COMMENTARY

Eight Republican Presidential Candidates met in Tampa, FL last night in what became a very heated debate.

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For the eight contenders, this was sure to be a debate filled with fireworks, and it was. For the CNN Tea Party Debate (second debate in less than a week), this was expected to be a fight between the two front runners, and it didn’t disappoint.

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney showed that this race is about them, and that it is most likely to stay that way throughout the primaries. CNN did a good job with getting the candidates to actually debate each other.

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With past debates, moderators would ask the question and the candidate would respond, last night was different. Wolf Blitzer, who was the only moderator of the evening, did a good job allowing the candidates to go back and forth, truly debating with one another.

How did the candidates themselves fare?

Mitt Romney: Governor Romney didn’t have a spectacular night, but he didn’t need to. He came in to the debate polling second behind Rick Perry. During the debate, Romney hit Perry hard on the executive order he signed in Texas which required girls to get the Gardasil Vaccine, which is proven to prevent some forms of the Human Papilloma Virus.

At one point, Romney was forced to defend his mandated health care program in Massachusetts. The other candidates pressed him on the fact that President Obama’s health care reform legislation was modeled somewhat off of the Massachusetts Plan. Romney has to continue doing what he is doing, because for the most part, it is working.

Rick Perry: Rick Perry had the toughest night out of the eight candidates. He was forced to defend his record on just about everything, including the HPV Vaccine, and immigration.
In my opinion, Governor Perry came into the debate the front runner, and he left the debate as in the front of the pack as well. The crowd had a mixed night with Perry, but they know they he is the best candidate for the Tea Party. Even though some things on his record are questionable, he has the record as Texas Governor that would make him a formidable candidate against Obama.

Herman Cain: Cain the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO had a strong showing on the night. He once again showed that he is the anti-politician candidate. For the most part it resonates with voters. He continues to bring up his 9-9-9 economic plan, which he says is the best way to get America working again.

Michele Bachmann: Probably had the most to gain from last night’s debate, and she did. Coming into the debate, Bachmann lost most of her numbers in the polls. After Perry entered the race last month, her poll numbers have been steadily dropping. She hit Perry the hardest out of any candidate on the stage. They will continue to duke it out until the Iowa Caucuses roll around, unless she starts losing money and is forced to drop

Newt Gingrich: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich continued to show what a policy heavyweight he is. When Blitzer asked him a question, he was ready to go immediately. Newt knows he is unelectable and has no chance at winning the nomination, but when he speaks there is no other person that I would rather see up against Obama that Gingrich. Another thing I love about Gingrich is that he refuses to attack the other candidates. In the MSNBC debate last week, the moderators tried but he wouldn’t bite.

Rick Santorum: Former Senator Santorum had one of the strongest performances of the night. As a candidate with little chance of getting the nomination (he is starting to realize that) he showed that he was going to hit the front runners, hard. He hit Perry hard on the HPV vaccine, and immigration. Santorum at this point is trying to make a case for Vice President, but it’s still way too early to be talking about that.

Jon Huntsman: Huntsman once again proved how irrelevant he is in this race. On some policy questions, he showed that he could hang with the rest of the field, but unfortunately Huntsman tried to be a comedian, and it fell flat. Huntsman is consistently polling between 1 and 2 percent in polls, and he is going to stay in the basement for the foreseeable future.

Ron Paul: I will not waste your time writing about Ron Paul. Last night he alienated everyone who isn’t on the Ron Paul Crazy Train. He basically blamed 9/11 on the United States. From what I could tell, it was the only comment of the night that received audible boos.

As a Republican, I couldn’t be happier about this field. If Obama keeps going in the direction that he is going, any of these candidates could beat him. For the time being though, we will look at Romney and Perry and assume that this is a two man race.

The next debate will be broadcast by Fox News, and will take place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.