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Who Won the GOP Debate? [VIDEO]

The spotlight found Herman Cain, but New Hampshire people say the frontrunner fared best.

Herman Cain's rivals were calling 911 over his 999 plan in tax-free New Hampshire.

Rick Santorum blasted it during the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Tuesday night, saying Cain's proposed 9 percent sales tax was anathema in a state without a sales tax.

"How many people here are for a sales tax in New Hampshire? There you go, Herman, that's how many votes you'll get in New Hampshire."

Michael Dennehy, who helped John McCain win two New Hampshire Primaries, called it a critical moment for Cain, a businessman who is trying to claw his way out of the second tier of candidates.

"Santorum just hit a major, major point regarding Herman Cain," said Dennehy, who is not with a candidate. "It makes it extremely challenging for him here."

Cain got plenty of face time in Tuesday’s debate, getting in dozens of plugs for his 999 plan. But in the end, local political observers said Mitt Romney had the most consistent performance. He entered the night as the frontrunner, and none of his opponents did anything to change that.

“It was a very good night for Mitt Romney,” said University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala. “He was very commanding out there, pretty comfortable.”

But he said Cain also did well. “If you turned it on and had been paying no attention to anything before tonight, you would think it was Cain and Romney who are the top two candidates, and it’s certainly starting to look that way.”

Perry, by comparison, continued his downward slide, people interviewed said.

“I don’t think he did anything to change the story about how he seems to be a bit of an empty suit,” Scala said. “Not an impressive debate performance.”

Rich Killion, a former senior adviser to Tim Pawlenty in New Hampshire, also called Romney the big winner.

“Many candidates had a chance to directly question him, and he easily swatted them away like flies,” he said. “The economy was the sole topic, and it was lodged right in his wheelhouse.”

Killion also thought Cain looked good, but pointed out that Romney never engaged him on his 999 plan.

“Romney knows the national sales tax component won't wear well for the long haul here in New Hampshire,” he said.

Amelia Chasse, a Portsmouth Republican, had Romney and Newt Gingrich atop her rankings, with Cain and Michele Bachmann close behind.

“Romney gave his usual polished performance, but started off sounding a bit irritated, smug and hurried, like he couldn’t be bothered with the debate,” she said. “He is clearly ready for the general.”

Chasse said Perry failed to impress her.

“Perry is the talking points candidate,” she said. “He completely falls apart when talking about any specifics other than Texas stats. Makes him look dumb, although I suspect he isn't really a dumb guy.”

Bedford Republican Stephen Poschmann said Romney was “in command,” while Cain also fared well. He said Perry “did not do what he needed to do.”

He added that following the debate, there is no real reason for Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Bachmann to stay in the race.

“Romney is still the winner,” added Jeff Hatch, Romney’s Salem town chairman. “He wasn’t hurt at all.”

He called Perry the biggest loser. “Was he even there the first hour?”

Chris Buck of Dover, former New Hampshire campaign manager for Thad McCotter, thought Cain won the debate.

“Love it or hate it, 999 got more play than any other issue," he said. "Voters like simple solutions that they can understand and champion. Even if Cain does not win the nomination, he is demonstrating a model of political messaging. Keep it simple, and hammer the message over and over again. Remember how George W. Bush got elected?”

Several people complained about the debate format and the answers the candidates gave.

Conservative blogger William Smith of Merrimack said he thought moderator Charlie Rose struggled reading the questions and showed no control.

“Poor lighting, poor sound,” he said. “Lots of stuff, really.”

Andrew Hemingway, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, called the debate “more of the same,” saying he was disappointed with the lack of specific answers from candidates.

“A lot of the Republican candidates aren’t painting a picture of a brighter future,” said Hemingway, who was in the debate hall Monday night. “They’re so consumed in the details of right now… I think they’re missing the bigger picture. Paint for us the bigger picture of what America will be, where we’re going under your leadership.”

ForThePeople October 13, 2011 at 03:19 AM
I think the appeal of Ron Paul has partly to do with his advocacy for legalizing drugs (a lot of his constituents, that's their biggest beef), and partly because he comes across as an intellectual. He's wrong, without a doubt, and you must accept that we have had countless intellectuals throughout history that were mistaken. I think people get a little starry-eyed when people try to sound smart- when behind the curtain there's not a lot of substance. I think the biggest thing about Ron Paul for critically thinking voters is that he has not described the free market with any detail on any of his interviews. Every question that he is asked, he has the same mannerism: his hands come up, he looks upwards as if bored with such a simple question, and says, "but the free market will fix all that." That is the definition of political handwaving. If he wants to be taken seriously, he needs to describe why businesses in the "free market" will not misbehave without regulations. And the very definition of free market; I don't see any mention of the bourgeois. "Because the free market will fix all that!" At the debates, he needs to stop pandering to his giddy audience, stop the handwaving, cut down on the one-liner snide remarks, and start talking about substance: taxes, poor, middle class, and rich, controversial issues, and JOBS. I find him amusing, eccentric, and without substance.
Carolyn Dube October 13, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Hi JR, wanted to point you to an article we posted a few hours ago. Dan Tuohy tracked down and talked to the person shouting from the audience. http://merrimack.patch.com/articles/veteran-interrupted-presidential-debate.
William Delano Gaston October 13, 2011 at 12:27 PM
All he said all night was "9-9-9". He knows that the sheeple of the United States are typically apathetic and want some simple catch-phrase to rally everyone. Well, people are waking up....we do not want ANOTHER establishment persident who wants endless wars and Keynesian economics causing inflation and this country's bankruptcy.
Tony Schinella October 13, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Thanks for all the comments folks. Two quick points: @ForThePeople, I think you're correct. Ron Paul's appeal (Gary Johnson's too), is the small L libertarian issues like drugs, the desire to be left alone, etc. But it is also the Federal Reserve/monetary policy issues which even Barney Frank agrees with and the fact that people are looking at our system and scratching their heads by some of the insane decisions coming from the central bank in recent years. I mean, bailing out foreign banks with trillions of American dollars? What were they thinking? They also advocate a "pure," for lack of a better term, free market, which is something that we've never had in this country (or maybe had before 1913, which the income tax was implemented). On Cain, I think the 999 plan is an interesting one. However, two things stand out: 1) the working poor will get nailed by this plan; and 2) basic necessities, like food, will be taxed at 9% (Gary Johnson wants it to be 27% but has a prebate). The plan will also nail "the rich" and major companies who don't pay anything in income taxes (or use loopholes to escape current rates). The middle income folks will see the biggest benefit from this plan since it eliminates the payroll tax and they tend to pay much higher income taxes than 9%. For them, trading a 20% income tax/7% payroll tax for 9% income/9% sales tax rate you may or may not make, would be a good deal.
ForThePeople October 13, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Why are you saying Herman Cain is going to "nail the rich" by imposing a 9% rate? They are supposed to be paying 35%. Warren Buffett paid 17%. Millionaires have been tax dodging for years. It's not "nailing" if they have been gaming the system right along. As far as companies go, I've repeated this many times: they hire people irregardless of the tax rate as long as the math works out that the company makes money with the employees work. It's not a charity system, and it is not a direct correlation with the tax rate. The living proof is the Clinton era. And companies like GE will still be able to dodge as long as they put their point-of-sale overseas. No, Herman Cain is giving a sweetheart deal to himself and others like him. If you listen to him talk, he often describes how amazing he is and how he fought all odds to succeed, and everyone who didn't it's their own fault because they had the same chance. This is fundamentally false; not everyone can be rich. Not even a majority can be rich. Only a select few... 1%! Does that sound like someone with an interest in society? When did he start caring about other people or America? All of the stories are completely self-centered. What's wrong with closing tax loopholes? That is Obama's idea; actually have the tax code without the special interest discounts.

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