CNBC hosted the latest Republican presidential debate, which was called “Your Money, Your Vote”. The debate, which took place at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, was held in a state suffering from a bad economy and a jobs crisis.
Many politicians these days seem to know little about the economy or offer few solutions for job creation, and this GOP debate was no exception. In all fairness, some of the candidates brought some noteworthy ideas — such as Rep. Ron Paul’s (R, Texas) call for an end to speculation on Wall Street and a plan to audit and eliminate the Federal Reserve. And Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax proposal was a recurring theme, if not a bit overdone by the former pizza mogul, who has served as a spokesman for the Koch Brothers’ pro-Tea Party, anti-labor efforts.
Although the topic of the Michigan debate was the economy and jobs, few of the candidates outside of Jon Huntsman (R, Utah) had much to say about the popular Occupy Wall Street movement. And aside from Cain’s gimmicky tax plan, and other candidates’ talk of a flat tax, the discussion lacked any original, substantive or new ideas.
WATCH ‘THE LAST WORD’ COVERAGE OF THE GOP DEBATE:
This comes at a time when corporate profits are sky high but the jobs are missing. Unemployed college graduates suffer from crippling student loan debt, working and poor people are losing ground, and deregulation has allowed a high-risk casino environment in the financial markets.
To their credit, the moderators raised such matters. Yet, many of the candidates seemed to retreat to the usual bromides and platitudes of lower taxes for corporations, fewer regulations, repeal of Obama’s health care reform law and leaving everything to the states and the free market.
In other words, the target audience was the GOP primary electorate, so there was little in the candidates’ messages that appealed to many black people. And African-Americans are as concerned about jobs as anyone else, if not more, given their unprecedented levels of unemployment.
And for the most part, the GOP rivals stayed away from the brawling and scrappy fist fighting to which spectators were treated in previous debates. But that doesn’t mean it was boring. The big moments of the debate involved Cain, whose star is one the rise, and Governor Rick Perry, whose campaign has seen better days. And what caught our attention most last night did not necessarily revolve around the economy.
Political junkies were waiting to see if Cain’s sexual harassment allegation problems spill over into the debate and undo his candidacy. Perhaps because this is the Republican and not the Democratic primary contest — or the general election, for that matter — Cain has not been hurt by the sexual harassment accusations in terms of his fundraising and support from the base. The audience reaction to Cain in the debate was no exception.
A question to Cain from CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo drew boos from the audience. “In recent days, we have learned four different women accused you of inappropriate behavior,” she addressed the candidate. “You know the shareholders are reluctant to hire a CEO where there are character issues,” she said, asking, “Why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?”
“The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations. that’s what — I value my character and my integrity more than anything else and for every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably — are thousands who would say none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain.” Cain’s response to Bartiromo drew healthy applause from the crowd.
“Over the last nine days, the voters have voted with their dollars and they are saying they don’t care about the character assassination. They care about leadership and get thing economy growing and all of the other problems we face,” Cain added.
WATCH MORE COVERAGE OF THE GOP DEBATE HERE:
When asked whether he would keep Cain as CEO of a company, Romney decided he wasn’t going there. “Look, Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions. He just did,” Romney said. “The people in this room and across the country can make their own assessment.”
The most controversial statement from Cain came when he called former House speaker Nancy Pelosi regretted the comment post-debate, he said “That was a statement that I obviously should not have made, but I was trying to make a point.”
The other notable, quotable moment from the debate was when Gov. Rick Perry threw himself under the bus. He wasn’t asked a difficult question, he couldn’t remember his own policy or what he was saying. Perry tried to name the three federal agencies he would eliminate as president, but the governor simply forgot the third agency.
“I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the — What’s the third one there? Let’s see,” Perry said, stumbling and fumbling. He made a comeback later in the evening when he named the Department of Energy as the third agency he would eliminate. The damage was done.
Two takeaways from the Michigan debate: First, Perry is yesterday’s news because of a gaffe that could prove as fatal to his candidacy as executing an innocent man. And second, Cain solidified his position as the GOP favorite, despite the sexual harassment accusations, and an insensitive statement that could come back to bite him should he emerge as his party’s nominee.
Once again, the GOP contenders were provided ample opportunities to entertain, and they did not disappoint. And when you’re watching a good show, you’d better have some buttered popcorn on hand — or in Herman Cain’s case, black walnuts.