Debate Reax

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 22 2011 @ 11:35pm

Josh Marshall:

That was a really weird encounter between Perry and Romney on who’s the biggest flip-flopper. I mean, this should be a hanging fast ball for anyone running against Romney. And Perry was clearly prepped with a series of attack lines. But he stumbled over them like you’d woken him up in the middle of the night. Or maybe he was a punch drunk heavyweight at the end of the 14th round. Then Romney comes in — an amazing flip-flopper if there ever was one — and manages to just run circles around Perry. It was almost sad.

Erick Erickson:

Romney did so much better than Perry. So much better. But I still cannot believe these candidates have pulled their punches on Romneycare. He’s getting a free pass on it. But his answers on so many questions, while smoothly delivered, were Democrat like.

Aaron Carroll:

I’m finding the questions and debate on health care rather wanting. You may not like the ACA, but at least all of us understand what it’s supposed to do. Remember when it was all about “repeal and replace”? Where’s the “replace”? Why will no one talk about that? The one question posed by a young adult asking if they’d take away his coverage was almost completely dodged. We have record numbers of uninsured, calls to cut Medicaid, and a weakening private insurance market. People with chronic conditions can’t get coverage. Too many can’t afford it even if they can get it. What will the candidates do other than get rid of the current law? How will they answer the fundamental problems of access, cost, and quality?

Dave Weigel:

Maybe style shouldn’t matter so much, but Perry sounds exhausted. A direct quote: “Opportunity is very much the word of the day there, if you will, for finding work and what have you.” And because no one is using time to attack anyone but Perry, Romney keeps skating away.

Kevin Drum:

Cain’s not alone in this (mistaken) belief that the Obama EPA is going to issue fines on dirt. It’s one of the tea party-right’s favorite EPA conspiracy theory. Sadly, it’s not true. Despite much outrage on this subject in Congress, the agency has said repeatedly that it isn’t issuing new rules on dust.

Aaron Goldstein:

Perry is swinging and missing. He is clearly not comfortable attacking Romney as evidenced by the fact he’s stumbling over accusing Romney “being for something before he was against it.”

Adam Serwer:

The problem for Perry is that despite his stated opposition to the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, the moral arguments he uses to defend his actions in Texas [with regard to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants] double as justifications for policies he says he opposes. And the GOP primary audience knows it.


Perry didn’t take as many blows as he did last time. But he also didn’t shine at all. Romney looked quite slick until the end, when he kept talking about how many flaws he had as a candidate. Cain, Santorum, Johnson and other second-tier candidates had moments of clarity. That’s a long-winded way of saying it was a bit of a muddle, and not enough to change the dynamics of the race.

Taegan Goddard:

Perry looked tired and was barely able to finish a two hour debate. He stumbled badly over his attack lines on Romney — almost as if he never practiced them. Not looking at Romney while attacking him was a big mistake. If this was Perry’s chance to convince the GOP establishment he could win the nomination and defeat President Obama, he didn’t come close to sealing the deal.

Andrew Sprung:

What is it about the GOP candidates that makes them unable to look at Romney (which Perry had trouble doing in all their confrontations, btw) and say, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Romneycare and Obamacare, and here’s how they’re similar?