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The Republican presidential debate last night may prove to be decisive in the race. Rick Perry received the biggest boos and criticisms, and Herman Cain had a terrific performance that could vault him to the head of the second-tier group, as Michele Bachmann seemed to fade away.
Rick Perry suffered the most in the debate. He was loudly booed by the audience when he defended granting in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, stating that “you don’t have a heart” if you oppose their education. He was less intensely booed when he defended his mandating of HPV vaccinations for schoolgirls, saying he erred on the side of life.
Perry and Mitt Romney accused each other of flip-flopping, and Perry scored points when he said that Romney removed a line about national health care from the paperback version of his book. Perry came off more likeable during this debate, smiling to Romney during their exchange and saying, “It’s like badminton.” He also sparked laughter when he was asked which candidate on the stage would be his favorite running mate. He said he’d want to find a way to “mate” Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, to which Romney responded by saying that he’ll have trouble forgetting that image.
Romney performed very well, but did not have a stand-out moment. Instead, he received less enthusiastic, but more consistent, applauses. He is benefiting as the other candidates focus on bringing down Perry, as they want his spot as the alternative to Romney. The answers that were the most well-received were the attacks on Perry’s record on illegal immigration and that the U.S. mustn’t “allow an inch of space between” itself and an ally like Israel.
Herman Cain had a spectacular night, winning both the loudest and most consistent applauses. He appears to have accepted criticism that his answers lacked substance, and has changed his style in a big way. Chris Wallace’s mere mention of Cain’s 9-9-9 economic plan generated cheers. He had the biggest applause of the night when the moderators mentioned how he survived cancer and that he said he’d be dead if ObamaCare was in place. On foreign policy, he had the strongest line of the discussion when he said, “If you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the U.S.” He only criticized Romney for not proposing a transformation of the tax structure, saying, “That dog won’t hunt.”
Newt Gingrich had a great night, as usual, but was outshined by Cain for the first time. His biggest applause line was when he called for making English the official language of government and offering Pell-type grants to K-12 students to go to schools of their choice. He actually got an even bigger applause when a moderator reviewed whether each candidate previously said that Obama is a socialist and Gingrich’s answer of, “yes, of course” was brought up. Gingrich is tied with Bachmann for third place nationally in two polls and fourth in another, but his growth may be stunted by Cain’s stellar night. Gingrich is revealing his “21st Century Contract with America” on September 29 in Iowa to give his campaign momentum.
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