Seven Republican presidential hopefuls gathered Monday night for the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season. The list of names taking part in the debate includes: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former owner of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).
The seven Republican hopefuls criticized Obama’s failure on the economy and attacked his healthcare reform as a large government intrusion, but at the same time they didn’t use chances to criticize their party rivals.
Mitt Romney and Michele Bachman became two clear winners of the first Republican debate. Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, is well-known for his health care program for Massachusetts, which included mandatory insurance coverage, which is in many respects similar to President Barack Obama’s federal requirement that many conservatives dislike.
Mitt Romney said: “This president has failed, and he’s failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing.”
Romney is very popular in New Hampshire. “Romney is very strong in New Hampshire, and it’s his race to lose here and nationally,” said Jamie Burnett, a New Hampshire consultant who was Romney’s political director in the state four years ago when he was edged out by the eventual nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Romney claimed that American troops should return from Afghanistan as soon as possible, declaring, “Our troops shouldn’t go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation.”
Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota who remains largely unknown to many Republicans across the country, highlighted his blue-collar roots.
“We live in the United States of America, and people shouldn’t be forced to belong to any organization,” declared Tim, who said that he and his family had all been union members. “I support strongly ‘right to work’ legislation… We don’t have a government tell us what organizations or associations we should be in.”
Pawlenty decided to introduce himself as a leading alternative to Mr. Romney. He had created a new word a day before the debate — “Obamneycare”. This term aimed at criticizing both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, but when the debate proceeded, he chose not to attack too much, probably in order not to look too negative in comparison with the other hopefuls.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came into the debate facing continued attacks for appearing several weeks ago to speak against Representative Paul D. Ryan’s proposed budget plan that would provide Medicare subsidies, which allow seniors to buy their insurance in the private market. He did not mention the discussion and tried to rebrand himself as the idea-driven policy candidate
Mr. Gingrich said: “If you’re dealing with something as big as Medicare and can’t have a conversation with the country where the country thinks what you’re doing is the right thing, you better slow down.”
Newt Gingrich also said that he supports “right-to-work,” but only at a state level as 24 states already have it. Gingrich said: “I’d keep it at the state level, because as each new state comes to right to work, it sends a message to other states: Don’t be stupid. The ‘right-to-work’ states are creating a lot more jobs than the unionized states.”
U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann appears to be the best communicator on stage. She turned key facts into terse, quotable comments so that she held people’s attention. She was also spoke about family life that can strike many voters. Twice she told viewers that she together with her husband had raised 23 foster children, and they also have five kids of their own. She used her appearance on stage and introduce herself as “a former federal tax litigation attorney,” as a businesswoman and as a mother and foster parent.
Former Senator Rick Santorum is well-known as a social conservative and tried to establish himself as having a broader set of interests and skills during the campaign. When he was asked about his views on the separation between church and state, Mr. Santorum said: “We get along because we know that we — all of our ideas are allowed in and tolerated. That’s what makes America work.”
Representative Ron Paul of Texas repeated his calls to end the Federal Reserve and cut military spending.
Former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain felt uncomfortable when he was asked about his statement that “a lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country” and that he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet without knowing the he or her is devoted to the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Cain answered: “You have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us. I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, number one.”
Mitt Romney and Michele Bachman proved to be the winners. But the question still remains – whether this debate helped Republicans win the White House. [via The New York Times, CNN, Telegraph and Politicmo]