GOP Candidates Spar Over the Economy

Written by Noah Kristula-Green on Tuesday October 11, 2011

What did we learn from last night's debate?

There are problems with Herman Cain's candidacy. Herman Cain's rising popularity and poll numbers meant that Bloomberg had to dedicate a significant amount of time to his 9-9-9 plan. His plan was even presented as part of a video question, treatment that only Mitt Romney also received.

Yet there were significant problems with the plan. When pressed to explain why Bloomberg's analysis found the plan did not raise as much revenue as claimed, the best Cain could do was argue that “The problem with that analysis is that it is incorrect.”

Cain is going to have to do better than that. Politico is reporting that Herman Cain's "economist" Rich Lowrie is actually a wealth manager and accountant, not a trained economist, which further undermines the plan's viability.

Finally, any supporter of Herman Cain needs to ask themselves why Cain's big moment to attack Mitt Romney was spent asking him why he had a 59-point plan that was not simple. He didn't ask Romney about healthcare or his record, he essentially asked 'Why did you get real economists to put to a comprehensive plan together, instead of just coming up with a slogan?'

Rick Perry wants to talk only about energy and bloc-granting Medicaid. Rick Perry has gotten a bit more coaching from his previous debates. Whenever he is asked a question about jobs or the economy, he pivots and says that his plan will promote energy independence. He even brought out the "energy independence" card as an answer to a question about income inequality.

On healthcare, Perry has also decided to try and evade every question he is given about Texas' low insurance numbers by claiming that things would be better if only the federal government would bloc-grant Medicaid.

The lack of substance in Perry's answers only get more apparent with each debate.

Being a Technocrat means Romney has answers. Perhaps the best moment for Mitt Romney when during the portion of the debate where candidates could direct their questions to a candidate of their choice, and the majority of candidate chose to ask questions to Mitt Romney. No one got him to say anything embarrassing and the entire exchange only underscored that Romney is actually well informed on many of the issues and could articulate reasons behind all of his positions.

Romney may be attacked by conservatives for being a "technocrat", but there is no doubt that Romney seems uniquely well positioned to answer any economic question given to him.


Pre-Debate Analysis: Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the GOP presidential candidates will participate in a debate hosted by Bloomberg TV and the Washington Post. (The Post will also be live-streaming the debate.) The entire debate will be focused on the economy, so there will be no questions asked about the War or Terror or Iran.

FrumForum will be liveblogging the debate with our regular line-up of columnists and bloggers. Here is what we will be watching for:

Rick Perry’s Jobs Plan. Rick Perry has made multiple promises about releasing a full jobs plan and will reportedly outline his plan in a speech on Friday. Perry has been notoriously under-prepared for the past debates, and it will be discouraging for his campaign if he is unable to articulate what the main pillars of his plan are.

The Herman Cain Surge. In recognition of Herman Cain’s increasing popularity in opinion polls, Bloomberg has announced that Cain will be standing next to Romney in the debate. Cain himself has made clear that he plans to go after Romney. The question is whether Cain’s talking points and slogans can stand up to scrutiny. (His 9-9-9 plan is already getting panned from conservative king-makers such as Grover Norquist.)

Federal Reserve Bashing? While we have no reason to know for sure that the Federal Reserve will come up as a topic, it seems incredibly likely in a debate themed around the economy. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich will want to talk about it, and any honest discussion about the economic climate must reference it.

It will be important to note if any Republican nominees are asked to commit to unreasonable positions on the Federal Reserve. (Herman Cain in the past has said he likes a gold standard but that the conversion would be “more difficult than practical.”)