Debate Reax

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 7 2011 @ 10:58pm

Jonathan Chait:

The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. Romney approaches every question as if he is in an actual debate, trying to provide the most intellectually compelling answer available, within the bounds of political expediency. Perry treats questions as interruptions. What scientists do you trust on climate change? I don’t want to risk the economy. Are you taking a radical position on social security?  We can have reasons or we can have results. His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match.

Josh Marshall:

[O]n balance I'd say this was a strategic victory for Mitt Romney, even if it doesn't show up immediately in the polls. Mitt didn't do anything that amazing himself. But Perry doubled down, maybe tripled down on his frontal attack on Social Security and science in general. Romney moved in, in essence, to egg him on in that process. And the Romney press office let loose a fusillade of attacks in emails to the press.

Erick Erickson:

[I]t is clear Perry is the front runner given the pile on from the other candidates. It was not just pushed by MBNBC and the Politico. The other candidates took willful potshots against Rick Perry. Perry, despite some stumbles and the pile on by the moderators and other participants, held his own and will only get stronger the more of these he does.

Ramesh Ponnuru:

My overall impression: Perry did well enough, but he was surprisingly badly prepared for predictable questions about global warming and even his Texas record. He was confident and aggressive, but he lost altitude during the evening.

Kevin Drum:

Perry just seemed generally unprepared and unwilling to really engage the issues. I guess now we know why he's been afraid to give any interviews since he announced his candidacy. He's afraid he'll look like a kid who got called in class after failing to study the night before. He needs to raise his game.

Joseph Lawler:

Easily Perry's worst moment in the debate: fielding a question on his understanding of climate science. He stumbles over his answer, and fails to present a convincing economic argument against emissions-reduction schemes. Works in one line about the preponderance of climatologists who believe in global warming — "Galileo got outvoted for a spell" — but that's not going to go far in winning over the folks he needs.

Jonathan Bernstein:

[E]ven if the general consensus confirms my sense that Perry didn’t do well, I’d strongly caution against reading very much into it. There are going to be a lot more of these, and there are lots of examples of candidates improving dramatically over the course of them. Most notably, the current president of the United States.

Dave Weigel:

Perry elides the Social Security question with a line crafted with care and baked at 400 degrees in a clay oven: "I'm not responsible for Karl any more." But there is now video of Perry calling the promise of Social Security a "monstrous lie." Fantastic for the GOP primary. Untested in a general election since, what, 1964?

Stanley Kurtz:

Perry’s biggest problem is the Fed Up! controversy. How did he handle it? He rightly framed his historical treatment of Social Security in Fed Up! as a reflection on the past–not the same as his policy answers for the present. But Perry didn’t back off of his “monstrous lie” and “Ponzi scheme” remarks, and that just might win him the nomination. Will it kill him in the general? I’m not so sure. Are there risks? Of course.

Andrew Samwick:

The problem with Social Security is that over the long-term, the flow into the pipeline is projected to be less than the flow out of the pipeline.  Republican candidates should have been talking about ways to gradually phase in progressive reductions in that outflow to match the inflow.  If instead they want to fix the projected imbalance with new revenues, they should have been talking about ways to separate that money from the rest of the government's budget with personal accounts.

Aaron Carroll:

Who would have thought being anti-vaccine policy would be so popular among candidates? Pretty much the whole country has previously agreed that an opt-out policy is the way to go, so to see so many argue that’s anti-American is dispiriting. You either have a policy, or you won’t get the full effects of the vaccine. We need herd immunity. You get your vaccines not just to protect you, but to protect others. This shouldn’t be political.

E.D. Kain:

[W]hen Perry is asked about the two-hundred and thirty some people he’s executed on death row during his governorship, the audience bursts into applause. Torture, war, and death, and this is the “pro-life” party. I submit to you that this moment is perhaps the most telling since George W. Bush left office; that the modern Republican party is not only intellectually bankrupt, but morally bankrupt as well.

Ezra Klein:

Mitt Romney looked like he had already won the Republican nomination. Rick Perry looked like he will win the Republican nomination. Michele Bachmann looked like she was beginning to realize she definitely wouldn’t win the Republican nomination.


Overall, I thought Perry performed poorly and failed to justify and consolidate his position as the front-runner. Romney, it seemed to me, treaded water, gaining nothing and losing nothing. In sharp contrast to the first debate, Hunstman distinguished himself and showed he deserves to be considered a top-tier candidate, but I fear it's too late.