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Fight Club: GOP candidates brawl on CNN

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 18, 2011 11:25 PM

Quick thoughts on tonight’s CNN GOP debate:

The forum…

*Mother fudge biscuits, can we quit with the goofy, one-minute introductions of candidates who’ve been on the air for years, if not decades?

*Debates are much better without annoying buzzers, timers, and Gmail chat sounds.

*Debates are infinitely more tolerable without the marginal Jon Huntsman and his Vogue Magazine-approved “thoughtful moooooooderate” schtick.

*Debates are much better when liberal anchors play minimal roles in arguing with the candidates on stage as if they were running for office themselves.

*That said, even the best of liberal “moderators” are trying to make their mark on the GOP primary. And their biases are transparent. Tonight’s moderator, Anderson Cooper, may have been on better-than-normal behavior. But this is the obnoxious journalist who snickered at grass-roots conservatives with sexually degrading “Teabagging” jokes. Not forgotten.

*At the end of the debate, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich complained about not having a chance to make closing statements. Them’s the breaks. Memo to campaigns: GOP candidates shouldn’t complain about liberal media rules/moderation if they agree to participate in such arenas.

The issues…

Some of the very topics I raised in my Hold Your Nose Tracker came up in the debate tonight.

TARP.

Rick Santorum called out the front-runners on their TARP support. Unfortunately, Santorum’s campaign is going nowhere and both Perry and Romney glossed over the core fiscal concerns raised regarding the Chicken Little proclivities of GOP TARP cheerleaders.

Illegal immigration.

Romney and Perry — both flip-flopping squishes on immigration enforcement — tried to out-tough each other on the issue.

Perry resurrected Romney’s illegal alien problem from 2007. (See here for background.) Romney counter-attacked by calling out Perry’s opposition to E-verify.

Bottom line. They are both, in Perry’s words, “conservatives of convenience” on the issue. What is it with the GOP and immigration cross-dressers? Ugh.

Scorecard on Romney-Perry on this topic: Draw.

The budget, economy, health care.

Well, Rick Perry said things most rank-and-file conservatives can agree with: The U.N. should be de-funded. We should drill more in America. Obama’s energy secretary is a job-killing eco-nitwit. (I’m paraphrasing on that last one, of course. If only he’d be so unapologetically blunt.)

Speaking of energy, Perry had more of it than the last two outings. That was a step in the right direction. But he sputtered in the middle of an answer to a question about religion — and specifically, about whether he agreed with his supporter Pastor Robert Jeffress that Mormonism is a cult. Last debate, Perry refused to disavow the remarks. Tonight, he said he couldn’t apologize more for them — and then bizarrely paused mid-sentence several times.

Brain freeze.

Shuddering at the thought of this happening during a general election debate. Egad.

Perry also had another opportunity to go full-frontal on Romney. It wasn’t as cringe-worthy as the last two outings, but it may do little to assuage donors having doubts about Perry’s ability to deliver knockout punches. When Romney and Gingrich had their revealing little colloquy on the individual mandate — both supported it, just as I pointed out in yesterday’s Hold Your Nose Tracker — Perry should have used that very moment to contrast himself with both his baggage-laden opponents.

Alas, Santorum was really the only one to go aggressively after Romneycare (Doug has video here), but half his time was eaten with bickering between him and Romney about the time allotted.

Perry was the worst at filibustering and interrupting. The crowd was audibly annoyed.

But as annoying as Perry was in interrupting other candidates throughout the debate, Romney didn’t do himself any favors when he complained that “if [Perry] wants to be president, he should let both people speak.” Huh?

Ron Paul went all pro-Occupier, pro-Gitmo detainee, Alex Jonesy again tonight. So I have nothing else to say about him, really.

Cain won the most applause when he defended his criticism of the Occupy Wall Street professional freeloaders.

“They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration,” he said.

Amen. Put that in the human microphone and amplify it across America.

Cain handled attacks on his 9-9-9 plan fairly well. Above all else, he is filling a vacuum left by the likes of…Rick Perry, who announced that he’ll have an economic plan to announce. Just not tonight.

Step on the gas pedal already. Criminey!

Debate winners…

+ Everyone sick of Jon Huntsman, who “boycotted” the event and spared us all his awkward one-liners.

+ Hands down again: Twitter, where instant reaction, analysis, commentary, and snark made debate-watching tolerably entertaining (much more fun to watch and tweet using Occupier hand signals than sitting and clapping mechanically in the audience).

Debate losers…

– Anyone hoping for serious discussion of entitlement reform and reducing growth of government.

– Anyone hoping for a debate relevant to current political climate that would delve into bipartisan Beltway corruption and statism.

Biggest lost opportunity…

NO ONE went after Romney for this:

“Now, I can tell you this, it’s absolutely right that there’s a lot that needs to be done. And I didn’t get the job done in Massachusetts in getting the health care costs down in this country. It’s something I think we have got to do at the national level. I intend to do that.”

He admitted he was an abysmal failure on health care reform. And no one ran with that?

The full debate transcript is here. I’ll update with more video as they come in.

***

Via The Right Scoop:

Here’s video of Cain’s defense of his Occupy Wall Street critique.

Here’s video of the TARP prattle.

Here’s video of the two soft-on-illegal immigration squishes playing Punch and Judy for the cameras.

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Categories: 2012 Campaign, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Media