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TheStreet Open House

Tea Party Debate: Winners and Losers

Grade: C+ Bachmann made an impression on the field, but she pushed the same policies that have alienated her from the broader electorate.


Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain

Why he is still in this race might best be answered by Cain. After an indistinct appearance last week, Cain failed to expound upon his campaign promises.

The Good:Cain defended his ideas such as the 9-9-9 plan for 9% federal sales tax, 9% federal income tax and 9% corporate tax, and the "Chilean model" of Social Security. These plans remained distinctly Cain's. When asked if a candidate could be pro-worker and pro-business, Cain said that his experience as an employee and an owner led to him to believe that he could support both. He has successfully managed to market himself as the most knowledgeable and experienced businessman of the group -- which should make Romney's campaign shudder. Cain connected with the Tea Party crowd relatively well and elicited cheers, which didn't happen in the last debate.

The Bad: Cain touted many sweeping generalizations, to a point at which it appeared like the former CEO hadn't studied for the test. His answers were very short and at times lacked complex sentence structures. When asked about a plan to reduce the cost of health care, Cain simply said that he would first repeal Obamacare, but every candidate in the field has already said that. He said he wanted market-driven reform, which Cain wanted to be spurred by association health plans. The problem is that Cain has delivered ideas, but he hasn't supplied voters with detailed plans of his ideas off the debate stage.

Grade D- Cain added nothing new to his debate. He seemed unprepared for content, but ready for the camera. One wonders if Cain has an ulterior motive in this primary (maybe vice president?).


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Gingrich brought his polished rhetorical game to the stage on Monday night and he continued to develop the national security theme as the focus of his debate strategy.

The Good: Gingrich knows how to connect with audiences. After a heated exchange on Social Security between Romney and Perry in which the governors accused each other of frightening people, Gingrich said that people shouldn't be worried about the two Republicans when Obama frightens Americans every day with his policies. The crowd in attendance erupted and didn't quiet down for some half a minute. On economic issues, he took credit for his help with former President Bill Clinton to balance the budget. Perry, Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. boasted about their solid jobs records as state executives, when Gingrich interjected: "The American people create jobs, not government."

The Bad: While Huntsman and Romney have established tangible economic plans, and Paul and Perry have run on their political records, Gingrich hasn't presented voters with anything more than speech-making. It is fine for Newt to cite his experience in Congress, but it is a political record that ended more than 10 years ago. The United States has changed significantly since the Clinton administration left the White House. Gingrich has proposed good ideas like energy independence and national security, but he has simply left the open-ended argument that something should be done.

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