On September 22, 2011, the sixth debate was hosted by Google and Fox News in Orlando, Florida. The moderators were Bret Baier (anchor), Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace. There were nine candidates: Romney, Perry, Bachman, Paul, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, Huntsman, and Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico. Johnson, like Paul, is a Libertarian. He made the crazy promise to submit a balanced budget the first year he’s president. I’d love to see how he’d cut things, and how the public would react to it.
This struck me as the best conducted, fairest debate thus far. Even though Perry and Romney were again placed in the center, there were very few long shots of the candidates, so it was hard to be influenced by the suggested pecking order implied by the arrangement. While Perry and Romney received the most face time, it was much more fairly distributed. When a candidate spoke, the camera focused on him or her.
In my opinion, Romney and Gingrich were the clear winners, with Bachman, Cain, and Huntsman giving strong performances. Paul was up and down, Santorum did reasonably well but didn’t help himself much. Johnson’s performance was not impressive. Perry took a major hit during the debate, and the promise of an even greater one in the Fox News Shawn Hannity’s interview with Michelle Bachman after the debate. I think Perry now has no chance to win. I’ll explain.
The others took Perry to task on his support for allowing illegal immigrants to attend Texas universities and receive in-state tuition rates. Students (legal citizens) from the other 49 states who want to attend the University of Texas have to pay full rates. Romney pointed out that this is worth about $100,000 over four years, and he and Romney criticized it sharply – it’s an incentive to come to America. It shows incredibly bad judgment, and I believe this is a crushing hit for Perry.
But, there’s more. In the post-debate program, Bachman talked with Shawn Hannity about the mandated vaccination of young girls ordered by Perry, and said the worst thing about it was that the company providing the vaccine had contributed to Perry, and a former top aide of his worked for them. In other words, this was pay-for-play cronyism – a form of corruption — of the kind we’ve see around Obama (Examples: the Petrobas loans to support oil drilling in Brazil, considering that George Soros had a large investment in Petrobas; the Solyndra fiasco; and the Light Squared affair, among others.) Bachman indicated there are other evidences of corruption of the same kind in Perry’s terms as governor of Texas. This wasn’t the first time I had heard of it. Such things will come out, and in my opinion will be too much for Perry. He’s toast. As someone wrote on Politico.com, he’s Texas Toast.
Newt helped himself with solid answers, and received several favorable references from other candidates during the debate. I’m not counting him out yet, despite his problems. I believe he’ll begin to rise in the polls, but as of now I’d bet on Romney as the eventual nominee, with Gingrich as the dark horse. That could change.