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Republican Debates: Newt Gingrich on the Attack, Rick Santorum on Gay Rights and Mitt Romney Still on Top

Posted on the 09 January 2012 by Periscope

Republican debates: Newt Gingrich on the attack, Rick Santorum on gay rights and Mitt Romney still on top

Mitt Romney: Looking presidential? Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, http://flic.kr/p/9itUtP

It was fight night for the Republican presidential hopefuls as the two debates ahead of the New Hampshire primary got personal. Newt Gingrich slammed frontrunner Mitt Romney for spouting “pious baloney” and suggested he was unelectable. Ron Paul took aim at Gingrich, branding the former House speaker a “chicken hawk” for allegedly dodging service in Vietnam. Rick Santorum, who came second to Romney in the Iowa caucus by just eight votes, claimed he would still love his son if he was gay, despite previously comparing homosexuality to polygamy. And Rick Perry, whom nobody really bothered to attack after his poor showing in Iowa, insisted he would send troops back to Iraq.

The commentariat is divided as to which GOP presidential candidate came out best, with some declaring a Romney victory while others argued that Santorum had put in a vote-winning performance. With the New Hampshire primary looming, Romney remains the frontrunner – but for how long?

Huntsman versus Santorum. Even though the Gingrich-Romney dust-up has grabbed the headlines, Peter Grier argued at The Christian Science Monitor that Santorum and Jon Huntsman “won” the second debate. “Throughout Sunday’s chin wag, Huntsman projected himself as the adult in the room, the one who knew Americans are tired of divisiveness and political anger,” wrote Grier, pointing out that the New Hampshire primary is crucial for the future of Huntsman’s campaign. Grier described Santorum’s performance as “passionate and articulate” and said that the former Senator had dealt well with tough questions on gay rights and Medicare.

In addition to saying he’d send troops back to Iraq, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s other memorable moment from the debates was an injection of self-deprecating humor. Perry made fun of his own inability to remember which three government agencies he wanted to cut, reported The Hill.

Huntsman versus Obama. Huntsman is “probably the most electable of the bunch against Barack Obama,” insisted John Avlon at The Daily Beast, arguing that his performance at the recent debates made this clear. Avlon praised Huntsman for not pandering to the GOP “ideological clique”: “He said what he thought was right and seemed both reasonable and presidential as a result. It was refreshing.” By contrast, Avlon said, Romney’s debate performance was poor and not particularly honest: “The salesman in him can’t let a pander go by even if it conflicts with his principles.”

During Saturday’s debate Jon Huntsman criticised Mitt Romney’s attitude towards China – in Mandarin Chinese. Sadly, Romney did not respond in Cantonese, leading to a Chinese language face-off. See video below of Huntsman speaking Mandarin.


Rick versus Ron. One of the most interesting parts of the debate was the sparring between Santorum and Paul, wrote Tim Stanley on a Telegraph blog: “The two men engaged in a debate about the responsibilities of the state that was, at moments, epic.” However, Stanley argued that Romney gained most from Santorum and Paul’s discussion about the role of government simply because he kept his mouth shut: “Romney has ‘won’ almost every debate so far, by keeping his cool and looking presidential.”

Newt Gingrich gaffe alert: When asked what he’d be doing on Saturday night if not debating, Gingrich said he’d be at home “watching the college championship basketball game”. Unfortunately, as Michael Scherer pointed out at Time’s Swampland blog, “there is no such thing”.

Romney versus Republican voters. Romney’s relationship with GOP voters is like an arranged marriage, suggested Erik Tarloff at The Atlantic, with Romney as the parentally-approved groom and voters as the unwilling bride: “The groom they have found for her is responsible, decent, reliable, a good provider, and even very handsome. But he just doesn’t excite her.” Tarloff suggested that voters have been flirting with inappropriate men – Rick Santorum, in this metaphor – but that they will eventually give in and go with the sensible option. The personal attacks will only serve to harm Romney’s chances against President Obama, said Tarloff: “Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. But he will be a damaged nominee.”


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