On the merits, the 999 portion of this debate should be devastating for Herman Cain. The plan is not holding up well under scrutiny, which is why it is already being changed. Cain can point to no other analysis but one commissioned by his own campaign to support some of his central contentions about the plan. Cain seemed irritated under fire. Yet if the primary electorate has begun to deeply sympathize with Cain, there could be some backlash against the entire Republican field ganging up on him in that fashion.
Rick Santorum has challenged Mitt Romney on health care more effectively than anyone else in the GOP field. By getting Romney to once again defend the principle of the individual mandate, the exchange revealed how similar Obamacare and Romneycare are on the issue where Obamacare is politically and constitutionally most vulnerable. Romney will be reduced to arguing that he didn’t cut Medicare, which will bite him when he talks entitlement reform. This will be trouble in a general election.
Rick Perry, though turning in a better performance than usual, did not have the same luck in his immigration exchange with Romney. He does not have the record to back up his immigration attacks. And he is not as a good a debater Romney. The normally passionless Romney showed some real fire when going after Perry. He must have been pretending the Texas governor was Shannon O’Brien.
Ron Paul correctly pointed out that spending is a tax in itself, the real driver of government’s costs. He deftly mentioned his plan to cut $1 trillion in spending, which sadly isn’t getting enough attention tonight.