Manchester, New Hampshire, CNN, June 13, 2011, 8 PM (ET) -CNN’s “live” coverage of the 7 Republican hopefuls debating from St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire concluded with Anderson Cooper winding up the John King moderated debate.
Ron Paul, talked with Anderson Cooper after the debate about the stark contrast between his position on bringing all troops home from foreign engagement, underscoring the less drastic opinions of the other candidates. “All great nations usually go down when they spread themselves too thin around the world,” said Paul. “Financially, it’s a lot easier to go after this overseas spending than to go after health care.” In comparing this year’s debate versus those Paul was involved in during 2008 he said, “There was a difference. The reactions were different. The country now is definitely moving in the direction of less government and a different foreign policy.”
On the role of faith in public life, Paul said, “I think faith has something to do with the people. — You can’t teach people how to be moral.” Paul emphasized the 1st Amendment religious freedom tenet. Is Christianity under attack? asked Cooper. “I think, to some degree,” responded Ron Paul. Paul said, “You can’t legislate morality — the law has to have a moral fiber to it. That’s how I think it should apply. It’d be nice if we could remake Afghanistan, but the blowback is too big.”
In speaking with CNN commentators John King, David Gergen and Gloria Borger, Ron Paul emphasized that there is a retreat from the positions articulated during the 2008 campaign debates on foreign policy. He feels the country is coming around to his way of thinking. Commentator Gergen said what struck him was how much more conservative the Republican Party has become and that they are “pretty far to the right.”
The exchange with Herman Cain (former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza) about hiring Muslims was discussed. Cain: “A lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country.” (That one is bound to incur some Monday morning quarterbacking by Independents and Democrats opposed to profiling). Newt Gingrich said he would not be comfortable with appointing Muslims to his Cabinet. Newt Gingrich then added he “wanted to go out on a limb here” in demanding an oath of fealty for those who would serve in his Administration. This earned some expressions of incredulity from David Gergen in the wind-up.
Andy Card, former White House Chief of Staff for President Bush,( asked about the Muslim question posed), said that he felt Herman Cain was trying to dig himself out of a hole on the entire Muslim line of questioning. Gergen said that Truman had loyalty tests and it was considered a bad blot on his otherwise exemplary record and led to McCarthyism. Cornell Belcher, CNN African American correspondent, said he was “not comfortable with him (Cain).” Independent and moderate voters would not be comfortable with Gingrich’s answer about “loyalty tests,” said Belcher,
The consensus was that those who performed best were Mitt Romney, the front-runner and Michelle Bachmann, the former Senator from Minnesota. Although Bachmann can often sound uninformed and ruled more by deeply-held personal beliefs rather than logic, this night she announced that, if elected, she wouldn’t let her personal beliefs intrude on state’s rights, especially in regards to abortion and/or its banning.
Attacks on Obama the Name of the Game
President Obama took a beating all night long. “He’s failed the American people “said Romney of Obama. Bachmann said, “His report card right now has a big old ‘F.'” Robert Gibbs, former Press Secretary for Obama, speaking afterwards on behalf of the Administration, said, “If you wanted to hear the economic problems that set us up for our current problems, that is exactly what these candidates talked about tonight — We had a massive economic recession that crested in September of 2008.” Gibbs repeated, “We have to understand what got us into this mess and we have to make sure we don’t hire somebody to get us right back into this mess.” Gibbs commented on the reforms imposed on the financial institutions and how the Republican candidates want to un-do those financial regulations, as well as slash Medicare and Social Security, as well as unions.
King said, “It’s either a choice or a referendum.” If it’s a choice, said moderator King, then many Democrats are saying, “Where is he? Why isn’t he out there?” Gibbs responded that the American public wants Obama out there talking to CEO’s and creating more jobs, not running for office when he should be seeking solutions to the nation’s problems. “It took us a while to get into this mess and it’s going to take us a while to get out,” Gibbs said. He responded to a question from Gloria Borger, CNN Chief Political Analyst, “In May, the polling (CNN) showed the public blamed Bush more than Obama for the mess we’re in.” “I’m not suggesting that this election is going to be about blaming Bush,” said Gibbs as the spokesperson for the White House, “but the policies you heard tonight were the same ones that got us into this mess. …I think we have to understand that the American people are hurting every day. We have family members that are out of work. We have neighbors that are out of work. ..We’re going to have bits and sparks to this procedure,” defended Gibbs.
David Gergen: “The question becomes, ‘When is the President going to give us a plan to deal with the slowing of the economy?'” Gibbs: “I’m not setting this up to be a referendum on George W. Bush, but, first and foremost, we have to continue to do the things like tax cuts for small businesses.” Does Obama have more legislation on the table? asked Gergen. Gibbs responded that the administration needs to structure this carefully. (He used, as an example that it can’t be set up so that a business that fired Anderson Cooper on Monday could then hire him back on Tuesday to get a tax credit.)
“Are there things that we can continue to do to spur the economy?” repeated Gibbs back to Gergen, saying, as an answer, “We’ve got to increase job training. Some of the jobs that went away we know aren’t coming back.”
No other candidates laid a glove on Romney, who looked and sounded presidential, and Rick Santorum revealed even more his arch-conservative personality.
Herman Cain just came off as somewhat extraneous to the debate, a businessman amongst political professionals. Although Pawlenty had a chance to take shots at Romney (which he had just done on a national news program), in person, mano a mano, he demurred and remained polite. Many of the commentators felt this caused him to lose ground.
Bachmann, however, did better than anticipated. Ron Paul, as usual, provided some common sense mixed with some unintentional comedy, although he did not revisit the topic of legalizing hemp, as I heard him do onstage during his Rally for the Republic at the Target Center in Minneapolis in 2008. The arched eyebrows of Romney as he stood next to Ron Paul watching him were priceless. Those looks of Romney’s (at Paul) will surely resurface in a “Saturday Night LIve” skit.
The debate about Sharia Law seemed irrelevant, given the major problems the nation faces. In dial-testing done in real time, the Opera House Republicans and Independents in Rochester, New Hampshire became heated on the topic of right to work laws. Pawlenty’s remarks on having the “right to work” were popular. The biggest reaction early on was to that topic. Citizens in Ohio and Wisconsin, where teachers, firefighters and other union employees are under attack (and the Governor of Ohio is a product of Fox News) might express less enthusiasm. The country as a whole, when Democrats and Independents are included in the group, might be less enthused about the dismantling of the programs and unions they have counted on all their lives.
Michelle Bachmann reintroduced herself to the American public, forcefully (and repeatedly) mentioning her 5 children (and 23 foster children) and bringing up her expertise as a tax lawyer. Andy Card (former White House aide to Bush) said, of Bachmann’s performance: “I thought Michele Bachmann did a very good job tonight.” Bachmann scored points on Obama’s failure to raise the debt ceiling when a Senator. The Tea Party will like her, said the commentators. “She came across as very electable tonight,” said one talking head. Cooper wondered what Sarah Palin might have been thinking about Michele Bachmann while watching her this night. Gloria Borger felt she was “the positive candidate” and moved out of Sarah Palin’s shadow.
John King agreed that Bachmann’s challenge is whether she can move out of her identity as exclusively a Tea Party candidate. David Gergen felt she spoke in pithy, interesting sentences and she introduced her biography (repeatedly — .Bachmann is a native of Waterloo, Iowa, so she may be well-received in the Iowa caucuses). Gloria Borger thought Bachmann was more impressive than Rick Santorum, the other social conservative. Biggest winners were Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann by many polls and accounts and through personal observation. Winners during the debate were declared to be:
51% Romney, Bachmann, 21%, 9% Pawlenty by Republicans.
35% Romney, 26% Bachmann and 12% Pawlenty by Democrats.
Cornell Blecher, CNN African American commentator, said that Michele Bachmann will be one of the last candidates standing. Why would Pawlenty start an attack and then not follow through, all commentators asked, in regards to the health care bill Romney initiated in Massachusetts when Governor. The consensus: Romney was the winner; Pawlenty missed an opportunity; Bachmann ‘” most underrated. The entire Republican debate revealed 7 people who oppose Obama’s Health Care bill, are predominantly anti-gay, oppose gay marriage and women’s abortion rights, would like to restore “Don’t ask/don’t tell” and are extremely conservative. Cain and Paul seem to have a slim chance of surviving, like Dennis Kucinich of the Democrats in 2008, but Paul is always a straightforward debater. Cain, a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, seemed out of place and outgunned on the stage with the other career politicians, but, then, prior to the debate, one would have said the same thing of Bachmann, and she gained ground this night.