Tea Party flavors Republican debate in Tampa

September 13, 2011

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)


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For one moment, lets try to remember the *real* history of the tea party. They prefer to pretend that they have no record or voting history. That everything is someone else’s fault and they appeared out of nowhere to save America. But that’s a lie. They blame our government (arguably one of the greatest governments in the world) Obama, libs, Dems, moderate Republicans, etc., but the tea party is comprised of the exact same people who doggedly promoted starting two wars, who doggedly promoted the deregulation of the financial institutions, who doggedly promoted unquestioned and unrestrained military spending and who doggedly promoted the greatest redistributing of wealth (from the middle class to the rich) in US history. They also doggedly promoted the policy of allowing our financial institutions and auto industries to fail (thank God they were not in political power). Without these tea party Republican policies our country would be in great shape financially. There is no country that works harder and smarter. But the tea party/Republicans refuse to take responsibility for their actions.  Instead of admitting they were/are wrong and adjusting their beliefs, they’d rather burn our government down. They’d rather self righteously blame others and watch our country fail rather than admit their own personal culpability. That is the *real* history of the tea party.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

This was like watching a hybrid of the “Gong Show” and “Jerry Springer”. Leaders are expected to bring out the best in the rest of us, to ask us to make necessary sacrifices for the betterment of our country and society. Instead we have witnessed the audiences cheering at executions in Texas and saying “yes” and applauding that a 30 year old man without health insurance should be allowed to die. I have little confidence in the intelligence and judgement of the average American voter but this is like watching borderline insanity. May the gods save us from ourselves.

Posted by seattlesh | Report as abusive

I wished they would have just started right off with the debate. Why not do the pre-game show pre-game? Even the national anthem, which I normally love to hear, should have been done before the debate officially started. And that was the worst rendition I believe I’ve ever heard on television. Who is Diana Nagy? Does she actually make money singing?

Posted by dxlh | Report as abusive

I don’t know if you’d call it a “flavor” as much as an “aftertaste”.

Posted by SilentBoy741 | Report as abusive

I’m not sure which depresses me more. Is it the fact that this group is representing the republican party or the people who are hooting and hollering in the audience. Ron Paul was trying to make an argument that our past in the middle east contributed to the raise of terrorism terrorism. To anyone that knows our history there, it is a true statement. It was met with boos. Of course none of the folks that the right courts now would know anything about history. These gatherings remind me of a audience at a rock concert where the lead singer shouts ‘Glad to be in my Favorite town of TEABAG’ and the crowd roars.

Posted by fromthecenter | Report as abusive