Tea Party Debate: Winners and Losers

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- GOP presidential hopefuls clashed on Monday night for the first-ever Tea Party debate in Tampa, Fla. With arguments about Social Security, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Chile, TheStreet couldn't resist picking the winners and losers with another GOP Scorecard.
Republican presidential candidates

Rep. Ron Paul (R., Texas)

The Good: Paul made a clear distinction between military spending and defense spending. The Texas congressman said the U.S. needed to cut its military spending, which he said included the 900 military bases abroad and the purchase of airplanes and other weapons used in war. All the money the country spends to police the world could be reapportioned to help the economy, he said.

Paul said defense spending -- or the money needed to protect the U.S. at home -- would cost the country much less. Also, after former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R.) made a broad statement about jihadists, Paul called him out. He said that the simplistic idea that the Muslim world hated the U.S. because it was free and prosperous was untrue. Paul then cited "hundreds of thousands" of Iraqis that had been killed since 2003, and asked, "Would you be annoyed?"

The Bad: Paul continued to decry American involvement in engagements abroad and said that the United States needed to immediately withdraw troops and use the money that the government has spent on wars for domestic issues. It's not a poor idea, but Paul failed to address how he would handle the withdrawal. Thus the problem the congressman confronts with the general electorate is that he hasn't responded to the repercussions that his plans would have if enacted.

Grade: C+ A full letter-grade drop since the last debate as the congressman was a bit more quiet on stage and didn't bring the same panache. Paul also will need more concrete economic ideas to gain traction with Republican voters. His hope to end the Fed and cut the Department of Education isn't enough to offset the nation's debt and deficit.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

The Good: Perry stood out as the most active candidate on the stage. Whether he had to defend his record as governor, admit to mistakes or reiterate his contentious views on Social Security and immigration, Perry continued to use the airtime to further expose himself to national audiences. He toned down the Ponzi-scheme comments on Social Security and instead focused on saying the system needed to be fixed. He admitted that he was wrong on the executive mandate for human papillomavirus (HPV) inoculation in Texas. But he established himself as the most experienced candidate on immigration: "Nobody on this stage has had to deal with border security more than I have," Perry said.

The Bad: Perry had to talk a lot. He was asked to respond to nearly every question while other candidates slipped by and were able to take a break. At times he seemed to relate every issue to Texas as though the concerns that face the United States already had been confronted by the Lone Star State. Perry reiterated that freedom from litigation and taxation had enticed companies to relocate in Texas, but he never specified what types of litigation and taxation he had avoided to attract businesses. All of them?

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