Bachmann Steals The Show In GOP Debate
The 2012 presidential campaign is off and running as some of the top Republican presidential candidates took to the stage in the first major debate. The debate, held in New Hampshire on Monday night, featured seven candidates: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain.
Perhaps the most notable moment of the debate happened within the first fifteen minutes when Bachmann confirmed the obvious: she was running for president.
“I just want to make an announcement,” she said when asked her first question. “I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States. . . . So I wanted you to be the first to know.”
From the start, Bachmann stole the debate spotlight and subsequently refused to relinquish it to her fellow GOP challengers. The question, of course, becomes whether Bachmann is a legitimate challenger to Mitt Romney, the clear frontrunner according to polls at this point.
As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote: "Based on Monday night alone, Bachmann was the one who emerged as the anti-Romney from the otherwise drab field. That is supposed to delight Romney’s advisers, who see her as less viable than the more accomplished Pawlenty. But while Pawlenty on Monday was canned and meek – he doggedly resisted repeating his earlier “Obamneycare” criticism of Romney – Bachmann displayed a powerful appeal to the Tea-Party types who dominate Republican primaries."
Bachmann was highly critical of President Obama, telling the crowd at one point, "I want to announce tonight President Obama is a one-term president."
Assailing Obama was another major theme of the night. While candidates by and large were friendly to each other--Romney included--they took the president to task on health care, the economy and just about every other issue they were asked about.
CBS News reported: "There was a lot of speculation going in that the candidates would start slugging it out with one another to break out of the pack. Not tonight. It was Republicans United vs. Obama. Here's a sample of what they said about the President: "He's failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing." (Mitt Romney) "The Obama administration is an anti-jobs, anti-business, anti-American energy destructive force." (Newt Gingrich)
CNN's John King, the moderator of the debate, also added a personal touch by asking non-political questions so Americans could get to know the candidates personally in a game called "this or that." Among the potential game-changing tidbits revealed: Santorum doesn't watch Conan O'Brien or Jay Leno--but he prefers Conan, Bachmann likes Elvis and Johnny Cash equally, Pawlenty prefers Coke over Pepsi, Romney likes his wings spicy and Ron Paul prefers his Blackberry to the iPhone.
So who won the debate? Daily Beast contributor Mark McKinnon wrote: "The two clear winners in the GOP debate hosted Monday night in New Hampshire were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Political debates are all about expectations. Mitt Romney had more than anyone to lose. Michele Bachmann had more than anyone to gain. Romney deftly fended off attacks particularly on health care, and Bachmann proved she's smart and credible, and has every right to be on the stage."