The debate was held on MSNBC. MSNBC has a bias towards the Left and against the Right. Good. I'd rather have someone pitching questions who is out for blood instead of lobbing softballs at their friends. In fact, Romney's first follow-up question was about Bain Capital (which he helped found) and how it specializes in downsizing companies so they can be bought. How can he support expanding employment when he is part of expanding unemployment? Nice one. Perry got blasted for talking about improving education while not only cutting the education budget of Texas, but pushing for bigger cuts than he got. They brought in a reporter from Telemundo to ask about immigration reform (the guy did his homework, pointing out that Ronald Reagan himself was the last President to sign any kind of immigration reform). He helped force an issue everyone was saying they didn't want to settle until they figured out to do with Homeland Security or wanted to dance around. He openly challenged the idea of a fence (besides, most people enter the country illegally through student visas, not by crossing the border. The Great Wall Of China wouldn't stop illegal immigrants). Santorum was one of people talking about "remember these are people" and reminding everyone to think with their hearts. Ron Paul's solution was reforming illicit drug laws (since a lot of problems come from drug cartel wars. Decriminalize drugs, you eliminate their money that makes this happen) and improve the economy. His logic is that people are only concerned about illegal immigrants when there aren't enough jobs to go around -- if there are plenty of jobs, no one minds others coming in to handle the jobs they don't want to do like yard care and such. Well, for the most part...no questions about marriage equality or abortion, they gave them a pass on that.
The format was what I like to call a "hot potato" debate. There's no real structure, the moderators determine who is to speak based more or less on their whimsy. I like these debates because there's no breathing room, you have to keep up with everything, pay attention, and be ready to get the pointer at any moment. The candidates said they didn't want a lightning round of questions at the end. The hosts gave them one anyway. The random nature and the antagonistic questions made for a very entertaining show. The candidates stopped invoking Obama's name and started hammering each other before the first break, only getting back to their, "Vote for us because we aren't Obama" at the end.
Most of the questions went back and forth between Perry and Romney. Everyone else was there for flavoring.
Ron Paul got the first and biggest applause for his statements. He also seized a question about eliminating the minimum wage put to him to argue about health care. He pointed out that he was a physician but no one asked him about Obamacare. Paul also pointed out that Perry could pass laws with an executive order instead of working them through the state houses (and that several of his measures were revoked by the state leg). When asked about his interest in dismantling Homeland Security and what would happen if they got rid of the TSA, he said the private market should be responsible for protecting them like they do their payroll, employees, etc.
Paul also had a target on his head. Any question that could be angled about him eliminating a government program (TSA, which makes bad decisions, FEMA, which makes bad decisions, etc.) was phrased as how can you take away something to protect or help people (FEMA came up with natural disasters).
Several candidates promised that they would have their staff issue orders suspending Obamacare if they became President. Please notice it isn't suspending parts of it, but all of it. Once again, the good and the bad. No one wanted to eliminate Medicare, though, which figures given the median age of Republican voters. Herman Cain actually sounded like he knew what he was talking about, advancing tort reform and opening up state borders to competition. Of course, he has no chance of winning. Thank God. His "9-9-9" plan for tax reform (it basically amounts to a flat tax, and any flat tax under about 30% will never cover the deficit) is a pipe dream. He also advocated the Chilean system to replace Social Security. He kept emphasizing an individual choice to participate (he's black, and your average black man dies a couple of years before he's eligible to claim SS). Lots of talk about empowering the states such as for things like illegal immigration, but no mention of state's rights.
Romney pointed out that Obama had no experience in the private sector, and had no idea how to relate to it. By that logic, MOST of Congress, D and R, should get the gate.
Bachmann made sure to slam Obamacare from the standpoint of the government to interfere with and control private enterprise, but also promised to get gas prices down to $2 a gallon. Whut? She also made sure to use any answer to mention her personal experience to give her relevance. Bachmann also wouldn't give a straight answer about what to do about illegal immigrants who have been here for years, have kids here, etc. She talked about the science of the energy crisis and greenhouse gasses (she supports coal plants, which produce more radiation and pollution than nuclear while being wholly inefficient. Some science research), but she denies science with her stances on Creationism. She's toast.
Newt Gingrich wasn't there to debate, he was there to corral the others. At one point, when asked a question about the Individual Mandate, said he didn't like how the questions were intended to pit the candidates against each other. Didn't work, though, the candidates made sure to ignore his efforts and keep arguing.
Perry was asked a question about the discrepency between median incomes for black and white families and completely ignored it so he could go about raging about Obamacare. Romney also did it when the questioning turned to things mentioned in Perry's book Fed Up. Santorum took a question about FEMA and gave an "inspirational" speech about how the other issues are not as important as fixing the economy.
Perry took a shot at Paul for his letter to Ronald Reagan saying he wanted to quit the party in protest of Reagan's policies. Paul handled it expertly, saying he supported Reagan's message but not his execution.
A tribute to Ronald Reagan featured The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" playing in the background. Why don't people pay attention to music lyrics when they bed their presentations? Nancy Reagan, who was in attendance, supposedly once was overheard saying on the phone at an R rally, "I wish you could see all the nice white people here." It was all I could think of when I saw her and reflected on the make-up of the debate panel.
I've recorded it and will be cutting it for a DVD, maybe converting it to MP4 to keep on Fermata for future reference. Anyone need a copy?