660 AM The Answer is the one radio station in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex talking about the issues that matter most to you — politics, pop culture, the war on terror, education, immigration, and much more.
ABC News, in conjunction with Yahoo! News and The Des Moines
Register, sponsored a debate in Des Moines
Saturday night, a little more than three weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Here's our take on the
winners and losers from Saturday night.
Newt Gingrich is now clearly the front-runner for the
Republican nomination for president. Saturday's debate in Iowa was the first one since he has surged
in the polls and Gingrich handled it with his usual aplomb. Many expected the
debate to be a full-throated attack on the former House speaker, but shots were
fired at both Gingrich and Mitt Romney, which helps Gingrich.
His recent surge stemmed in part because of impressive
debate performances and he was clearly at ease on the stage Saturday. Many of
his answers showed more depth than his rivals, especially his lengthy factual
explanation of why he changed his position on a very important issue for
voters: the individual mandate to buy health insurance. He also struck Mitt
Romney hard in the early part of the debate, telling Romney that the reason he
is also not a professional politician is because he lost a 1994 bid to unseat
Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. And, perhaps most significantly, the
thrice-married Gingrich had as strong an answer onquestions of infidelityas
could be expected. He directly addressed the issue, acknowledging mistakes and
said he is older and wiser now.
Paul is making major traction in Iowa and was able to clearly articulate his
conservative, libertarian views in Saturday night's debate. Paul was able to
get more air time than he has gotten in recent debates. At the end of the
debate, when all the candidates were asked to praise something about one of
their rivals, Paul was most frequently mentioned, especially for the
consistency of his positions and for his sustained criticism of the Federal
Reserve. The Texas
lawmaker, who is critical of government involvement in any aspect of the
economy, especially housing, also slammed Gingrich for taking nearly $2 million
from mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac.
Bachmann also did quite well for herself Saturday night, and
sought to go after both Gingrich and Romney by calling them "Newt
Romney" in a sustained attack for what she called their similarities
(Gingrich and Romney both took issue with the characterization). It may be too
late for the Minnesota
lawmaker. She has essentially bet her entire campaign on winning Iowa, but she has
struggled to get out of the lower tier in opinion polls and Gingrich's surge
makes it even harder for her to be a top-tier candidate. Saturday was the first
debate since businessman Herman Cain dropped out of the race, and Bachmann
sought to woo his former supporters but it appeared a bit too transparent and
insincere. Not to mention that most of Cain's supporters have already moved on,
many even before his officially ended his bid last week.
Romney has been strong in most of the debates until now,
though this debate he may have lost for not winning. While most of his answers
were adequate, Saturday's debate was about whether Gingrich could take the heat
and Gingrich clearly won. On top of that,Romney challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a $10,000 betabout what he said in his
book about the Massachusetts
health care plan and its connection to President Obama's signature legislative
achievement. Romney may have won the spat with Perry (who didn't actually
bite), but betting that kind of money may have backfired and perpetuated
Romney's image as someone who does not have empathy with average voters because
of his enormous wealth.
Rick Perry has one of his strongest debate performances to
date, but given his prior performances, that is not saying much. Still, Perry
needed to deliver some knockout blows to either Romney or Gingrich or both and
he didn't. With just 24 days to go before voters start making choices in Iowa, Perry needed more
than a personal best. He needed a home run.
The Pennsylvania senator
did not commit a faux pas the way Romney did, and Newt Gingrich even praised
him at the end for his hawkish views on Iran, but Santorum needs to do more
than not embarrass himself. Like the other second tier candidates, he needed to
make himself seen as a viable candidate to replace one of the front-runners.
And he didn't.
The former Utah governor is
so far behind in the polls that he was not even invited to the Iowa debate. Getting
kicked offstage is not a way to win a debate -- or an election. If Gingrich
clearly won, Huntsman clearly lost.