesday night, deflecting criticism from Mitt Romney and batting down the notion that he would discourage contraception.

On a divisive subject that could have complicated his candidacy, Santorum turned the issue back on Romney and battled him to a draw.

If Santorum entered the Arizona debate as the GOP frontrunner, he did nothing to diminish that status.

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Mitt Wins the Battle; Will it Cost Him the War?
by Paul Begala

Mitt Romney came into the CNN debate in Arizona with one clear objective: get to the right of Rick Santorum wherever you can. Amazingly, he seemed to have succeeded.

Romney, who voted for liberal Democrat Paul Tsongas for president, attacked Santorum for supporting his then-moderate Republican Senate partner, Arlen Specter.

Romney, who personally attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in 1994, attacked Santorum for voting for Title X, which provides federal funding for contraceptives.

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Arlen Specter's Big Night
by Lloyd Grove 

Newt Gingrich won the single-word-descriptor contest during Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate in Arizona. While his rivals went for earnest and self-congratulatory adjectives (“consistent,” Ron Paul said in describing himself; “courage,” Rick Santorum said; “resolute,” Mitt Romney ventured), Gingrich distinguished himself with the counterintuitive “cheerful.”

Beyond that, it was an unusually freewheeling conversation—the last among the GOP candidates for a while, we’re told—in which Arlen Specter was mentioned more often than Ronald Reagan.

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Republican Debate: Newt Gingrich Rolls Over, Plays Dead
by Michelle Cottle

The three words to best capture Debate Number 20: Blah. Blah. Blah.

Earmarks. The line item veto. Bailouts. Foreign aid. Entitlements. Birth control. Title 20. Obamacare. Romneycare. Border fences. Guest workers. Women in combat. Iran vs. Israel. School choice.

An impressively wide range of issues were touched upon Wednesday night. But time and again, the discussion devolved into a scattered, disorderly, shallow, personal slapfest that did little to enlighten viewers as to the relative qualifications of these fine combatants.

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From a rumored Romney/Paul pact to Santorum missing his mark, Michael Tomasky and Michelle Cottle on the highs and lows of the final GOP debate.

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The Winner’s in the White House
by Andrew Sullivan

Romney simply refuses to answer an interesting question about the biggest misconception about him. Major fail. Santorum played his best card—that he's the underdog who can do a lot with a little.

Maybe I've lost my mind after all these debates, or maybe I secretly want him to win (because he would finally expose all the insanity that has been building in this party and needs venting). But I thought Santorum was on form tonight. My sense is that he will not lose his current momentum after tonight. I didn't feel Newt tonight. Romney doesn't wear well. Paul was great and funny and human.

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Mitt Rocks Rick
by Michael Tomasky

The 20th and maybe the last debate! I hope I don’t die someday 40 hours before some event I really want to attend, because something tells me I’m never getting those 40 hours back. Anyway: Mitt Romney won this debate, and he won it with homework and discipline. He probably didn’t win it by all that much, but he was clearly readier for the key moments that arose than Rick Santorum was, and he was good enough, possibly, to break through and carry Michigan and settle things down.

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Specter Haunts the GOP Debate
by Ben Jacobs

Mitt Romney attacked Rick Santorum tonight for agreeing with George W. Bush.

But Romney did not criticize Santorum for supporting the Iraq War, Medicare Part D, increasing the budget deficit, or No Child Left Behind. Instead, he attacked Santorum for an even greater sin among primary voters: supporting an incumbent Republican senator.

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Debate Missteps
by John Avlon

The 20th—and possibly final—Republican primary debate was messy at times, but it will leave a mark, not so much for the candidates’ successes but because of the missteps that were made and that might soon show up in an attack ad.

Rick Santorum came into the debate the national frontrunner—a meaningless distinction in this state-by-state fight, but it does mean that the pile-on will be merciless, and Santorum didn’t do himself any favors.

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Why Not Declare War on Iran?
by Peter Beinart

The best question at last night’s CNN Debate in Arizona was not asked by the network’s John King. It was asked by Ron Paul to his fellow candidates: If you’re so open to attacking Iran, why not declare war?

Think about it. The Republican candidates keep warning that Obama is seizing power at the expense of the Constitution and the people. Yet they’re absolutely fine with him attacking Iran without a congressional declaration of war as required by Article 1 of the Constitution. They don’t trust Obama to regulate health insurance companies, but they want to give him sole authority to bomb a country half a world away.

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