So, besides Perry's cringe-inducing embarrassment, how else did the night go? After the jump, my scorecard.
All eight candidates were using the same playbook. The problems facing America are too much government spending, too many taxes, too much government regulation. Their advice on how to deal with the recession revealed whose playbook they were using: Herbert Hoover's Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon.
Ron Paul would liquidate the banking system, including the Federal Reserve. Mitt Romney would have liquidated the American auto industry. He would liquidate distressed mortgages, letting foreclosures take their toll. All advocated eliminating future federal mortgage guarantees. No candidates would offer help to students with student loan debt and no jobs. All would end federal student loan programs. Luckily for all the candidates, hardly anyone who is old enough to remember Herbert Hoover and the advice he received from Secretary Mellon is alive today to vote.Mellon became unpopular with the onset of the Great Depression. He advised Herbert Hoover to "liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."Source: Wikipedia.
The audience was on the same page, too, cheering any criticism of government, booing the suggestion that Cain might have a character issue or Romney might have a flip-flop issue.
No one seemed to notice the ironies. Cain referred to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as "Princess Nancy." Rick Santorum said he's the right candidate to win bipartisan support from Democrats, not by compromising with them, but by showing them the wisdom of his plans. Perry said if banks are too big to fail, they are too big, but he didn't explain how loosening banking regulations would keep banks small. Romney said he's only interested in what's best for the country, whereas President Obama is interested only in getting re-elected. Perry said he'd let young people opt out of Social Security, yet somehow preserve the system for those nearing retirement or already retired.
What about the so-called horse race? The GOP nomination is going to go to only one person, not eight. You'd think the second tier candidates (i.e., everyone except Romney and maybe Herman Cain) might want to emphasize why they are better candidates than the frontrunners. No candidate did that. Romney refused to say whether he would fire a CEO of one of his businesses who was accused of sexual harassment. Paul refused to say whether he thought Perry was guilty of crony capitalism. No one criticized Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan, although Romney had to turn away to laugh when Cain segued for the umpteenth time to his "bold" 9-9-9 plan when answering a totally unrelated question. Gingrich found something to criticize, not in Romney or Cain's positions, but in (no surprise) the news media.
Even the audience was unified in its support of all candidates, booing only when the moderators asked a question they didn't like. Overall, Romney had to feel good about how it went. At one point he got applause and looked like he might burst out Sally Field-like and say something like, "You like me. You really like me." The audience helped Cain put his sexual harassment scandal behind him (at least for the GOP base) and return to talking about his 9-9-9 plan. Gingrich helped himself (at least with the GOP base) by sounding condescending to everyone he considered not as smart as himself, meaning everyone. Paul, Bachmann, Santorum, and Huntsman did nothing to close the gap with the first tier of candidates. And Perry, poor Perry, should have followed through on his hint a few weeks ago that maybe he wouldn't be doing any more debates. Maybe few people saw his "Oops" moment live, but you can bet YouTube and the late night comics will make sure everyone sees it over and over again in reruns.