Tea Party flavors Republican debate in Tampa
Maybe it was the Tea Party Express influence or maybe it was just being in Tampa where Republicans hold their presidential nominating convention next year.
But the atmosphere at Monday’s Republican debate had the festive feel of a major sporting event and the stars of the game were the eight candidates vying for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.
The pregame show began with a video introduction of “tonight’s players”…
- Michele Bachmann: The Firebrand
- Mitt Romney: The Early Front-Runner
- Rick Perry: The Newcomer
- Jon M. Huntsman Jr.: The Diplomat
- Ron Paul: The Libertarian
- Herman Cain: The Businessman
- Newt Gingrich: The Big Thinker
- Rick Santorum: The Fighter
The audience was packed with Tea Party conservatives cheering them on and the action began on stage after singer Diana Nagy sang the national anthem.
Here are a few observations tweeted about the scene:
Pre-game warm-up guy is coaching the audience to applaud. Have never seen that at a debate. #CNNTeaParty @ktumulty ;
@llererLisa Lerer, politics/Congress reporter for Bloomberg News. “smiles will get you on tv” says #CNNDebate warm-up guy. It’s like the Ellen show. #2012
@Samantha_SteeleSamantha Steele, sports broadcaster Camera men at presidential debates & football games are the same. They’re either showin u a hot girl or a crazy person. #cnndebate
Frontrunner Perry played defense as his rivals attacked him over social security, jobs and his record as Texas governor, Reuters’ John Whitesides reports.
Bachmann — much more aggressive than in last week’s debate in California — challenged Perry over his executive order that young girls in Texas be vaccinated for a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. He said it was mistake but about saving lives. She suggested it was about political donations from the vaccine maker.
Her campaign has lost steam since she won the Iowa straw poll on August 13. Perry joined the race on the same day and he’s walked off with much of the Minnesota congresswoman’s social conservative and religious support.
Bachmann also pounded away on “Obamacare,” repeating her pledge to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation. It’s one of the key issue for the Tea Party movement — along with limiting the power of the Federal Reserve.
When Steve Routszong, a Tea Party member from Gastonia, North Carolina, asked the candidates: “What is your position on the Federal Reserve? Should it indeed be audited and be held accountable by the American people?”
The presidential contenders had an opportunity to show a bit of personality with their answers to the final question of the night — if elected, what would you bring to the white House?
Some responses were personal. Santorum, father of seven, said he’d add a bedroom — and some beds.
Others stayed on message, like Gingrich who said he’d reduce the White House by kicking out all the White House czars on his first day and Paul said he’d bring a bushel basket full of common sense. Bachmann said she’d bring the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the the Bill of Rights. Romney said he’d return a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office.
Perry said he was going to bring “the most beautiful, most thoughtful, incredible first lady that this country’s ever seen,” and Huntsman said his wife was going to kill him for for saying it — but he’d bring his Harley-Davidson and his motocross bike.
Cain didn’t have the last word, but he did get the last laugh.
“I would bring a sense of humor to the White House,” Cain said “because America’s too uptight.”
Photo Credits: REUTERS/Scott Audette (Republican candidates debate in Tampa, Bachmann)