In a roundtable-style debate Tuesday night at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the 2012 GOP Presidential primary candidates were given a chance to highlight their economic ideas and opinions.
Some recurring themes among the candidates were evident over the course of the debate:
- Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan came under scrutiny from other candidates.
- Mitt Romney and Rick Perry continued their focus on one another.
- Michele Bachmann spoke several times but failed to say anything very specific except that she disagreed strongly with Obamacare.
- Jon Huntsman joked throughout the debate, as he has in past debates.
- Rick Santorum fell back on his familiar message that the economy rests on the working man.
- Newt Gingrich attacked protestors, politicians and the media.
- Ron Paul was largely ignored.
The economic focus of the debate gave Cain an ideal forum for again contending that his reworking of the U.S. tax plan via his 9-9-9 plan — 9 percent business flat tax, 9 percent personal income tax, 9 percent national sales tax — could provide economic recovery. Huntsman poked fun at the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, saying that when he first heard of the plan, he thought it was a deal at a pizza joint.
The roundtable style of the debate gave the candidates the opportunity to interact and to question one another more than other debate formats, but the answers often appeared less informative than the questions.
Bachmann took a swing at Perry midway through the debate: “Well, in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan produced an economic miracle, and while all of us were wishing and yearning for a third term for Ronald Reagan, Governor Perry, you were campaigning and co-chairing Al Gore’s election campaign for president of the United States,” she said. “You went on to increase spending in Texas by over 50 percent… How can we trust you to not go down the Obama way and overspend and pay for that spending with indebtedness on the backs of the next generations?”
Romney also endured several comments comparing him to Barack Obama, as the other candidates focused on Romneycare and his past history as a corporate businessman.
Santorum focused on candidates that supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that provided what he called “the single biggest government intrusion into the private sector,” the Wall Street banker bailouts.
“The interesting thing here is, is the four people on this panel that actually supported TARP at the time of its passage are the people who say that they are the anti-Washington candidates, that they are the business candidates.,” he said. “… [T]he four people were Governor Huntsman, Governor Perry, Herman Cain, and Governor Romney.”
Mainstream media reports mostly declared the Dartmouth College debate to be a Romney victory, using terms like “unshakeable frontrunner,” but in the place of Perry they have placed Cain as the No. 2 favorite despite skepticism about his 9-9-9 plan.