Scorecard: September 12, 2011 Republican Debate
There are more Republican debates on television these days than re-runs of Everybody Loves Raymond.
On tonight’s episode, Rick Perry received a merciless piling on from the other candidates – and seemed to wither under the harsh scrutiny. If this were a boxing match, a charitable referee would have thrown in the towel on his behalf.
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A few “second tier” candidates threatened to break through, while others moved perilously closer to the day when they inevitably drop out.
Here are tonight’s grades, in order of best to worst:
THE TOP TIER
MITT ROMNEY (1st Place, Grade: A)
This was Gov. Romney’s best debate of the 2012 election cycle. He did a nice job of going on the offensive, and seemed to relish his role of attacking Gov. Perry. I’ve criticized Mr. Romney in the past for looking overly-stiff, but he’s grown into a strong contender and looked downright presidential tonight.
When asked whether Gov. Perry deserved credit for job creation in Texas, Mr. Romney quipped: “When you’re dealt four aces, that doesn’t make you a terrific poker player.”
Mr. Romney should watch his expressions when other people are speaking. When Gov. Perry speaks, he wears the condescending smirk that Al Gore reserved for George W. Bush. If Mr. Romney wins the nomination, it will be because of his perceived electability, not because he’s the most beloved candidate. Therefore, he should watch those smug personal tics that annoy the heck out of voters.
NEWT GINGRICH (2nd Place, Grade: A-)
Who knew Rep. Gingrich had it in him? He has become the best candidate in terms of throwing out memorable sound bites and base-pleasing red meat.
If Mr. Perry falters, someone else is likely to emerge to threaten Mr. Romney for the nomination – and if Mr. Gingrich continues to perform this well, he could emerge as that person. Mr. Gingrich comes across as strong and knowledgeable, but lacks the charm that has been present in every general election winner since the beginning of the 24/7 media age.
MIDDLE OF THE PACK
RICK SANTORUM (3rd Place, Grade: B)
Sen. Santorum raised his game tonight, and came across with credibility when attacking Gov. Perry. He seemed more animated and assertive, and appeared to believe he belonged on that stage tonight.
He spends too much time talking about his work in the 1990s, and it risks making him look like a remnant of the past. He should also stop trying to prove how much he knows – it’s impressive that he knows about the two charters of the Federal Reserve, but voters don’t always vote for the most knowledgeable candidate. Just ask President Kerry.
MICHELE BACHMANN (4th Place, Grade: B-)
Michele Bachmann needed a big night to remain a player in this debate. She was nowhere during the first half of the debate. But once she launched a successful attack against Gov. Perry’s HPV mandate, she seemed to get stronger and regain her form. Gov. Perry clearly faltered tonight. The question is whether Rep. Bachmann did enough to re-claim her perch atop the field. Odds are, she didn’t. Still, she would have ranked higher if not for a lousy first half.
RON PAUL (5th Place, Grade: C+)
Rep. Paul had one of his better, more focused debates tonight. He seemed to relish sticking the rhetorical knife in fellow Texan Rick Perry, and offered more tightly constructed answers than he has in recent debates.
TRAILING THE FIELD
HERMAN CAIN (6th Place, Grade: C)
Mr. Cain was a non-player tonight. At this point, he’s playing to raise his speaking fees, earn a lucrative contract as a Fox News pundit, or secure an ambassadorship to Chile. It’s not a good sign when your biggest applause line of the night is: “I would bring my sense of humor to the White House because America is too uptight.”
JON HUNTSMAN (7th Place, Grade: D+)
I felt a bit bad after the last debate, fearing that my “D” grade of Gov. Huntsman was a bit harsh. Then he made a Kurt Cobain joke in the opening minutes of tonight’s debate that was apropos of nothing. Then he made a weird joke about “treason” regarding Rick Perry. Then I felt better. I was right the first time. With the exception of a few good lines, Gov. Huntsman comes across as dull, uninspiring, and a bit weird. His time to break through is running low, if it’s not already completely gone.
RICK PERRY (8th Place, Grade: D)
Rick Perry had a shockingly bad debate tonight, raising the question of whether he is going to be the quick-fizzling Fred Thompson of the 2012 election cycle. His lack of debate experience showed tonight, and he had several “deer in headlights” moments.
For example, he knew he was going to be asked about a claim he made in the last debate that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme.” But even though he knew it was coming, he gave a halting response that didn’t make his position clear. He should have known an attack on his HPV vaccine mandate was coming, but offered a lame response when it came.
Gov. Perry looked defensive when attacked and appeared uncomfortably stone-faced at times. Sure, he had his moments. His bravado will appeal to many, and his ability to deliver a good sound bite is real (e.g. “People are tired of spending money we don’t have on things we don’t want.”). But Mr. Perry is suddenly a vulnerable frontrunner, and his lead as the national frontrunner is at risk after this debate.
Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? Please leave your opinion in the comment section below, but remember the blog’s comment policy – no ad hominem attacks or pejorative name-calling will be posted.
Related: September 7, 2011 Republican Debate Scorecard
Related: August 11, 2011 Republican Debate Scorecard
Related: June 13, 2011 Republican Debate Scorecard
Right On! Mr. Huntsman had a difficult time spitting out his point. I regret not counting how many times Ms. Bachmann said Obama, or ObamaCare.
I love the answers by Ron Paul on the question of the 30 old father in a comma. It seemed to be skirted by everyone else, though.
You’re a hack. Paid to attack on behalf of Romney.
I don’t usually allow baseless personal attacks on this blog (see the blog’s comment policy), but am curious what evidence you can proffer that I’ve been “paid” to attack on behalf of Romney? If you had you spent about one minute on this blog, you would have seen that I’ve written numerous pieces that were critical of him.
I agree with most of what was said, but you really should rate Bachmann at a far higher level because of the exceptional way she attacked Perry on the HPV executive order. One of Ron Paul’s best nights, but I still think Bachmann outperformed this time, maybe even outperformed Romney on this debate. Let me be clear, I’m not a Bachmann supporter (I’m for Romney), but she looks like a great candidate when she shines like this. She has her episodes of deer in headlights and boring speeches like the last debate, but when she’s on target she really looks good. Her shining moments is what electrified the base in the first debate. From the very first debate, I thought she would make a great VP for a more moderate presidential candidate, but we’ll see what happens.
Sorry, to write so much, but I think with more practice Bachmann could make a formidable campaigner. She can handidly take on the current VP in the Oval Office right now. I don’t know if she can become the formidable candidate we need by next year, or 2016, but she would be the one to watch out for. Look at Romney four years ago, he made some stumbles until he learned how to do it. My wife doesn’t agree with me about Bachmann, because of the crazy things she’s said in the past, but look at most of the candidates, they’ve said some real whoppers.
Disagree on Michelle Bachman’s grade – I thought she did very well and was impressed enough to take a 2nd look at her. She is very knowledgeable, factual, and doesn’t need “sound-bites” to hold her own. Tired of listening to Romney’s same old spill – he went down a few notches as far as I’m concerned.
Brenda – I agree that Ms. Bachmann did well in the second half of the debate, but I thought she looked flat during the first half. You said that you heard enough to take a second look at her – what did she say that appealed to you?
Before reading the blog I felt it was clear that Mitt’s responses were directed past the boistorous crowd more to the middle. It’s pretty clear he’s not intimidated by the hard right. I thought the crowd approved the most of Bachman. Unfortunately for her–that is the clearest sign of a politician on patrol…
I disagree about Mitt’s composure though, I find his smile genuine, and inspiring. I hope he’s not advised to drop that because it appears respectful. Huntsman’s jokes and barbs made me think he got some of the Pawlenty’s faux-ferocious bearskin the Minn governer bought shortly before the iowa caucus…
I find the “santorum squint” the singular most annoying body-language that Rick S has. I also find Perry’s head-bobbing remarkably similar to a former president, and I am irked at each occurence. Debates are won on both body language and response. I think Cain had a better debate than the previous two, but does not poke fun at anyone which at this stage doesn’t put him on anyone’s radar for good or bad.
Romney is by far the most electable; therefore, he has my vote. Perry comes across as an egotistical bully, not a candidate I would trust.
Your grade for Huntsman is too high.
I didn’t get the Kurt Cobaine joke. I heard it, but didn’t get it. Do I want to get it?
I wasn’t sure the treason comment was a “joke”, although I think it was.
Plus, he’s still too wonkish. In one answer, he casually used the term “NGO”. I know what an NGO is, but how many people watching the debate do?
Perry’s grade is a bit too low. (And no, I’m not supporting Perry. I’m for Ron Paul – a great man who is not a great speaker.)
Perry wasn’t fully prepared and his answers reflected same, but he did have answers that seemed to be genuine. And the fact that everyone else was talking about him is a good sign for him.
One more point: Perry has acknowledged that the Guardasil vaccine program was a mistake, although he has hedged a bit. Perry’s acknowledgment helps him. Romney, on the other hand, has never acknowledge that anything about Romneycare is wrong. Indeed, he continues to defend it. Of course, he can’t back away from that position now. But, if he had said it was wrong (in the basic concept and/or the mandate) last time around, he would have done better then and he’d be doing better now.
Bachmann really nailed him when she said that if you think government-run health care is ok for a state, then you can’t be fully committed to stopping national government-run health care and we need someone who is fully committed!
Hey, Brad, can I get some of that money for “attacking” Romney? XD
I Don’t Know Which Debate You Watched, You clearly have Bias To certain Money Canidates. Rhinos are Not The Answer We Need A Realist And A patriot
I really dont understand this mess. Who cares if someone “bobbed” thier head or “looked flat”. Pay attention people. Its what they say, not how they friggin look. Voting for someone based on the fact that they “looked” great is how Obama got elected. Its the ideas and actions that count. What a person did yesterday will tell you what they are likely to do tomorrow. I dont care if they looked like Frankenstine. I care what they have done or will do.
Thought Bachman looked DESPARATE and Santorum came off as a guy in an Ivory tower. I was disappointed that Perry was caught flat footed by the Bachman attacks and lost his momentum – but when the dust clears – he’s on the right side of the two issues he took hits on.
Bachman, so concerned about “the little girls” – they are dying you dingbat!
Santorum – you honestly believe that a disease is not a “school problem” because its sexaully transmited? “Opt in” mean parents have to tactily condone sexaul activity as opposed to having it be one of many immunizations required.
On immigration: The question was “how do you ATTRACT” Latino votors – not scare them away from the Republican party for a generation. The fence we have does not work and it never will because we’re dealing with smart, tenacious people who have traveled 100s and 1000s of miles in their own county. The last 30 feet are not going to stop them simply because the are vertical. And once they get here – they don’t check in to the holiday in – they stay with legal brothers, sisters aunts and uncles. If they are going to college they are the pride of their extended family – yeah – lets deal with that first!
Bachman said two things that were really meaningful – first, she is correct an executive order to end Obamacare is useless because it can be simply overturned by the next executive order. The second is that American companies need to be repatriated (i.e. tax incentives plus deregulation) My ideal candidate is a combination of the conservative sound bites from several candidates: throw out the czars – actually appoint a commission in the 1st 100 days to remove Obama appointees in all of the agencies, defund the EPA and IRS, adopt a balanced budget amendment but only if it specifically prohibits raising taxes to balance it, tie federal budgets to a percentage of GNP but 20% by Romney was way too high it sustains the current level of spending 16% would be max, Foreign aid should be tied to performance – send 10% at a time verify compliance with its purpose before sending the next 10% – federal agency budgets should be held to the same standard – if you go over budget you don’t get your next quarter’s funding until you have answered why you went over budget, I think the war on terror should be conducted to terrorize our enemies – stomp them into the ground leave their country in shambles and get out – let the radical leaders face their own people who are suffering because of their support of terrorism, secure our borders as if it was a military action shoot invaders – but on the other hand employers who hire illegals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – empty the bird feeder and the birds will fly south, Totally reform immigration – it should take only 6 weeks to process a request for a temporary work visa not 6 years. States should decide how much their congressman is paid not the congress. To stop pork – pass a one bill one topic rule. If San Luis County California wants a tattoo removal program to be paid for by taxpayers it should be a stand alone bill not tacked onto the stimulus bill. It would then take congress at least 2,500 years to spend a trillion dollars.
My ranking was Romney, Gingrich, Bachmann.
Herman Cain is a businessman, not a debater. If one listens to his PLANS he has the best of the lot.
I wonder if they gave all the candidates equal time with each question if it would make a difference ?
I would like to see the placement of candidates on the stage changed so that Perry and Romney are at opposite ends and the rest of the pack are in the center. Then it would not look like this whole debate thing is a set up with a pre-determined winner’s circle.
My picks for best: Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Michelle Bachman.
Oh, do not forget Perry’s support of the Texas raid on the FLDS that took hundreds of children from their homes and families only to be finally returned traumatized at the order of the Supreme Court of Texas. The seizing of the children was determined Unconstitutional.
I agree with Fred about Cain, and Brenda and Don about Bachman. Cain responded to every question directly and with a well-thought-out plan. His biggest problem is the conservatives still include the southern voters who will not vote black. Bachman was loaded for bear and took on all comers. I have never cared for her, and still don’t. But in terms of who won last night, she was #1 or #2. Finally, I agree with Brad that Romney needs to get rid of the smirk. I thought he was very competent, but not the winner. As for Perry, he did get caught flat footed several times. But, he is so much like RR, nice looking, deferential to his wife, average intelligence, charismatic, and answers all questions to which he has no answer with folksy BS. My vote for best in the 9-12-11 debate: Bachman, Cain, Romney, Perry.
I believe that Ron Paul did pretty good up to the part where he blamed Americans for 9/11, (which i understand was something Santorum quoted) I’m still undecided unfortunately, I did like Perry a lot before this debate even though he did stand his ground on most of the issues (minus the HPV vaccine). I also agree with Bachman doing a lot better once she started pounding Perry about the HPV vaccine.
But, I have a strong feeling that in the end it will probably come down to Romney and Perry.