Last night, Republican hopefuls debated for CNN and the Tea Party in Tampa, Florida. While Rep. Michele Bachmann, business executive Herman Cain, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul, and former Senator Rick Santorum were there, the main attractions were former Massachusett Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry has been leading in polls, but Romney is the choice of the GOP elite.
Romney attacked Perry's statement that Social Security was a "Ponzi scheme,"—Romney siad, "The term 'Ponzi scheme' I think is over the top and unnecessary and frightful to many people"—and forcing Perry to re-calibrate his argument, "The people who are on Social Security today need to understand something, slam-dunk guaranteed: That program is gonna be in place," even though he questions its constitutionality.
Bachmann also attempted to regain some of the spotlight after a subdued showing in last week's debate by hammering Perry on his decision to vaccinate sixth-grade girls against HPV. Bachmann had previously said, "You can't abuse executive authority with executive orders because there could be very negative consequences that the American people have to pay... There is no second chance for these little girls if there is any dangerous consequences to their bodies," and Perry admitted it was a "mistake... Indeed, if I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently."
Other candidates continued the Perry pile-on: Paul said of Perry, "My taxes have gone up. Our taxes have doubled since he's been in office," while Bachmann and Santorum questioned Perry's decision to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, with Santorum stating, "Maybe that was an attempt to attract illegal — I mean Latino — voters." To which Perry said, "If you’ve been in the state of Texas for three years, if you’re working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there. It doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is, that’s the American way." But Perry hates the DREAM Act, so go figure.
Politico has seven takeaways from the debate, including "Mitt Romney came prepared" and "Rick Perry did not come prepared." And CNN analyst David Gerden said, "[Perry] talks a lot of Texas. He's going to need to move beyond Texas. He's clearly going to have to beef himself up on the international side," while Democratic strategist Paul Begala said, "Mitt Romney was cool, Rick Perry was hot. Mitt was factual and Rick was a little more emotional. It was really an interesting study in contrasts." Also, here are some videos:
CNN's highlights reel:
And here's Buzzfeed's 75-second supercut: