In summary: this was a cosmically awful debate. To talk about winners and losers here makes no sense. Like the Battle of the Somme, any gains were measured in inches.
Except that there was a clear loser: Rick Perry, who botched an answer so badly, when he failed to remember a list of three things, that it stopped being bad and actually turned funny. The Perry record now has too many gaffes and brain freezes, that the only thing he’s running for now is to retain his dignity.
Let’s review the tape, shall we? Unable to remember a major policy plank – the three government agencies he was going to boldly abolish and save many billions of dollars – Perry was reduced to doing an excellent impression of a goldfish tipped out of its tank. Mitt Romney even helpfully chipped in with some suggestions. Oh, the ignominies!
It may be fatal because Perry had already used up his lives with his awful botched attack on Mitt Romney a few debates back. One huge debate flub may be regarded as a misfortune; to make two seems like a campaign’s death knell.
At the burial place of Perry’s campaign, the headstone will read: “Let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
Winners? Only in the sense that Charlie Sheen defines “winning”. Herman Cain got a friendly platform to shift the spotlight off his sexual harassment woes – although his ghastly “Princess Nancy” jibe would have been the talking point of the night if Perry hadn’t won that prize so easily. Mitt Romney escaped unscathed, once again. He rebuffed a couple of attempts to knock him off balance, so in that sense he won.
In an alternative universe, Jon Huntsman won, but it’s clear that alternative universe is a very different place. Back in earth’s harsh reality, Newt Gingrich – running a campaign powered by his own bullshit – is deemed to have had a good night, although God alone knows why.
Well, there’s another debate on Saturday – no, really – so the game continues. I’m taking bets that Perry won’t actually show up.
Summing up tonight’s debate, Nate Silver, New York Times politics guru, tweets:
The 2012 Nobel Prize has been awarded to Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich for discovering that all bubbles are caused by Barney Frank
Yes, and that was the problem with this debate. Asked to discuss hard, very real economic issues, almost all of the candidates – other than Jon Huntsman and, from time to time, Mitt Romney – offered simplistic bromides, political point-scoring, half-assed non-solutions and trivial distractions. The worst offender was Herman Cain, who plainly has no grasp whatsoever of the very basics of economic policies or their timescale.
(I should also exempt Ron Paul from all this, since he moves to the beat of his own drum.)
Good night, and thank you for reading.
Larry Sabato issues his report card for the debate tonight:
Mitt: B (untouched but undistinguished)
Newt: B (crowd pleaser but irritating)
Cain: C+ (decent but tainted by frenzy)
Perry: W (withdrawn, returning to Texas)
Other candidates: AU (auditing class)
That sounds about right.
Fox News appears to have Rick Perry’s bumble clip on high rotate. As will all cable news stations, in between footage of Joe Paterno.
“I think all of us felt very bad for him,” says Michele Bachmann to Greta Van Susteren. Sympathy from Michele Bachmann? That’s got to hurt.
Some actual breaking news: AP reports that the trustees of Penn State University have sacked Joe Paterno and college president Graham Spanier.
Speaking after the debate, Rick Perry says:
Speaking of boots, I’m glad I had my boots on tonight because I sure stepped in it out there.
Yep, that’s for sure. There seems to be a note of sympathy for Perry out there. Which is even worse.
OK then, Herman Cain turns up on CNBC for the post-match analysis – and is asked about his nasty “Princess Nancy” reference to Nancy Pelosi. Cain has the good sense to say: “That was a statement I probably should not have made.”
Right, it’s all over. Thank God. More importantly, here’s the transcript of Rick Perry’s epic fail:
Rick Perry: But the fact of the matter is we better have a plan in place that Americans can get their hands around. And that’s a reason my flat tax is the only one of all of the folks – these good folks on the stage, it balances the budget in 2020. It does the things to the regulatory climate that has to happen.
And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the – what’s the third one there? Let’s see.
Ron Paul: You need five.
Perry: Oh, five, OK. So Commerce, Education, and the…
Mitt Romney: EPA?
Perry: EPA, there you go.
John Harwood: Seriously, is the EPA the one you were talking about?
Perry: No, sir, no, sir. We were talking about the agencies of government – the EPA needs to be rebuilt. There’s no doubt about that.
Harwood: But you can’t, you can’t name the third one?
Perry: The third agency of government I would — I would do away with, Education, the…
Perry: Commerce and, let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.
Oh no. Asked another question, Rick Perry paused – and we all thought: Oh God, not again! But he held it together.
Now even Herman Cain is taking the piss out of Jim Cramer, who has been let out of his cage again. To be fair, it’s not hard.
Apparently the end is near. Of this debate. But also western civilisation, and certainly the US economy.
Jon Huntsman has a go at Mitt Romney for pandering over a trade war with China. He’s right, of course.
“Governor Romney: are you pandering?” wonders John Harwood. “I’ve been in business all my life,” says Mitt. Well, not really, since you’ve been a full-time politician for the last 10 years.
This is such obvious pandering by Mitt that it should be in a zoo trying to mate.
Ewen MacAskill wonders about Newt Gingrich’s taking huge fees from US mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:
Now that Newt Gingrich has moved from single digit poll figures around 14% and a third-place slot, maybe he will come under more media scrutiny. Interesting when he was asked about his role with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose reckless lending was the catalyst for the slump. Although Gingrich is a critic of government involvement and a champion of cutting regulation, he worked as a consultant for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, taking $300,000 in fees.
Many or all of the consultants were employed to block government regulation. How’s Gingrich square this? He claimed tonight he had advised them to stop handing mortgages to people with poor credit ratings and they had ignored his advice. Anyone around in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the time that can corroborate this version?
Yes, it would be helpful to know more. Not that Gingrich has any chance, really, but because he’s a s-h-one-t of the highest order.
Herman Cain slips into parody. Asked about the state of California buying hi-tech goods from China and what he would do about it, Cain replies: “I have a bold plan: 9-9-9.”
No, it really is Cain’s answer to everything. He’s a fool.
To my memory, Perry’s forgetfulness is the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate.
Well, at least something came out of this debate, eh?
Ah, now Perry says he was trying to remember that he wanted to abolish the Department of Energy. Ironic cheers from the crowd.
Meanwhile, a lot of talk about student loans. And guess what? The answer from the candidates is the same as to Italy and home owners: suck it, students.
I’m searching my memory – which has been diminished by just watching this debate – and I can’t recall anything as devastating as Rick Perry’s self-immolation right then.
We’d have to go right back to Sir Alec Douglas-Home and his fuddled attempt to explain how the economy worked by admitting he used matchsticks.
I can’t wait for the transcript of that Rick Perry brain freeze. Until then I’m reminded of that old quote:
“It adds a new terror to life and makes death a long-felt want.”
Oh God, Rick Perry is having to cast around for the names of the three departments and government agencies he says he would abolish as president. He frantically names various ones, can remember two, but the final one eludes him.
Perry finally finishes with: “Oops.”
I think that’s the end of Rick Perry as a presidential contender for 2012. Thanks Rick, it’s been entertaining.
Taxi for Governor Perry.
Rick Santorum is speaking – because, frankly, who cares? – here’s the transcript of the Herman Cain sex question earlier:While
Maria Bartiromo: Mr Cain, the American people want jobs, but they also want leadership. They want character in a president. In recent days, we have learned that four different women have accused you of inappropriate behavior. Here we’re focusing on character and on judgment.
Bartiromo: You’ve been a CEO.
Herman Cain: Yes.
Bartiromo: You know that shareholders are reluctant to hire a CEO where there are character issues. Why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?
Cain: The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations. That’s…
Cain: And I value my character and my integrity more than anything else. And for every … one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably … there are thousands who would say none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain.
You’re right. This country’s looking for leadership. And this is why a lot of people, despite what has happened over the last nine days, are still very enthusiastic behind my candidacy. Over the last nine days…
Cain: Over the last nine days, the voters have voted with their dollars, and they are saying they don’t care about the character assassination. They care about leadership and getting this economy growing and all of the other problems we face.
John Harwood: Governor Romney, when you were at Bain Capital, you purchased a lot of companies. You could fire the CEO and the management team or you could keep them. Would you keep a CEO – are you persuaded by what Mr Cain has said? Would you keep him on if you bought his company?
Mitt Romney: Look, look, Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions. He just did. The people in this room and across the country can make their own assessment.
Princess Nancy, I took the liberty of upgrading your hotel room
Romney points out that the US spends such a large share of national income on healthcare, more than the rest of the world and wants to keep it down with more “market-based” healthcare. And yet, and yet … all those other countries with lower healthcare spending have far less market-based health provision. Such as Britain’s NHS.
So, let’s draw the opposite conclusion from that than the obvious one, shall we?
Ha: asked about healthcare, Mitt Romney reels off his experience and says: “I know, markets work.”
Strangely enough, he omits one little, tiny detail in that list: Romneycare, which he instituted as governor of Massachusetts. Where markets didn’t work. Apparently.
But they work everywhere else, eh, Mitt?
Now Newt Gingrich is complaining that 30 seconds isn’t long enough to answer detailed policy questions. Windbag. Has he not noticed that’s how these debates work?
“Would you like to try to answer the question?” jibes Maria Bartiromo. And he does. It’s a meaningless shopping list of bad ideas that have no connection except in Newt’s brain.
Larry Sabato, the sage of the University of Virginia, tweets rather cruelly:
“Newt gets big bucks from Freddie, gave them “advice as a historian”. Yeah, I’m sure that’s why he was hired.”
Healthcare reform, and the candidates are asked what they will replace “Obamacare” with. And there are some mildly coherent replies – or maybe my brain is melting. Apart from Cain, of course.
Cain just referred to Nancy Pelosi, the then Speaker of the House, as “Princess Nancy”. He really does have a problem with women, doesn’t he?
Ewen MacAskill is slowly being driven to hard liquor:
This is the worst debate yet, worse than the Bloomberg one. We are now 45 minutes in, and I haven’t heard anything remotely informative about the candidates’ economic policies.
Jon Huntsman is playing the adult, pointing out that for people who have just lost their jobs, blathering on about long-term reform is no use.
Now Huntsman is bashing Goldman Sachs. Commie.
Ah, Herman Cain is asked about the housing market and the answer is … 9-9-9.
But what about the three years it will take to reform the tax code first? Do nothing? Yes, says Cain.
his company took $200,000 from Fannie Mae in 2006. He says he predicted everything and that’s what he told them and they ignored him. Really? How convenient.Oh, now Newt Gingrich is being asked why
Rick Perry doesn’t appear to subscribe to the “tough luck home owners” policy of all the other candidates.
Now the CNBC economics wonk is asking a sensible question, pointing out that jobs have been added and yet the housing market keeps falling.
“Now exactly what would you do instead?” says Romney.
“I’m asking you,” says Mr Wonk.
Mitt falls back on flannel, blaming US housing market regulators. Bzzt.
Haha, Newt Gingrich just called Michele Bachmann “Congressman Bachmann”.
Yes, it’s come to this, I’m afraid.
The question is the housing market, and what to do about it. Sadly, all the candidates have nothing to say about the housing market – they think it’s a symptom of the poor economy rather than being a cause. This is a fundamental error.
Anyway, in summary: like Italy, the housing market can go suck it.
Ad break. Yes, this is the Worst. Debate. Ever. The questions are, to be frank, tediously limited. I think what CNBC is trying to do is show that these guys know nothing about economics, or at least catch them out, but the result is blather rather than gotcha.
Ewen MacAskill says Herman Cain isn’t the force he was in previous debates:
The sexual harassment row is having an impact on Cain – he’s not as ebullient as in previous debates. Even talking about 9-9-9 he sounds subdued. Hardly surprising given the pounding he has taken in the last 11 days.
Ha ha. Ron Paul bangs on about the money supply: M1, in fact – haven’t heard that one for a while (it’s a narrow measure of money supply) – and how it is rising.
“That means inflation!” says Ron.
Inflation? In this economy?
Asked what’s to stop his 9-9-9 tax plan turning into 19-19-19, Cain delivers a magnificent non-sequitur:
“Tax codes don’t raise taxes. Politicians do.”
Cain is asked about the regressive nature of his 9-9-9 tax plan. Naturally, he ignores it and defends the fairness of his tax plan by giving a dictionary definition of “fair”. Yes, that will do it.
My Guardian colleague Ewen MacAskill is watching, and says that the moderators dropped the ball in quizzing Herman Cain:
Cowardice on the part of the journalists on the debate panel. Having raised the sexual harassment issues with Cain, they backed off after being booed by the audience. Having raised it, they should have seen it through, putting it to at least a few of the candidates.
Jim Cramer is asking some nutty question about whether companies should make profits or create jobs. These are Republican party candidates; they’re obviously going to say “both”.
Newt Gingrich blames the media for the way it reports on the economy – and Maria Bartiromo comes back at him, asking for an example. Newt goes with some snide response about that being a position dressed up as a question. What?
When he finally answers it’s some nonsense about reporters not asking Occupy Wall Street protesters who would pay for Zucotti Park if there were no companies making profits. No, I have no idea either.
Newt Gingrich is only called a thinker by those with a lisp.
I have to say, that was a lame attempt to ask a question about Cain’s sexual harassment problems, by dressing it up as an “economic” question. Meh.
Back to Cain … oh, here we go, it’s the sexual harassment question. Hey, the audience is booing, while Maria Bartiromo asks about “character issues” in a chief executive – and a president.
Herman Cain says: “There are thousands that would say that none of that came from Herman Cain.”
Cain’s going full bore for the “character assasination” defence, and the crowd seems to like it.
More boos! When Mitt Romney is asked if he would keep on Cain as a CEO given his character problems. Romney brushes it off.
There’s a heckler – I can’t hear what he said but it gets a big laugh from the crowd.
Hey, Michele Bachmann is still in the race. Well, she’s on stage, anyway, which isn’t really the same thing, I guess.
The pattern here is that none of the candidates are actually answering any of the pointed economic questions they are being asked. They may as well be wearing iPods. In fact I think Rick Perry is.
Now it’s Newt Gingrich, who once again launches into his own personal warfare with the Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke – and says he should be fired. Which he can’t be, under law. Good one, Newt.
Romney is being pushed about his history of dodgy, ever-shifting statements. But Mitt says he’s a pretty straight sort of guy. So that’s ok.
Now Rick Perry – his first question here – is asked a sly question aimed at Romney, which he ignores and instead answers the question that was in his head. It ends with:
“If you are too big to fail, you are too big.”
Mitt Romney is now having his weasel words about not backing the auto industry in Michigan quoted back to him. But Mitt is ready, and somehow blames emissions legislation that helped foreign carmakers. That’s hardly the reason why the US auto industry collapsed under its own weight.
Mitt mentions his family history here – but doesn’t mention that his father was head of a now defunct US carmaker American Motors Corporation.
Despite Cramer. Jon Huntsman actually gives a sensible reply about the size of banks being the problem. Very un-Republican.
Maria Bartiromo asks Mitt Romney if the US will keep funding the IMF, which would bail out Italy. Mitt chunters on for a bit, and sort of says yes but no but no but no bailouts.
First question to Herman Cain – is it sex? No, it’s the stock market, and Italy. What will Herman Cain do to save Italy, and so on?
Two things says Herman. One is meaningless fluff about growing the US economy. The other is meaningless fluff about the dollar.
Allow Italy to fail, Cain is asked? “There’s not a lot the United States can do for Italy right now, because there’s not a lot that we can do to save them right now.”
Suck on that, Italy, says Herman Cain.
Here we go, then: live from the campus of a university somewhere in Michigan – Rochester? Isn’t that in New York state? That’s another Rochester. Anyway, Rochester, Michigan, as close to Detroit as CNBC felt safe enough to come.
And the candidates are being introduced. They are there, and managing to stay standing up. The rules: no kicking, no gouging – unless they have to.
Back to the CNBC screen: with the stock market ticker and news scrolling along on the bottom, and the Nikkei and oil prices running along the top, watching this debate is akin to peering at your television through your letterbox.
As they say on Twitter: #cnbcfail
Did you know that, including tonight, there are four – four! – Republican debates in the next 13 days?
At this rate, the Nick Junior kids cartoon channel will be hosting one.
“I’m worried that the people who normally watch CNBC will catch tonight’s GOP debate and it’ll spook the markets.”
Lord, Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer are going to be taking part in this debate? It’s shaping up to be The Worst Debate Ever. Worse that that CNN one where they asked questions via robots.
Santelli is the guy who supposedly set off the Tea Party with his televised rant. And Jim Cramer? Well.
leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Reading borough council, to this live blog.I’d like to welcome Daisy Benson, the
She just followed me on Twitter so I figured it would be nice to say hello. Hi Daisy!
What is Newt Gingrich doing right now before the debate? Watching ‘Bridesmaids.’ No joke.
OK, it’s a good movie. And frankly, not knowing tedious facts is hardly Newt Gingrich’s weakness. If anything, knowing too many facts is his problem. Or knowing when to shut his mouth re: said facts.
Seriously, CNBC, please drop that stupid stock market ticker running across the bottom of the screen. For the love of the TV Gods.
This debate is on CNBC, a cable news channel that is usually hyperactively covering share prices (even more so in recent weeks, as you can imagine).
The presenter just said, with a straight face: “The housing market will be a key topic tonight…” Yes, that’s right, just after the discussion on the awesomeness of unicorns and rainbows.
Amid a storm of allegations levied against Herman Cain, the American Mustache Institute today announced it had rescinded its endorsement for his presidential candidacy.
The institute is concerned about “allegations came to light that Cain’s mustache is not real, but actually a theater quality upper lip garment”.
This is precisely what Herman Cain does not need right now.
One thing you may have noticed from Herman Cain’s recent appearances is that Herman Cain refers to Herman Cain in the third person. A lot.
Talking Points Memo have mashed up a tiny sliver of Herman Cain on
Good evening and welcome to live blogging of the – what is this, 10th? – Republican presidential candidates’ debate. Like a tired, long-running sitcom, the same cast of characters is back: unloved patriarch Mitt Romney, weird uncle Ron Paul, angry neighbour Rick Santorum, local blowhard Newt Gingrich and … Herman Cain.
Yes, tonight’s debate is the first since Cain’s insurgent campaign raced to the top of the opinion polls and then ran into a brick wall of serial sexual misconduct allegations, as first revealed by Politico newspaper and subsequently confirmed by two women.
Cain has tried ignoring, ridiculing and avoiding the charges, offering a twisting set of responses that merely made matters worse. Finally, on Tuesday, Cain held a press conference to tackle the subject – but ended up satisfying no-one with his blank denials and memory loss.
Will the allegations against Cain come up tonight? In some ways Cain is on friendly territory, on stage with seven other Republican contenders. But it seems hard to imagine that the subject won’t be raised, especially as even Romney – who is neck and neck with Cain in the polls – has called the allegations “serious” and “disturbing”.
It may be that one of the lesser candidates – Michele Bachmann? Santorum? Jon Huntsman? – will seize the chance to raise the issue, if they can do so in way that doesn’t alienate the approximately 60% of Republicans who have told pollsters they don’t believe the allegations.
Santorum, a social conservative with subterranean poll ratings, has a particular incentive to throw bombs at Cain and maybe get some airtime from a national media that has long ago written him off.
There are three other themes to look for:
• The inevitable Mitt Romney
Romney remains atop the polls – but many Republicans remain unconvinced that he should be their party’s standard bearer because of his dodgy past of repeatedly backflipping on his political positions.
But so far, Romney has seemed Teflon-coated: nothing sticks. And the attention on Herman Cain’s troubles has once again taken the heat off him. Will that change tonight? And will Rick Perry continue his assault on Romney, as he did in the last debate two weeks ago?
• The economy, stupid
The debate is being held in Michigan, near to the jobs wasteland of Detroit and the struggling car industry, saved in part thanks to a bailout of GM. Most of the candidates are opposed to the bailouts – especially Romney – despite their apparent success. Can the candidates offer more than their nostrums of endless tax cuts, and Cain’s hugely regressive 9-9-9 plan?
With the stumbles of Herman Cain and the tailspin of Texas governor Rick Perry, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is next in line as the next “Not Romney” candidate for the more conservative Republicans. But apart from loving the sound of his own voice, Gingrich comes with more baggage than a left-luggage depot.
The debate itself starts at 8pm ET, and is being carried live on CNBC.
And of course you can leave your own witty remarks in the comments below. Obviously if any of them are funny then I will steal them.