Wednesday night in Rochester, Michigan on the campus of Oakland University, CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party hosted the latest GOP presidential primary debate. "Your Money, Your Vote" was the theme and the subject was fixing the economy. It was debate number 10.
Pre-debate, CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow stated that "Newt has the wave". He said Gingrich has both the domestic and foreign policy knowledge to lead the country. He mentioned that he thinks the Cain supporters will turn to Gingrich as they fall away from the Cain train. I think he's correct in that assumption. Republicans are still looking for the anti-Romney candidate and Newt fits the bill nicely.
We have a two man race at this point, my friends. I continue to think it's all about Romney and Gingrich. Herman Cain turned in an ok performance but he continues to punt when he is asked about specifics of entitlement reforms. Governor Perry was doing just fine, perhaps redeeming himself, until he had the huge brain freeze in stating three federal agencies he'd eliminate. There was no surviving that moment.
The other candidates are wasting our time.
Let me say something about Governor Perry's brain freeze - I completely sympathize with the man. I frequently speak in front of an audience and it is only human to forget your train of thought at times. Fortunately for me, I'm not in front of a television camera carrying it to homes around the nation. I literally gasped as he struggled to find the words and I have nothing but compliments for how he has handled the situation since then. Thursday morning he was on all the morning shows facing it head on and with a sense of humility and humor. That is leadership. It is as simple as that.
Huntsman, Santorum, Bachmann and Paul will hang on as long as possible and irate the rest of us along the way. Perhaps the one who angers me the most is Santorum. He is mean spirited and boastful without a record to back himself up. He can preen about his support of current ideas from back in the day when he was an elected official but the fact is, he lost his last election and today he is not the first, second or third place favorite in his own state for the GOP nomination. My gut tells me his is not worthy and is too egotistic to understand that.
Newt won the debate. Romney looked a bit tired or off his best somehow. Even his perfect hair was a little messed up. He came in at a strong second place Wednesday night. Cain was steady and managed to insert his 9-9-9 Plan in to just about every answer, so whomever was coaching him did a good job. Romney admitted that Ron Paul was correct in some of his assertions about the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke, as did Gingrich during the debate.
The two main moderators, John Harwood and Maria Bartiromo, were tough but mostly fair in questioning the candidates. Bartiromo is a bit much at times but we knew that going into the evening. Gingrich was effective in bringing her tone of sanctimonious superiority down a notch or two.
Of note to me from the audience was how they reacted as the moderators broached the subject of Cain's current difficulties with the sexual harassment claims. The audience booed when Romney was asked by Bartiromo if he would hire a personal with this in his history. Romney, to his credit, refused to take the bait and said that was for Cain to resolve himself. Cain said, "The American people deserve better than a President tried in the court of public opinion". Harwood then said, "Let's get back to the economy" and the audience applauded in approval.
It was interesting that the debate was held in Michigan. The state has been completely devastated under the leadership of Democrats for the past forty years or so and is home to the auto industry, the recipient of huge government bail-outs. Romney was questioned about his position on the bail-out and said that he was in favor of allowing the auto companies to go into bankruptcy to allow them to re-structure and move forward. On the question that he flip flops on his position, he said, "I am a man of steadiness and constancy"; "I will be true to my family, my faith and my country"; "I will never apologize for the United States of America".
It is too bad that Governor Perry was unable to articulate his plan for $10,000 four year college degrees in the short time allowed during the discussion on higher education financial reform. His is a cutting edge idea that deserves to be tested. As a parent of a college student, I certainly find it exciting and innovative. Governor Perry proposed the idea in his State of the State address in February, 2011.
The next debate is Saturday. The topic is foreign policy.