A Look at the CNN / Tea Party Express Presidentail Debate from the 3rd Row
by Michael Kinzie ~ September 18, 2011
First of all, I would like to thank the Tea Party Express and (I can’t believe I’m typing these words) CNN for hosting the first ever Tea Party Presidential Debate in history. I would have loved watching it on television, but being there in the third row center stage allowed me the opportunity to see things from an entirely different perspective. From my vantage point, I could see the facial expressions and body language of all the candidates regardless of what was shown on CNN. Therefore, I’d like to share my thoughts on the debate and welcome your feedback in comparison.
Wolf Blitzer: I have to start with CNN’s moderator, Wolf Blitzer. I must say, Wolf Blitzer did a great job of doing his job. It was apparent that his goal was to provoke and get sound bites that could be used against the candidates and the Tea Party. He was successful at both. Because of the questions asked, several of the candidates were afforded the opportunity to take their shots at Governor Perry which have been in the news all week. The “should society just let him die” question provoked a response from a couple of people in the audience that has taken center stage in the liberal media and being spun as the “Tea Party Cheers the Death of the Uninsured.”
Michele Bachmann: While many of the pundits are saying that Bachmann is losing steam in her campaign and she did little to improve that during the debate, I completely disagree. This was, in my opinion, Bachmann’s best debate performance to date. Her conviction, tone, and mannerisms when answering questions left little doubt that she meant what she said. When Bachmann went after Perry over the HPV vaccination and crony capitalism, this showed the audience and America that she can get in there and mix it up when necessary.
John Huntsman: All I could do while John Huntsman was speaking was to be reminded of the Peanuts cartoon. Does everyone remember the teacher from Peanuts? All I could hear was “Wha, wha, wha wha wha.” Sorry John, that’s the best I can do for you. His answers left me wondering what the “R” after his name actually stands for.
Ron Paul: Congressman Paul was one of the few who did not sound scripted. His answers were quick and unafraid. However, Paul’s discussion of Iran, 9/11, and terrorism, was one of the points where being in the audience was an advantage. There were seven candidates on the stage who in unison cocked their heads at an angle and looked at each other with facial expressions of utter amazement. Paul’s stance on these issues also drew a chorus of boos from the audience. On the other hand, Paul’s answers regarding domestic policy drew cheers from the audience. Gauging from the response of the audience it’s domestic issues yes, constitutional issues yes, but foreign policy no.
Newt Gingrich: Newt was the solutions man during the debate. He came across as having a clear understanding of the problems facing the country and practical solutions to those problems. Former Speaker Gingrich also received the most enthusiastic response from the audience when he commented that President Obama scares the American people every day. Gingrich’s responses to social security, government waste and fraud, and pointing out Obama’s hierocracy concerning GE were big hits among the audience. Gingrich also threw out some pretty impressive job numbers from during the time when he was Speaker of the House. In my opinion, Gingrich was among the winners of this debate, if not the outright winner. (Newt, you need to work on that smile; it’s a little too forced.)
Rick Perry: Being the front runner in the race made Governor Perry the target of the rest of the candidates and he certainly took some pretty hard shots at this debate. Perry seemed surprising unprepared to defend attacks on his record concerning the HPV vaccination, crony capitalism, and border security. He often displayed wide-eyed expressions as if he couldn’t believe the attack. I disagree with Perry’s stance on not building a border fence. I think it would be a great way to stimulate the economy… for fence builders and ladder manufacturers.
Perry clearly won the head-to-head matchup with Romney on social security by “finishing the conversation” and using Galveston, specifically mentioned by Herman Cain, as an example of how alternative programs have the potential to work more efficiently and produce better results than the current social security program. Perry also did a good job of fending off accusations that he was “scaring seniors” for calling social security a Ponzi scheme.
Herman Cain: Cain shut down the social security Ponzi scheme debate when he said, “I don’t care what you call it, it’s broken and here’s my solution.” Cain touted his business savvy and the fact that he is not a politician which scored him points among the Tea Party crowd. From my vantage point, when Cain was discussing his 999 plan regarding the tax code, several candidates had expressions on their faces which said “that’s not a bad idea” and some even nodded in agreement. Cain did even better after the debate during a brief appearance at the Tea Party Express after-party event.
Rick Santorum: Santorum again came up short in this debate as far as air time as well as connecting with the audience. Santorum touted his courage to lead the way on reforming Social Security; however I don’t think the crowd saw the results of that leadership. Social Security is still broken and on its way to bankruptcy. On the other hand, Santorum scored points on how he would deal with Medicare and Medicaid. He also answered well when he said that the fed should be audited and demoted to a single charter focusing on sound money. His most memorable line in the debate was his description of Obama’s economy when he said “it would have to be a dramatic improvement just to be a disaster.”
Mitt Romney: Mitt, don’t talk poker. 0 income tax, low regulation, right to work state, Republican legislature, and oil in the ground is five things or five aces. Unless you are playing some sissy Massachusetts poker game with wild cards, a straight flush is the highest hand in poker (5 cards) and beats four aces. Just sayin’. Romney is still trying to defend O’Romneycare, but this audience wasn’t buying it. He took quite a bashing on this one and Michele Bachmann put him in his place on Obamacare. Romney repeatedly said “I spent my life in the private sector”, but I kept thinking back to his years in the public sector and to his health-care plan which has made health insurance costs in Massachusetts among the most expensive in the country.
Conclusion: I’ve got to preface my conclusion with the confession that I’m no pundit, I’m not a politician, and to be quite honest, I would have rather been watching a good football game. My limited experience in politics began on April 15, 2009 while attending a Tea Party rally in Sulphur Springs, Texas. That being said, I’d like to share with you my scorecard of the CNN Tea Party Express Presidential Debate. Please forgive me for the additional categories other than just winners and losers.
Winners: Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain
Break-evens: Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum
Losers: Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney
Why are you even here?: John Huntsman