Top 10 Features of the GOP Debate

Jake Laperruque


The Child Count Competition.  Rick Santorum opened this contest at the start of the debate by mentioning he had 7 children.  Michelle Bachmann bested him by announcing she had 5 children, plus 23 foster children.  Newt Gingrich forgot about his children, and just said that we need to end the “Obama depression.”  Mitt Romney announced he had 5 sons, 5 daughters-in-law, and 16 grandkids.  Ron Paul declared that he’d delivered 4,000 babies.  Tim Pawlenty said “I’m the father of two beautiful daughters, Anna and Mara,” then, perhaps feeling comparatively inadequate with only two kids, immediately followed this statement with “I’m a neighbor!” (Boldly separating him from his GOP rivals who live in an otherwise-uninhabited vortex).  Finally, Herman Cain finished off the tally by announcing he has two children, three grandchildren, and “is not a politician.”   Bachmann must have realized that her 23 foster children gave her an edge, because she mentioned them during three separate questions of the debate.


John King’s continuous grunting.


Bachmann disproving her own argument about gay marriage.  Defending her position against giving same-sex couples the ability to marry, Bachmann argued, “The best possible way to raise children is to have a mother and father in their life.”  Then, a mere two sentences later, Bachmann declared, “I was raised by a single mother.”  This makes sense until you actually think about it, at which point there only seem to be three possible explanations: 1) Bachmann completely changed her stance on gay marriage in a six-second period, 2) Bachmann is using herself as an example of the supposedly disastrous result of what she thinks will happen if you’re not raised in a heteronormative home with a mother and father, or 3) when Michelle Bachmann makes a political argument, it’s not so much an actual argument as series of baseless claims and unrelated statements that try to evoke emotion and sound pretty.


Romney’s gag updating the audience on the hockey score midway through the debate.  Apparently an aide told him the score to the Stanley Cup finals game during a commercial break, but I like to think he was just surfing the web on his smartphone whenever Newt Gingrich decided to talk.

Overall, it was casual, funny, and made him look like an average-joe hockey fan.  And as the former governor of Massachusetts, it made sense for him to invoke the Bruins; it wasn’t just another pathetic instance of an out-of-state politician trying to score points by suddenly rooting for the local team (former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s closing comments during the debate: “The Boston Bruins have more heart than the Vancouver Canucks!” . . . sigh)


Herman Cain only learning things he already knows.  At the start of the debate when everyone was introducing themselves and fighting over who had more children, Herman Cain declared, “I’m here tonight because it’s not about us. It’s about those grandkids.”  After two hours of discussion, John King concluded the debate by asking the candidates what they had learned.  Herman Cain’s response: “It’s not about us. It’s about the children and the grandchildren.”  It’s kind of sad that the candidate who proudly declares, “I’m not a politician!” might be the biggest empty suit in the room.


Obamneycare!  A few days before the debate T-Paw took a public jab at Romney by using this phrase to merge Romney and Obama’s health-care-reform initiatives.  However, when John King asked Pawlenty to follow-up on the statement, he dodged the question four separate times, nervously claiming, “I just cited President Obama’s own words” as Romney looked on. (In case you were wondering, Obama has never used the phrase “Obamneycare.”)

Commentators panned this exchange as the worst moment in the debate, and it’s easy to see why.  “Obamneycare” is not something you accidentally say in an interview.  It’s something your campaign carefully creates and then unleashes as a planned attack.  It was supposed to be Pawlenty’s “Bush/Cheney Lite” jab of 2012.  But once he got in the same room as Romney, he refused to stick with it.  If Tim Pawlenty doesn’t have the spine to say something a little bit mean about a politician he’s running against, is there any way he’s got what it takes to run for — much less be — President of the United States?


John King’s stupid This-or-That game where he asked the candidates pointless questions so people could get to know them personally.  Maybe King wouldn’t have needed to repeatedly grunt at candidates for speaking too long if he gave more time for substantive answers and spent less time asking them about their TV show preferences.  However, I have to admit, these sections were the one point in the debate where I truly wished Sarah Palin was participating:

“Governor Palin – Coke or Pepsi?”

“Umm . . . . All of them.”

“Could you maybe name one specific -”

“All Of Them!”


Repealing everything.  This pretty much sums up the policy proposal of the Republican field.  During this debate there were proposals to repeal Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, Comprehensive Health Care Reform, NASA, the Federal Reserve, and the EPA.  It’s almost surprising no one put forward a plan to solve our economic woes by simply repealing unemployment.  The overemphasis on removing policy would be funny if it weren’t matched by a complete absence of proposals to create new policy and actually address our nation’s problems.


Michelle Bachmann announcing she is running for President during the middle of a Presidential debate.  This undoubtedly was the most lackluster declaration of ones candidacy in the history of American politics.  I’ve commented previously on how these GOP primary is blurring the lines between candidate, pseudo-candidate, and mere FOX News contributor, but Bachmann takes it to a whole new level.

Declaring a candidacy is the ideal time to tell the people what you and your campaign are all about.  When I managed campaigns the first thing I would ask my candidates is, “Tell me why you’re running for office.”  A campaign should always start by answering that question.  What does it say when your campaign begins like this:

“I’m running for President of the United States!”

“Great! Now let’s hear a few words from Ron Paul.”


Herman Cain’s loyalty test.  When King asked Cain to follow-up on a previous statement that he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet, the former CEO responded that he would allow a Muslim cabinet member, he just “would not be comfortable” with one because “you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims.”  Romney followed this by stating, “I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country,” before Gingrich jumped in to declare that terrorists will pretend to act like regular Americans and we just can’t trust them, dammit!  You have to sympathize with Romney as a member of another minority faith in America that faces discrimination.  And his choice not to jump at the chance to score red-meat points for a bit of bigotry while everyone around him was doing it shows he’s far more confident in his candidacy than any of his opponents.  Wait . . . did the Republican field just make Mitt Romney look reasonable?  It’s going to be a long primary.

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