The first Republican debate that featured Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich aired on CNN a few weeks ago and there were plenty of fascinating moments throughout the debate. The debate, not like many witnessed earlier had more of direct tone and was less collegial and candidates did not stand back from critically challenging each other on their positions and records. This paper is going to give an analysis of the debate and keenly observe how effectively the candidates achieved their goals for the debate.
Starting with Romney to which this debate was his strongest so far chose not to engage in a fray and rather was happy to focus his attention in defending his job record from his time as a governor and averted attention from his healthcare record. He also proved, at least in the short period he was on air, that he can hold his own with Perry when they directly challenge each other. He scored big in the debate when he swept Perry of his feet when he swiped Perry’s job creation claims asserting that his former predecessors created jobs faster than he did. The debate was a first for Rick Perry who was certainly the focus as he got the most questions and felt a firm barrage from the other candidates. He started the debate promisingly, hyping his jobs record and abiding by the claims in his book ‘Fed Up’ about social security. However, he faded down the line, fumbling when pushed for details on how to secure the border and his mystifying cringe worthy reaction on global warming to which he referenced Galileo. Though he held his own side of the debate well, he did not impress in his debut debate. Perry’s knowledge of policy specifics appeared to be dreary. However, his strategy to center on his own record and that of Romney was a bright one, constantly ignoring Bachmann which resigned her to irrelevancy. Ron Paul too pulled a stunning performance better than some of his counterparts though he needed to have a stronger performance to persuade the masses that he belongs in the top flight currently taken by Romney and Perry. Paul’s extemporaneous manner of speech, which allows him to seem much more legitimate, and clearly brings out his knowledge of issues beyond campaign talk points did not came in handy for him due to the short response times in the debate. This was clear as in some cases he was too vague in his responses until time was almost up and being cut off at one point by the moderator. Michele Bachmann produced a good performance though she appeared to be weak as compared to the other top flight candidates. Her strategy was somehow puzzling as she did not engage Perry directly to whom they compete for the same base in the Republican Party. She also dodged questions more deliberately compared to the other candidates. Jon Huntsman seemed to have looked at his increasing numbers in the polls and changed his priority in the debate from attempting to win the primary to trying to impact the discourse on the future path of the party. Herman Cain focused on his strengths on the economy and job creation. He appeared much prepared than in earlier debates and his clear speaking style was to his advantage. Just like Cain, Rick Santorum had a good showing in the debate though he did not doo much to alter the voter opinion of him as a person without a convincing shot to win the primaries. However, he had some decent insights on immigration and did not stand back in challenging Perry on the HPV mandate. Newt Gingrich seemed more comfortable with policy specifics compared to other candidates. Still, he did not put much effort to distinguish himself and his common strategy of blaming moderators or the media at large for attempting to stir controversy.