On Monday, CNN hosted the first Republican Presidential Debate at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. The debaters were: former Senator Rick Santorum, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Representative Ron Paul (TX), Representative Michele Bachmann (MN), and businessman and talk show host Herman Cain.

As a lover of politics and elections in America (and someone who is on the fence about who to vote for in the next Presidential election), I had to watch. Thank goodness for technology! I wasn’t able to watch the debate on cable because I don’t have cable (too expensive – that’s a topic for another day) so I was able to tune in via the Internet. Anyway, I digress.

The typical topics were on the table: the economy, the usual social issues (gay marriage, abortion, etc.), foreign policy, taxes, defense, the government’s role in society, and health care. And with standard questions come standard answers from a group all hailing from the same party. A lot of Obama bashing, talk of how the President ruined health care, right-to-life, right-to-work, and how the government sticks their nose where it doesn’t belong. Almost all of the candidates refused to answer questions directly from the moderator and instead used the debate as a platform for their ideologies. They also rambled on longer than the time that they were allotted and the moderator, in an attempt to cut them off, started stuttering.

Overall, here’s what I thought:

    

    Herman Cain

    

  • I was surprised the most by Cain. I wasn’t too familiar with him prior to the debate but I found him to be very well-spoken, well-behaved, and his answers were thoughtful. Cain was prepared, but not over-coached. While I don’t agree with him on many issues, he was my favorite by far. (That could have been because he didn’t act like a typical politician – because he isn’t one!)
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN)
  • Speaking of over-coached, let’s talk about Bachmann. She had a very Sarah Palin-esque quality about her but she lacked the timing that Palin has (with the zingers). She came off sounding like a mouthpiece and her personality didn’t really show through. There was a question about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and Bachmann responded by saying she would consult with her “Commanders-in-Chief” on the issue. Excuse me, would you be the Commander in Chief? While this might have been a slip up, it shows a lack of confidence.
  • Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN)
  • Which brings me to Pawlenty. Prior to the debate, he was quoted as saying, “‘President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare, and basically made it Obamneycare,’ Pawlenty said on Fox News Sunday. ‘We now have essentially the same features. The President’s own words is that he patterned in large measure Obamacare after what happened in Massachusetts.'” Them’s fightin’ words! But when the time in the debate came where the moderator asked Pawlenty about his remarks, the former Governor backed off a bit. He had a huge opportunity to take a big swing at Romney, and he didn’t.
  • Former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA)
  • Mitt Romney! Everyone’s favorite potential candidate. I had high hopes for him going into Monday night’s debate but was sorely disappointed. More than once he dodged questions and didn’t take opportunities when he had them. While well-spoke and charismatic, he didn’t seem nearly as prepared as he should have been.
  • 

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich

    

  • The most unprepared of the bunch had to have been Newt. For a guy that has spent the majority of his career on Capitol Hill, I think he had a good opportunity to blow everyone out of the water. Instead he came off as almost being out of touch because he talked too much inside baseball. He let his experience hinder him in the debate. I’m sure it didn’t help that his senior staff left en masse just a few short days before the big event.
  • 

    Rep. Ron Paul (TX)

    

  • Last, and probably the most consistent, was Representative Ron Paul from Texas. Although he always comes off as being all over the place, he stayed on message pretty well Monday night. He was really on it about eliminating the Federal Reserve but I think that’s just part of his shtick.
  • 

    Former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA)

    

  • Oh wait! How could I have forgot about Rick Santorum!? (Maybe because he resembled Pawlenty?) I had heard his name a lot prior to the debate based on his multitude of outlandish comments but when it came time to really deliver some punches, (like Pawlenty) he just fell short.

I wouldn’t be able to finish this post without mentioning that the moderator asked some hilarious personality questions with a game of this or that. For example, he asked Paul “iPhone or Blackberry?” and Cain if he preferred thin crust or thick. While I’ve read some criticisms of the silly questions, I enjoyed a quick break from the norm.

I’m looking forward to another GOP debate which hopefully features current Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Governor of Utah and US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and Mitt Romney.

Note: In case you missed the debate but still want to watch, head over to CNN’s political ticker blog. The videos are in four parts so you don’t have to watch the whole debate in one sitting.

[Thank you to Flickr and State Library and Archives of Florida for making the argument picture available for use. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for making all of the images above available for reuse. I also want to thank Gage Skidmore for making the Herman Cain image, the Newt Gingrich image, and the Rick Santorum image available for reuse, Congress for making Rep. Bachmann’s photo and Rep. Paul’s photo available, the State of Minnesota for making former Gov. Pawlenty’s image available, and thank you to Mitt Romney Media and Jessica Rinaldi for making former Gov. Romney’s image available.]

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