Image by DonkeyHotey via FlickrLast night, like 5.5 million other Americans, I watched the CNN Western Republican Debate. In my posting from yesterday, I stated that I was fully expecting to see Herman Cain's 999 plan come under a lot of debate. Boy did it ever.
The first question asked was from an audience member regarding where each candidate stood on replacing the income tax with a national sales tax. It allowed moderator Anderson Cooper to direct the question to each candidate to give them the opportunity to attack Cain's plan. With the exception of Newt Gingrich, each took their turns attacking the 999 plan
For the most part, I think Cain did a decent job in trying to defend the plan given the intricacies of his proposal and the fact that he was only given 30 seconds to give a rebuttal every time one of the other candidates brought it up. Gingrich was the only one who acknowledged that fact. Quite frankly, I do not think most of the other candidates have a clue as to the entirety of the Cain plan nor do they understand it.
That opening salvo of attacks on Cain set the stage for the balance of the evening. Most of the remaining attacks the balance of the evening were directed at Mitt Romney. In fact, there was so much bickering on stage, particularly between Romney and Rick Perry, that it was rather distasteful. At one point during a heated exchange, Anderson Cooper looked absolutely giddy about the heated discussion, as if that was his goal the entire night.
Perry looked like somebody who finally realized that any chance he had to get the nomination was slipping away fast. While you could say it was his best performance in a debate thus far, the constant sniping with Romney was a major turnoff, at least for me. At one point I tweeted, "The next debate should be a steel cage match. The last man or woman standing gets the nominations."
Romney was pretty much Romney, able to talk around most of the questions without really answering. After the initial rounds of attacks on the 999 plan, Romney took much of the attacks the rest of the night, primarily from Perry and Rick Santorum. It was the first time that he took a lot of attacks, and there were a couple of instances where he seemed to get a bit flustered.
I have never been a big Ron Paul fan because of his stance of defense. There were a few times when I though he sounded like a doddering old fool. Santorum had a couple of decent answers during the debate, but for the most part came across as just an angry guy. Neither one of them did much to help themselves.
Michele Bachmann had, I think, one of her better performances in a while. Other than erroneously referring to the 999 plan as a VAT tax, she stayed above the fray and focused on defeating Obama in 2012. She also was able to talk about something other than repealing Obamacare. While I do think it was one of her better performances, I have to disagree with what she (or her campaign) to her Facebook feed, "After tonight's debate, it is even more abundantly clear that I am best equipped to defeat Barack Obama and put Americans back to work."
Ultimately, I thought Newt Gingrich performed the best of all the candidates on stage. He stayed away from the sniping and bickering, put forth ideas, acted as a peacemaker, and appeared to be the most presidential. I also felt that Cain held his own, though I would like to see him bone up a bit on foreign policy and do a better job defending his ideas. I still have about six months until the Maryland primary in April, so I will continue watching to see how things shake out.