AirTalk for January 17, 2012

GOP debate: rivals pile on Romney as sparks fly in South Carolina

GOP Presidential Candidates Debate In Myrtle Beach

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) participate in a Fox News, Wall Street Journal-sponsored debate at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

As the Republican field for president winnows down to five candidates, the debates are intensifying. In last night’s event, Mitt Romney had to fend off early ambushes from his competitors. However, as has happened before, most of the time the non-frontrunners ended up attacking each other.

Ron Paul suffered the most in this round, possibly due to South Carolina’s hawkish stance on military issues and foreign policy, which are in stark contrast with Paul’s paleoconservative—some would say “dovish”— pledge to bring the troops home and close down bases around the world.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry fared the best of the candidates, as now having virtually nothing to lose allowed them greater rhetorical liberties than Romney, who must remain even tempered as he gears up to take on Obama’s campaign machine in the general, which is definitely paying attention to what he says in these debates.

Gingrich came off as the best alternative to Romney, and while Perry flexed his muscles by casting both Romney and Rick Santorum as political insiders, his earlier gaffes have virtually solidified him as a losing candidate.

The debate was critiqued by some analysts as being lean on actual policy discussion and heavy on campaign talking points, credited mainly to the raucous audience which booed and cheered consistently throughout the night.

WEIGH IN:

Did you watch last night’s debate? What did you think of the proceedings? Were the moderators asking poor questions, or was the audience overreacting? How did your candidate fare?

Guest:

Aaron Blake, Political Reporter for The Washington Post


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