Live Analysis: GOP Presidential Debate
Throughout the evening, National Journal's editors will use this space to offer real-time analysis of the Republican presidential debate co-sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express. Eight candidates are squaring off in Tampa, Fla., site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
10:04 Sean Sullivan: Romney was on point tonight, with sharpened attacks against Perry. Bachmann found a way to insert herself into the debate by also attacking Perry. Sensing a pattern here? Perry had to play a lot of defense tonight, but didn't always shine. He'll need to hone his skills pushing back against criticism on the HPV vaccine mandate and immigration, among other things. Welcome to the view from the top, where you can see everyone climbing up after you.
9:38 Sean Sullivan: Huntsman had a chance to engage with Perry on a serious issue: immigration. He blows it with an out-of-nowhere "treasonous" comment. Huntsman is supposed to be convincing voters why he deserves to be at the same table as Romney and Perry. But he just demonstrated why he's not there.
9:34 Kathy Kiely: The American way is to have people come into this country with a little bit of money in their pockets, says Bachmann on immigration. So much for Lady Liberty's "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." This kind of line may work for tonight's audience, but in November?
9:27 Ron Brownstein: It was telling that Romney remained silent in the dust up over Perry's HPV vaccine executive order; because of his own Massachusetts mandate on health care he lacks standing to attack perry over his mandate. Romney was the obvious beneficiary of the attacks on Perry from Bachmann and Santorum who have the conservative credentials to press that case. Yet Bachmann's later denunciation of Romney's insurance mandate shows that he can never breathe easy when the debate circles around these questions.
9:26 Tim Alberta: After taking a drubbing over the HPV vaccine mandate, Perry looked downright relieved to see Romney put on the defensive over his Massachusetts health care plan. But Romney dismissed the issue with relative ease, proving that after many months on the trail, practice makes perfect. Perry, like most politicians, appears much more comfortable playing offense than defense -- but he must become an effective two-way player to win the nomination. As the old sports adage goes, "offense wins games, but defense wins championships."
9:15 Sean Sullivan: An hour in, and Bachmann finally checks in, blasting Perry over the HPV vaccine mandate order. She clearly came prepared ready to engage him on the issue. Perry's response - you think I can be bought off for $5K? - is less than satisfactory. Romney's not involved in this exchange, and may be the big winner of the whole bit.
9:06 Ron Brownstein: As in his first debate, Rick Perry has been strongest when he's been able to tee up ringing affirmations of conservative principles -- like a tennis player who delivers a booming shot when he can run around to his forehand. But also as in his first debate, Perry has seemed less steady elsewhere on the court. His answer on Social Security opened up more questions rather than closing off the issue, as his USA Today op-ed attempted to do. And his overstatement on the Obama stimulus -- arguing that it did not create a single job -- showed his tendency toward unequivocal declarations that inspire the GOP base but may ultimately strike some swing voters as excessive or simplistic-sort of like a forehand that sails past the baseline.