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Tea with Your Debate
About last night in Florida.


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MONA CHAREN
What was with CNN introducing the candidates as if it were a football game?

It was a bad night for Perry. While clearly the audience favorite at the start, he lost a lot of altitude as he had to defend the Gardisil decision, the in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, and his opposition to the border fence. Many in the audience may have been hearing about these things for the first time.

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Romney, while always polished, strikes many as utterly inauthentic — and therefore untrustworthy.

Gingrich is made for these debates. Michele Bachmann is the reliable B student. And Jon Huntsman, whose candidacy was based on reason, civility, and high tea — turns out to be quite ready with the shiv.

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help (And the Rest of Us).


SAMUEL GREGG
When CNN hosts a Tea Party–sponsored debate, you know we’re not in 2008 anymore.

This debate was a preview of the economic arguments that will be marshaled against President Obama in 2012. In this regard, almost all of the candidates demonstrated their ability to raise sharp questions about the present administration’s specific policies but also about the basic philosophy informing those positions. The question running through my mind was how the president was going to provide convincing (let alone coherent) responses to the critiques I heard of policies ranging from Obamacare, to his administration’s not-so-subtle association with some of America’s worst examples of crony capitalism, to the ramping up of deficit spending that has produced so few tangible results in terms of employment and growth.

It was also revealing that the economic questions asked at this forum closely mirrored many of the issues raised at the previous debates. This suggests that all the talk about the Tea Party’s running out of steam since 2010 seems less convincing than ever. Whether the Republican party likes it or not, the Tea Party is still galvanizing American conservatives and also, perhaps more importantly, independents. And that spells deep trouble for the Left in 2012.

— Samuel Gregg is research director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy, and his 2012 forthcoming Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and America’s Future.


CHARLOTTE HAYS

Can we get the Tea Party and Wolf Blitzer to team up for the all GOP debates? Thanks to very good questions by the tea-party activists and Blitzer’s ability to keep his liberal bias in check, it was a lively and revealing night.

Two things mattered: whether Michele Bachmann could stage a comeback (I don’t think she did) and the back-and-forth between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, one of whom will in all likelihood become the Republican nominee. The first question was on Social Security, perfect for a face-off between them. “Governor Perry scares seniors,” Romney said, trying his darndest to give “Ponzi” Perry an opportunity to scare them some more. Romney recalled that in his book Fed Up!, Perry called Social Security unconstitutional. Does he stand by that?

I thought Perry’s answer was good: “If you are saying that back in the 1930s and ’40s they made the right decision [about Social Security], then I don’t agree with you,” Perry said. That’s a yep, it’s unconstitutional, and Perry got a strong round of applause. But Perry did make it clear that, after all these years, Social Security is part of American life (though I am not sure he wouldn’t want the states to have more say in administering it). Perry, as he needed to do, went out of his way to reassure older citizens who are on Social Security. He was believable, I thought.

Still, if you listened to what Mitt Romney, who’s lost some of his frontrunner confidence, said, you had to admit that the former Massachusetts governor has the best command of economic issues of all the GOP hopefuls, including Herman Cain, whose intriguing tax plan is called 9-9-9 (why not 6-6-6?). Romney is right that his business experience is a plus. It shows in his fluidity and sophistication whenever he answers questions on what to do to restore the economy.

Romney may well be the best candidate to go up against Barack Obama. Still, I can give my heart to Rick Perry for awhile, can’t I? I love his confidence and swagger. Did you notice the way he always got the camera to look at him, no matter who was talking? At one point, Perry actually patted Romney on the back — condescendingly. Best of all, snobs would be driven as wild by Rick’s “regalatory” as they were by George Bush’s “nucular.” (By the way, Perry says nucular, too, the scamp!) I like to think of Perry as sort of the Texas aggie version of bad boy Prince Harry. Rick Perry is cocky. Barack Obama is arrogant. There is a big difference, but I must admit that, smitten as I am, Texas cockiness may not play as well above the Mason-Dixon line.

Speaking of what plays well, somebody should tell the desperate Jon Huntsman that Kurt Cobain references don’t play well with a tea-party crowd.

— Charlotte Hays is senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.




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